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Wings Over Wine Country 2019

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This September, the Pacific Coast Air Museum in Santa Rosa, CA hosted its annual Wings Over Wine Country Airshow at the Sonoma County Airport.

The airshow provides people a unique look at the Pacific Coast Air Museum’s aircraft, as the museum rolls out all of its aircraft to be viewed as static displays for the airshow. This includes famous airplanes such as: the F-14 Tomcat, A-6 Intruder, EA-6B Prowler, F-105 Thunderchief, F-4 Phantom, F-15C Eagle, A-4 Skyhawk, F-5 Tiger II, and much more.

The F-14 at the museum is painted in the famous VF-84 Jolly Rogers livery. The F-15 at the museum is serial number 77-102, