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The Greatest Show on Turf – 2015

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Article and Photographs by Bruce Vinal

Ask me which airshow I will not miss and the answer is simple……. Geneseo. Is it because they have more warbirds than any other show in the country? Not typically. Is it because they have the rarest planes in the world? Sometimes, but not always. When I was a little kid, I’d ride my bike a few miles down the road to our local airport and watch the airplanes. No fences or gates, no TSA, no security saying “Hey kid what are you doing? You can’t be here!” Just a kid and his bike sitting in the grass at the end of the runway watching the miracle of flight.

Every year, on the second weekend in July, as I drive down Big Tree Lane past Austin’s Farm I’m that kid again pedaling a little faster as the runway comes into view. It’s hard to convey the feel of Geneseo to someone who’s never been there, I guess because there’s no other place like it that I’ve found to compare it to. A laid back celebration of aviation with no gates and no fences.

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Over the years I’ve made some very dear friends at Genny and keep in touch as best I can ’till July rolls around and we can all sit together in the grass watching the miracle of flight. On arrival day when I hear Charlie Lynch on final in the TBM I always make my way down the line to greet him as he, his wife Elisabeth, their three kids and two dogs pile out of the airplane. It always makes me smile, just another thing that makes Geneseo what it is. Or there’s Kent Pietsch endlessly circling the corn field looking for his missing aileron (Get a GPS tracker for that thing Kent!) This year my Son flew into the show and in the spirit of Geneseo gave someone their first airplane ride just because the expressed an interest.

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In addition to the regulars, like Mark Murphy, Rob Holland, Charlie Lynch and Skipper Hyle there were a few new aircraft on the field. Andrew McKenna brought his Mustang as did Scooter Yoak, Gregg Shelton’s Wildcat was a nice addition as was Art Nalls’ Sea Harrier. Yes some of the anticipated aircraft didn’t show but that’s to be expected with 70+ year old airplanes. I think a Sea Harrier landing on the grass took a little of the sting out of the no-shows.

If you’ve never been to “The Greatest Show on Turf” I highly recommend you put it on your calendar for next year, drive or fly in even drag the camper out and stay right on the field. If you have a passion for aviation Geneseo is a show not to be missed. A big thank you to all the volunteers at The National Warplane Museum for their dedication to the airplanes, the show and for making us all feel at home see you next year!

 

Connecticut’s Vietnam 50th Anniversary Commemoration

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A noteworthy public commemoration of the Vietnam War occurred over the weekend of July 11th and 12th, 2015 in Connecticut. The “Vietnam 50th Celebration” marked the half century since the beginning of the ground war in that country. The event took place at the Connecticut Air National Guard base in East Granby and the New England Air Museum in Windsor Locks.

The weekend was sponsored by the Central Connecticut State University Veterans History Project’s Vietnam War Commemoration Committee, in partnership with the Connecticut National Guard, the Connecticut Department of Veterans’ Affairs, and New England Air Museum. According to the sponsors, “this event was designed to educate a new generation about the Vietnam War and the part it played in the lives of our friends, relatives and neighbors whose stories are the building blocks of American History”.

Exhibits of equipment and vehicles were arrayed in tents, and many veteran-related organizations were present to spread the word about their goals and services. A series of speakers presented their recollections about the war, some had written books about their experiences and autograph sessions followed their discussions. Although the anniversary of the ground war’s escalation was marked, the most visible part of the weekend seemed to be centered around aviation.

Retired Air Force General William Begert spoke about flying forward air control (FAC) missions aboard Cessna O-2 Skymasters from Da Nang Air Base. While not directly involved with the 1972 epic rescue of Lt. Col. Iceal Hambleton from the well-known Bat 21 rescue, he flew many simultaneous missions in the area during the effort, and knew many of the participants who contributed. He called the Army helicopter pilots “fearless”, but noted that all branches of service lost members during the weeks-long rescue missions that began from Bat 21‘s shootdown.

General Begert’s Air Force career spanned over 7,000 flying hours in 15 types of aircraft; almost 900 hours were flown in combat. He singled out his O-2 FAC experiences from his long career and said that he “loved that airplane and mission”. As an O-2 pilot, many times you flew alone, monitoring three different radio channels at the same time (with ground-based controllers, airborne command post directors, and tactical fighters on separate ones), looking outside for targets, and marking them with rocket fire. To paraphrase the General, familiarity with flying the aircraft while multi-tasking made it feel like the plane flew itself.

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Seven years earlier, a small, secretive group of aviators and aircraft began a mission using the “Blind Bat” call sign. Four Blind Bat veteran loadmasters spoke about their experiences in their unarmed Lockheed C-130A transports that were modified to carry and drop scores of 27 pound aerial flares that were used to illuminate targets at night. The four men were 18 to 20 years old when they were chosen for their hazardous duty, during 1966 and 1967.

Aircraft were sent out after dark to look for truck activity on the darkened roads of North Vietnam and Laos, many times on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. There was no night vision equipment in the beginning… only the human “Mark I” eyeball and occasionally a pair of binoculars were used. The cockpit crew was in communication with an airborne command post and airborne attack aircraft to prosecute identified targets. In 1965 and 1966, a pair of Air Force B-57 Canberra bombers and a Marine Corps EF-10 “Whale” were commonly tasked to work with the Blind Bat. Other missions involved Air Force Air Commando A-26K Invaders, Navy/Marine A-4 Skyhawks, A-1E Skyraiders, and F-4 Phantoms operated by multiple service branches.

The team of Blind Bat loadmasters in the rear would open the cargo door, load a locally-manufactured flare dispenser that held up to 14 flares, and kick them out when notified by the cockpit crew. A two foot length of fabric was attached, and this lanyard armed the flare as it left the aircraft. An internal timer set the flare off as it descended under parachute. The team of loadmasters manually reloaded their dispenser from pallets of flares back in the middle of the aircraft.

What made this a very difficult and harrowing operation was that the C-130 was unarmed, flying low over jungles and mountains at night, weaving and junking to avoid anti-aircraft fire during their eight to ten hour missions. While the loadmasters wore a parachute, they seldom were strapped in to the aircraft. Two of the Blind Bat aircraft were shot down in 1968 and 1969, with the loss of both crews. Trying to sleep during the heat of the day at their base (Da Nang AB and later Ubon RTAFB) in soaring temperatures without air conditioning wore the young men out. Crew members said that carrying and handling those 27 pound flares during 1 1/2G to 2G maneuvers really built up their arm muscles too!

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On static display was the American Flight Museum’s replica AC-47D “Spooky” gunship, marked as the aircraft where Airman 1st Class John Levitow earned his Congressional Medal of Honor. During a flight in 1969, an aerial flare (similar to that carried by the Blind Bat crew) became armed in his aircraft when it received battle damage. If the flare began to fully burn, the resultant magnesium fire would doom the aircraft and crew. John picked up the flare and threw it overboard, being burned in the process. The AC-47D aircraft and its crew flew all the way from Topeka, Kansas for this commemoration.

The American Huey 369 Organization operated the only aircraft that flew regularly during the two-day program. One of a pair of airworthy UH-1H “Huey” helicopters was flown to Connecticut for the event, and rides in the veteran helicopter were offered.  On Saturday, at least 38 flights with six passengers aboard flew over the picturesque Granby area for 15 minutes each trip. Sunday’s sorties were numerous too, with the characteristic thumping sound of the Bell helicopter resonating around the Air National Guard base. The Vietnam War has been called the “Helicopter War”, as air mobility that used helicopters like the Bell UH-1 “Huey” changed tactics with great effect.

The pair of warbird helicopters was obtained by the organization for the purpose of educating people about the Helicopter War in Vietnam.  Aircraft 70-16369 (their first helicopter – hence the organization’s name “369”) was obtained from a civilian organization in Maine, and restored to military colors. This aircraft was once used as a medical evacuation helicopter in Vietnam, known as a “Dustoff” aircraft, in the early 1970s.  It was marked with a red cross and according to the Geneva Convention, was not to be fired upon.  One former crew member said that the red cross unfortunately made a good target for enemy gunners in Vietnam though.

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The other flying Huey in the organization was the one present in Connecticut, serial number 63-08803. This “slick” helicopter carried troops and cargo, and has quite a history in Vietnam.  It was once known as “Warrior 11″ while serving with the 336th Assault Helicopter Company, and is once again painted in those colors today. Warrior 11 once crash landed in a burning landing zone and broke its skids in the process. Still upright, it settled to the ground and was shut down. Some 45 minutes later, it was restarted and flown back to its base, where it landed atop of a group of sandbags.

The American Huey 369 Organization has plans to build a museum at its home base of Peru, Indiana, housing one of every model of the Bell UH-1 ever built. They’ve collected 15 helicopters of various types used during the Vietnam War, including a Hughes OH-6 LOACH . There were about 20 volunteers present with the helicopter; pilots, crew chiefs, and ground workers. Within this group, I was lucky enough to meet three former Dustoff pilots and a combat medic and listen to some of their Vietnam experiences. Learning that all three pilots had been decorated with the Purple Heart for being wounded while flying Dustoff missions was quite a humbling experience for me.

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Between the New England Air Museum collection and the static aircraft that were brought in and arrayed on the Air National Guard ramp, some 26 Vietnam War-era  aircraft were displayed for the public to see. There were 16 aircraft in and around the Museum’s grounds, including a well restored F-100 Super Sabre, F-105 Thunderchief, and F-4 Phantom. Helicopters included a UH-1B gunship, SH-2 Seasprite and HH-43 Husky rescue aircraft. The DHC C-7 Caribou on display made the last flight of an Army Caribou when it was delivered to the Museum after the war ended.

On the Air National Guard ramp, the AC-47D, UH-1H, and the Collings Foundation’s EA-1E Skyraider were flyable warbirds at the event, and other older active military aircraft (B-52G, CH-47F, C-5B, and C-130H) represented earlier variants of their airframes that flew during the Vietnam War. Even the most modern aircraft on the ramp – the F-15C Eagle, A-10C Thunderbolt and UH-60A Blackhawk got their beginnings as replacements for Vietnam era aircraft.

Connecticut’s Vietnam 50th Celebration displayed a wide and diverse group of aircraft between the National Guard ramp and the Museum. It was similar to an airshow, except there was no flying (save for the UH-1 giving rides). The main event wasn’t meant to be entertaining, but to be educational for a younger generation through some incredible stories that were told by veterans. Through the camaraderie of the vets, some healing of old emotional wounds took place, and there were a lot of smiles to be seen. Even though the Vietnam War is part of our recent history when compared to World War II or the Korean War, it still began half a century ago and many of those veterans are in their 60s and 70s now. Some of their important contributions to American history were publically identified and commemorated in Connecticut last month.

Special thanks to Major Jefferson Heiland, PAO of the 103rd AW, CTANG; Captain Mike Peterson, Director of Public Affairs, CT National Guard; and Eileen Hurst, CCSU Director of Veterans History Project, for their time and their direction towards many of the abovementioned participants.

All photographs by the author except where noted.

 

Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum’s 2015 Skyfest

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Frank Ertl visited the 2015 Canadian Warbird Heritage Museum’s Skyfest, which was held over the Fathers Day weekend in June. Held at the Hamilton International Airport in Ontario, it featured the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum’s collection of predominantly World War II-era aircraft, with a few visitors.

Of note in attendance were a pair of 1942 National Steel Car Corporation Limited (Canada) Lysanders that were built under contract from Westland Aircraft. Both are operated by museums, one by Vintage Wings of Canada, the other from the home-field Canadian Warbird Heritage. Of course, the CWH’s Lancaster, Mitchell and Dakota were present, and Jerry Yagen’s Mosquito fighter bomber drew keen interest too.

All photos copyright 2015 by Frank Ertl

The Murphy’s 2015 Memorial Day Weekend Formation Clinic

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Written by Bruce Vinal

Over the Memorial Day weekend I had the good fortune of being invited out to Murphy’s Landing Strip in Upstate New York for a formation clinic. The event was hosted by Dave, Lois, and Mark Murphy owner/operators of the Mustang “Never Miss” and afforded me a glimpse inside the hangars of an aviator’s Nirvana. Most people who know of the Murphys are familiar with “Never Miss” and maybe even the pair of T 6’s but when you roll open the hangar doors, the depth of the families passion for aviation is unmistakable.

Turning off the main road and onto the driveway you are at the start of runway 25, a well maintained 4,000’ turf strip. Perched on top of a knoll with a control tower overlooking the runway is an otherwise modest home. Parked beside the house is a US Military surplus M1078 LMTV awaiting its next mission and at the end of the driveway stands a tall flagpole with the Stars and Stripes proudly waving. At this point the driveway becomes a taxiway leading to a complex of four hangars guarded by a military surplus Humvee and a vintage USMC M-37.

Though I never made it into all the hangars I did make it far enough to see an eclectic collection of aircraft all meticulously maintained.T-6’s, the Mustang, Christen Eagle, Grumman G 164 AgCat, Meyers OTW, and a Piper L-4 Cub that has taught two generations of Murphys to fly. The collection isn’t limited to fixed wing aircraft, both Dave and Mark hold their rotor craft licenses, so why not throw in a Bell 47 and a Robinson R 44.

Our master of ceremonies was “She’s The Boss” pilot Charlie Lynch. Leaving the “Family station wagon” Grumman TBM at home Charlie flew out in the Yak 52, and his lovely wife Elizabeth followed up with the kids by car. Charlie led the briefing as pilots from The Raiders Demo Team, Yak Attack Airshows, Texas Flying Legends and others came to hone their skills and update certifications. The training area was The Great Sacandaga Lake and would be cut up into quadrants. Safety was a priority and training areas 1-4 were given their own brief to alert pilots to unique safety concerns and delineate boundaries to keep flight groups from inadvertently sharing airspace.

While the main group training was the “Yak Attack” team with Yak 52’s and CJ’s a flight of four T 6’s took part as well. The weather was clear, albeit a bit turbulent, and made for some spectacular views and great A2A opportunities with the two groups. On Saturday afternoon, with the last training flight of the day recovered, it was time to have some fun. Mark pulled the Meyers OTW and Grumman AgCat out of the hangar and gave anyone with their tail dragger endorsement a chance to buzz the patch. Later that evening we pulled out the Mustang for a photo shoot over the lake with Steve Beal in an L39. Steve was on hand to help Mark get type rated in the Albatross and in return Mark helped Steve with his check ride in the P51.

Overall the weekend was a huge success, thank you to the entire Murphy Family for opening their home and making us all feel like a part of the family. Look for Mark and “Never Miss “on the airshow circuit and be sure to thank him and his dad Dave for taking on the job of caretakers to these magnificent links to our past.

All photographs copyright 2015 Bruce Vinal/ Aerial Perspectives

Late 1950’s Stewart Air Force Base Through Robert Finch’s Eyes

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Robert “Bob” Finch, is an aviation photographer and historian (and frequent contributor to this web site), who lived in New York State, north of New York City, during the 1950s.  Before he reached his teen years, his father gave him a film camera, and Bob began taking pictures of airplanes.  He still does it today, although he’s switched from slides and prints to digital images (haven’t most of us!).

Stewart Air Force Base was an important Air Defense Command (ADC) facility during the 1950s, and luckily for us, Bob took his camera to a couple of air shows and open houses held during the last years of that decade.  All of these images are scanned from slides taken more than 50 years ago, many during the iconic Dayglo Blaze Orange years when aircraft wore bright colors to assist with visual identity.  These were the transition years between piston and jet power, and there were plenty of different interceptors, transports, trainers, and other special use aircraft on the air show ramp in Newburgh NY. Not only is the hardware interesting and found mainly in museums today, but the apparent openness of the aircraft and the clothing styles aren’t very common either.

All photos copyright Robert Finch 

Warbirds on Display at Quonset’s Silver Anniversary Air Show

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The Rhode Island Air National Guard Open House and Air Show was held at the former NAS Quonset Point airport at the end of May, 2015. It was the 25th edition of the show since the annual event began in 1991. Following a familiar format, this year’s show featured several warbirds in the air and the Quonset Air Museum’s varied collection of retired military aircraft on the ground, which constituted the bulk of the show’s static display. Just a few non-museum aircraft rounded out the static park.

Aerial displays included Mark Murphy performing an aerobatic sequence in his P-51D Mustang Never Miss, while Jim Beasley joined Viper East in P-51D Bald Eagle for a Heritage Flight, and Greg Colyer flew his T-33 during his Ace Maker Air Shows display. Seven (presumably) retired Aero L-39C jet trainers equipped the civilian Breitling Jet Team too.

On the ground, the Quonset Air Museum offered a number of their aircraft on static display. From the 1940’s and 50’s, their collection included a fully restored TBM Avenger, the only surviving Curtiss Wright XF-15C , and a Douglas F3D Skyknight night fighter. From the Vietnam War forward, there were a number of retired aircraft parked on the ramp. The museum’s partially restored F-4A Phantom is basically complete. A pair of Douglas A-4M Skyhawks, an LTV A-7D Corsair II, a Sikorsky H-3 helicopter, and three Grumman aircraft: an A-6E Intruder, a rare C-1A COD with twin tails, and a F-14A Tomcat were all survivors from the 1960s and ’70s and displayed. A MiG-17 in Polish Air Force colors rounded out the exhibit. On an unfortunate side note, the Museum’s hangar incurred winter storm damage that has left it unusable, and their aircraft are currently stored outdoors for the foreseeable future until a new home is found.

Otherwise, a Siai Marchetti SF-260C painted in spurious Luke AFB training colors was an interesting addition, and the Rhode Island Army National Guard provided restored, non-flying examples of their previously operated helicopters – an OH-6 Cayuse, an Medivac painted UH-1 Iroquois and an AH-1 Cobra.

In all, the show offered a good gathering of some rare and exotic aircraft on the ground, and some current warbird favorites in the air.

 

The Royal Canadian Air Force Commemorates The “Few” In Style

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The Battle of Britain occurred 75 years ago, and numerous events to commemorate that epic battle are taking place around the world in 2015. Winston Churchill described the airmen that fought their German Luftwaffe foes as the “Few” in a famous speech. No. 1 Squadron Royal Canadian Air Force, a fighter unit flying Hawker Hurricanes and Supermarine Spitfires, participated in the Battle of Britain as a Commonwealth squadron. Slightly more than 100 Canadian pilots flew combat missions with No. 1 Squadron and other units, while several hundred more Canadians served on the ground keeping the aircraft repaired and serviceable during the months-long air campaign.

Today’s Royal Canadian Air Force chose to honor the “Few” by painting their 2015 CF-18 Hornet Demonstration Team aircraft in a scheme reminiscent of a Battle of Britain era Hurricane of 1 Squadron. The design was created by veteran designer Jim Beliveau of the 4th Wing, at Cold Lake, Alberta. This was his 25th Demonstration Team design and painting project! The aircraft, serial number 188761, was sandblasted and painted by a team of 3 Wing technicians based at Bagotville Quebec. It captures the camouflage patterns on top of the aircraft, right down to the red guns patches along the leading edge of the wings. The vertical tails feature murals depicting Battle of Britain history, with Sir Winston Churchill, an unnamed Canadian fighter pilot, a Spitfire and the St. Paul’s Cathedral on one side. The other side depicts Battle of Britain ace F/L Gordon MacGregor, whose “YO H” (those of his regular mount during the Battle) letters are painted on the sides of the airplane, along with ME-109 and He-111 adversaries.

The airframe – 188761 – has a relatively low amount of flight hours on it when compared to the rest of the CF-18 fleet. There’s an interesting reason for that, as Captain Denis Beaulieu explained at this year’s Quonset Air Show. This airframe has had a pair of ejections from it, and has been repaired and flown again… that’s right, twice! The first ejection occurred in Germany in 1987, the result of an aborted take-off. The wreckage sat in a hangar for a number of years, until it was rebuilt with wings from an Australian F/A-18 and a nose section originally destined for a C.15 Hornet for the Spanish Air Force. Operational again for a number of years, a pilot of 188761 encountered black ice on the runway upon landing at Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. Directional control was lost, regained, and lost again as a second patch of ice affected the CF-18. The pilot ejected before the aircraft left the runway, and the jet ended up just slightly damaged. With a new ejection seat fitted, the Hornet resumed service a while later. With a pair of lengthy “down times” for maintenance, today’s Demonstration jet has fewer hours than most, if not all active CF-18s.

This year’s demo Hornet pilot is Captain Denis “Cheech” Beaulieu, based at 3 Wing in Bagotville, Quebec. To be chosen for the yearly posting, there are a number of requirements that have to be met , even before the interview process begins. There is a minimum amount of flight hours needed; “Cheech” has more than 1,100 hours. Some pilots won’t apply for the position because it entails much contact with fans and media, or time away from family, he said. Obviously, he has what it takes, and talks enthusiastically about flying the CF-18. In press releases, he said that “This job gives me the opportunity to celebrate aviation with audiences all over, while flying the Hornet in way that few pilots get to fly. Best of all, I get to do this all with a team of highly talented professionals who work together to put on a great show.”

Captain Beaulieu not only has the honor of presenting the CF-18 demonstration, but to carry the Battle of Britain Commemorative colors into the air every time he flies in 2015.

2015 Great New England Air Show

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Warbirds at the 2015 Westover ARB/Great New England Air Show

The sky over western Massachusetts, at the foot of the Berkshires, filled with the sights and sounds of the Great New England Air Show in mid May, 2015.  The show celebrated three quarters of a century of aviation history and security that the Westover Air Reserve Base has provided for the people of the Pioneer Valley and New England.  Over those 75 years, Westover’s missions have changed numerous times, and may change again in the not-too-distant future.

A sparkling flying display was assembled for the weekend.  Some interesting warbird activity was part of the show;  the loudest one wasn’t a warbird in the true definition of the term.  Commemorating a truly historical event, the Royal Canadian Air Force’s CF-18 Hornet Demonstration Team supplied their specially decorated aircraft in a 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain paint scheme.  The jet is painted in No. 1 Squadron (RCAF) colors, which was active during the Battle of Britain.  Around a hundred Canadians flew in combat during the campaign, and hundreds more kept their Hurricanes and Spitfires  repaired and serviceable.  These men were part of Winston Churchill’s “Few” .

The Geico Skytypers in their SNJ-2s led a handful of warbirds into the air, which included a dissimilar four-ship formation with the American Airpower Museum’s B-25 Mitchell Miss Hap and FG-1D Corsair Skyboss, Charles Lynch’s TBM-3U Avenger She’s the Boss, and Mark Murphy’s P-51D Never Miss.  The Heritage flight contained the F-22 and Jim Beasley in his P-51D Bald Eagle.

On the ground, some big planes of the warbird community turned out to take part in the celebration.  The B-17G Yankee Lady joined Second Chance, a true World War II C-47 veteran, and Spooky, an AC-47 gunship.  A Grumman HU-16 Albatross joined a few smaller planes – training and liaison aircraft, and a Bell 47, similar to the made-famous-by-TV MASH helicopter.

The base began operations in 1940, named after Major General Oscar Westover who died in a plane crash in 1938.  During World War II, the facility provided training to B-17 and B-24 heavy bomber crews and anti-submarine patrols along the Atlantic coast.  After the war, it’s strategic location close to Europe led to it being re-tasked as a transportation hub.  It provided logistical support for C-54 and C-47 aircraft operating in would later be known as the Berlin Airlift.  From 1955 through 1974, Westover’s key geographic location made it a prime B-52 and KC-135 base for the Strategic Air Command.  Around the same time, interceptor operations for the Air Defense Command, in defense of the Northeastern U.S., saw many front line jet fighters in the air; F-84, F-86, F-89, F-102 and F-104 jets once called Westover home.

After those aircraft left, the base reverted to transport operations again, under the command of the Air Force Reserve.  C-123K, C-130 tactical, and C-5A strategic transports have all moved on, but the current 16 C-5B Galaxies of the Patriot Wing serve both within the U.S. and around the globe.  On the horizon, things may change at the western Massachusetts base again.  Plans are to cut in half the number of planes based here, from 16 to 8.  The C-5Bs will be upgraded to C-5M Super Galaxies, and additional maintenance operations of the Air Force Reserve’s C-5 fleet may be accomplished at the base.  Additionally, the base is one of four finalists in a competition for the basing of the Air Force Reserve’s new KC-46A tanker/transport.

Close to 375,000 spectators attended the weekend-long air show.  They received a taste of the past through the warbirds that gathered for the 75th anniversary of the base, both in the air and on the ground.

A big thank you comes from the ClassicWarbirds.net staff to the Public Affairs Office staff at Westover ARB for great access to cover this show!

Warbirds at Oshkosh, Part 3

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The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) will hold it’s latest Convention… now known as EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, during the week of July 20-26, 2015.  Every year, a surprise or two within the EAA Warbirds of America compound adds to the excitement.

As this story is posted, another AirVenture will unfold in less than two months.  Bits of information released over the past few weeks hint about a bevy of heavy bombers attending this year… no less than 2 B-17s, a Lancaster, a PB4Y-2, and at least one B-29 (maybe a pair?!) are expected to attend.

Here are a few more of the surprises of past years… some were heralded loudly before the show, some slipped in quietly but left a big impression while parked on the Wittman Regional Airport grounds.

The Arsenal of Democracy: World War II Victory Capitol Flyover

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An amazing salute to a rapidly disappearing group of living military veterans occurred on Friday May 8, 2015, when the world witnessed the Arsenal of Democracy: World War II Victory Capitol Flyover (henceforth known here as the “Flyover”).  As part of a ceremony that commemorated the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day (VE Day), the Flyover contained examples of American warplanes which served across the globe and at home during World War II.  Fifty seven warbirds paraded in and around some of the most heavily restricted airspace in the United States of America, passing just south of the National World War II Memorial in Washington DC, where the ceremony took place.

The ground event was co-hosted by the non-profit Friends of the National World War II Memorial and the National Park Service; the non-profit Arsenal of Democracy: World War II Capitol Flyover organization provided oversight for the parade of flight that would be part of the overall experience.  Importantly, the event was sponsored and presented by a civilian coalition of Government and private concerns, not a military-directed event (although there was plenty of active service members present). A broad spectrum of corporate America, including industry, museums, and even air traffic control came together to manage and sponsor the flying portion of the event, unlike any other in recent history.

According to a press release from the Flyover organizers, over 400 World War II veterans attended the commemoration in person.  The ceremony and the eagerly awaited Flyover were broadcast around the world … a friend of mine received a text from the U.K. asking him if he was at the event, as the ceremony was being simultaneously broadcast on the BBC “over there”.  The importance of the live video coverage centered around the fact that most living World War II veterans are at least 90 years old and many have mobility issues, so the ceremony was broadcast for their benefit so they could see and listen to the sights and sounds of the commemoration.

The parade of warbirds was divided into fifteen flights that represented significant events or campaigns during the War.  Warbird types were chosen by and large to represent models that played a significant role in the aerial portion of each event/campaign.  Here are these fifteen stages in photographs and captions.  The order in which the formations appear (from top to bottom) is the same order as they flew overhead.

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The “Trainer Formation Pass in Review” included  4 L-4/L-16s, a pair of L-5 Sentinels, 6 PT-17/N2S Stearmans, 2 PT-19 Cornells, 8 T-6 Texans and SNJs, and a Beech C-45 Expeditor.

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The next formation contained a pair of Curtiss P-40 fighters for the Pearl Harbor/Flying Tigers tribute.

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1942’s Doolittle Raid on Japan was portrayed with a pair of B-25s and a PBJ.

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The Battle of Midway was portrayed with a PBY Catalina representing “Strawberry 5″, followed by a FM-2 Wildcat fighter and SBD Dauntless dive bomber.

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A pair of FM-2 Wildcats followed, representative of the Marine and Navy fighters used during the Guadalcanal Campaign.

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A lone P-38 Lightning signified the long-range mission that ambushed Japanese Admiral Yamamoto in 1943.

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The Commemorative Air Force’s B-24 Liberator represented those who fought on the infamous Ploesti Raid, and were followed by 3 P-51 escorts.

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A quartet of P-51s followed to signify more “Little Friends”, the fighter escorts that accompanied and protected the heavy bombers on their raids in Europe.

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A pair of B-17 bombers followed the fighters, signifying the “Big Week” of strategic bombing during February, 1944.

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A pair of transports… a C-47 and a C-53, represented D-Day, and heroic American paratroopers.

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A formation of 2 TBM Avengers and a Curtiss SB2C Helldiver represented the Marianas Turkey Shoot and the Battle of Leyte Gulf.

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The Battle of the Bulge was represented by a Douglas A-26 Invader.

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The battle for Iwo Jima was signified by a pair of FG-1D Corsairs.

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The Commemorative Air Force’s B-29 represented the “Final Air Offensive to Defeat Japan”.

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The finale to the parade was a four-ship Missing Man Formation flown by the Texas Flying Legends Museum with a P-40, FG-1D, TBM, and P-51. 

The Corsair pitched up shortly after this photo was taken.

In order to fly so close to monuments and government buildings, a myriad of rules and regulations had to be interpreted and followed.  Air traffic in the area on a normal day includes arrivals/departures from the nearby Reagan National Airport, plus military/government helicopters that fly ultra-low altitude routes over the Potomac River between the White House, Pentagon, and other helipads in and around the District of Columbia. In the words of the organizers: “The Flyover has been months in the planning, and event organizers have worked closely with the Federal Aviation Administration,  the Transportation Security Administration, the National Park Service, the U.S. Capitol Police, and the U.S. Secret Service. On March 18, the Flyover completed a successful practice flight with a single plane. Also in March, the FAA granted the necessary approvals for the Flyover to take place, noting “the educational and historic value of this single signature event in commemorating this significant milestone in history.”  The Reagan National Airport was closed to commercial traffic for almost an hour as the Flyover proceeded nearby, but a TBM Avenger that was part of the Flyover successfully diverted to the airport with a mechanical issue.  The bomber departed later that afternoon for Culpeper.

The parade of flight began from two nearby Virginia airports; Manassas for the four heavy bombers, and Culpeper for the remainder of the participants.  Holding to the northwest of the nation’s capital city, each element departed the VFR marshaling area and followed the Potomac River southbound until abeam the Lincoln Memorial, where they turned left and flew just south of Independence Avenue (and the National Mall) towards the Capitol Building.  Passing a few blocks south of the Capitol, the pilots then banked right and exited the area, flying close to Washington’s Reagan airport on their way back to their bases in Virginia.  What was more spectacular than just the route of flight was what altitude they had to be at… 2000 feet above the Potomac until they passed a bridge a few miles northwest of the Lincoln Memorial.  From there, they descended to 1000 feet above the ground, where they remained while passing the monuments on their left and right (Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, Washington Monument [at 555 feet high!] and the Capitol).  A climb up to 1500 feet was initiated after leaving the National Mall area.  Each of the fifteen elements of the Flyover had an assigned time to be overhead the bridge before beginning their descent to 1000 feet, and in true military precision, timing was “to the minute” so as not to interfere with the previous or following groups.

Pilots and crewmembers participating in this thrilling Flyover were proud to be there.  “It was great to experience this historic event” said Mark Murphy, pilot of the Texas Flying Legends Museum’s (TFLM) P-51 Mustang.  “Someone said, If we did not  have history we would not know where we have been. If we do not know where we have been, we do not know where we are going.  It was exciting to have a part in honoring our veterans.” Congressman Sam Graves, who was instrumental in gaining Congressional approval for the Flyover, also piloted the TFLM’s TBM Avenger.  Congressman Graves led the four-ship Missing Man Formation at the end of the Flyover, and he offered these words afterwards: “Flying over our Nation’s capital with the TFLM was one of the proudest moments I’ve ever experienced. It was particularly moving for me because I work in the capital and I knew it was a proud honor when TFLM was asked to do the missing man formation in tribute to our fallen”.

For almost 45 minutes, the stream of warbirds provided sights and sounds of a bygone era.  A few of the spectators lived and even fought during the events that these aircraft represented.  Others had never paid any attention to the civilian-operated planes until now… and received quite an education.  Many stood in awe watching the aerial parade, not realizing how much coordination and communication had taken place to allow it to happen.  A parade of flight over downtown DC hadn’t occurred in decades, since the Operation Desert Storm victory parade in 1991 – and that was an all-military affair, not a civilian sponsored event.

People were already talking about a possible 75th anniversary event 5 years from now; most of the civilian-owned and operated planes and their pilots… as well as the corporate sponsorship… should still be available.  In the same breath though, people wondered aloud about how many World War II veterans will still be alive in 2020?  For the moment, the safe and successful accomplishment of the Flyover in Washington DC should be remembered as a high water mark for coordination and communication, and a splendid effort by some of the warbird community to honor both living and deceased World War II veterans.  Whether there’ll be a similar event  in the future or not, only time will tell.

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Special thanks to Mary Lynn Rynkiewicz and company for the Flyover media releases, and to Lee Ann Crain of the Texas Flying Legends Museum for obtaining the thoughts and words from Mark Murphy and Congressman Sam Graves.

MASDC, AMARC, AMARG, Some Snapshots in Time, Trainers and Transports

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Towards the end of the U.S. Armed Forces’ move from the piston age into the jet age, MASDC, and later AMARC, became chock full of surplus and obsolescent aircraft in a hurry.

When I began visiting the Boneyard in the late 1980s and early 1990s, there were still several Convair C-131 and T-29 aircraft still in use as transports and squadron “hacks”; the U.S. Navy still had C-118s in use too.  C-47s had been phased out a handful of years prior to this time.  Many examples of these types were parked though, and ultimately would be sold to scrappers, but a fair amount made it into civilian hands too.  Even early C-130 aircraft, some with the “Roman nose” (without a radome) could be found parked in the desert.

There once was a saying that when the last F-15 Eagle was phased out and parked in the Boneyard, a T-33 would be sent out to bring the pilot back home to his base.  Of course this didn’t happen, but the last operational T-birds were being parked around this time… however the type was supplied to many friendly air forces and some became civilianized too.  There were many T-33s stored, and not scrapped.  T-28 and T-34 piston versions were replaced by T-37 and T-34C trainers, and a number of these became civilian warbirds at the end of their military lives.  Even T-2 and T-38 advanced jet trainers were stored, either for later use or to be scrapped when their service life was over.

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As a storage facility, MASDC/AMARC held some rare aircraft for their owners… the National Air and Space Museum’s Boeing Dash 80 prototype spent time in Tucson, as did one of NASA’s turbine-powered Guppies and WB-57 Canberras.  Prototype YC-14A and YC-15 jets were parked together for a while, and a Fairchild T-46A, one of three used for flight tests before the program was cancelled, spent time in the sun too.

Here is a slide show with photos of some classic warbirds taken during five different visits to MASDC and AMARC… enjoy!

 

Warbirds at Oshkosh, Part 2

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Here’s the second part of a multi-feature look back at some of the warbirds that have attended the EAA’s Oshkosh Convention and Fly-In over the years. There’s always a buzz before each year’s gathering regarding what exotic aircraft will fly to the event and park in the Warbirds compound.

Warbird helicopters aren’t too common; the Piasecki/Vertol H-21 Shawnee flew in, but the Hiller YH-32 Hornet did not, as it stayed tethered to its trailer while its twin ramjets were lit and the aircraft roared into life as a static display.  A warbird from the Vietnam era was the Beech QU-22B, a sometimes-unmanned sensor data collector that orbited night skies over Vietnam and adjacent countries. An ultra-rare Curtiss-Wright CW-19R was restored half a century after its initial use by the Bolivian Government during the 1940s, and flew into Oshkosh under its own power.  As you can see, counter-rotating propeller driven aircraft aren’t strangers at Oshkosh… both the Avro Shackleton and Fairy Gannett have appeared.  A third British design was the NDN Firecracker, which was a non-winning attempt in a competition to produce a turboprop trainer for the British Royal Air Force.

Keep checking here for the next installment of more Oshkosh warbirds from the past.

2015 Cactus Fly In

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By Dale Moody

The 57th annual Cactus Fly-In was held March 6th-7th 2015 at the Casa Grande Municipal Airport (KCGZ).  In the cool desert air of central Arizona, the Classic Aircraft Association of Arizona welcomed a wide array of aircraft including Antiques, Classics, Warbirds, Replicas and several homebuilt types.  Now in it’s 10th year being held at Casa Grande Municipal Airport, this event has grown every year since its inception, due in part to the clear skies and mild spring temperatures of this beautiful location.   Some of the aircraft on hand this year were:

Spartan 7W Executive N17659.

Pratt & Whitney R-985 Wasp Junior-powered Beech model D18S N5804C.

Aero Commander 500 N289GR.

1938  Spartan 7W Executive N17617 Precious Metal.

The Pratt and Whitney R-1830-94M2 radial-powered  Yak-11 N18AW Maniyak.

Continental W670-6N seven-cylinder radial-powered Stearman A75N1 N56099.

Beech A45 N103PS, powered by a  Continental IO-520 six-cylinder.

DeHavilland of Canada DHC-1B-2-S5 Chipmunk N58038.

John Pike in his Model 1929XF N29XF Ghost Ship, powered by a Pratt & Whitney R-1340 Wasp.

Warner SS40&50 seven-cylinder radial engine-powered Waco RNF NC110Y.

Kinner R-5 series 5-cylinder radial engine-powered Ryan ST3KR N56017.

Cessna 170A N1258D.

Continental W670-powered Stearman A75N1 N2S-3 N9923H.

Pilatus P3-05 N836HS

Waco QCF NC11481

These aircraft, along with a multitude of others packing the ramp, served as evidence of a strong and ever growing classic aircraft movement keeping this history alive.

An event like this would not be possible without the help and dedication of the almost 75 volunteers who worked in every aspect, both in front of and behind the scenes to make this event a success.

Casa Grande airport and the Cactus Fly-In  harken back to the days of the classic fly-in, with easy access to the aircraft and pilots, a relaxed atmosphere, great weather, and great photo opportunities.

All in all this was a great fun-filled weekend event with lots of vintage aircraft and great people. If you find your self in the area in early Spring, mark your calendar for  this not to be missed event.

We can’t wait for the next one………………………………

To Find out more or to get involved  please visit https://www.facebook.com/pages/Classic-Airplane-Association-of-Arizona-CAAA/275435512499727 

Classic Warbirds  would like to Arv Schultz  and the entire team at the Classic Aircraft Association for all the help and access to the event.

 

 

 

 

 

2014 Rochester International Air Show Review

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During a hazy summer weekend in western New York State, the Greater Rochester International Airport hosted it’s 2014 International Air Show. Nestled on the southern shore of Lake Ontario, the show headlined the USAF Thunderbirds, but a surprising amount of warbirds attracted attention too. To be sure, there was a gaggle of U.S.-built warbirds that included the Trojan Horsemen in their T-28s, a P-47 and P-51, and C-45 and C-47 transports, but what really made for some intrigue was the large number of foreign-built jets that flew during the show.

The blue “Mako” CT-133 from Canada’s Jet Aircraft Museum was joined by Art Nalls’ former British Navy Sea Harrier FA.2 . Besides the CT-133, other jet trainers included a Czech-built L-29, a French-built Fouga Magister and a Spanish Hispano/CASA HA-200 Seata operated by Genesee Warbirds.  Other foreign jets built behind the former “Iron Curtain” was an L-39 and Randy Ball’s MiG-17.

For you warbird fans, the 2015 show will include half a dozen flying warbird acts and more on static display, including some of these jets from last year’s show.

Photos by Bob Finch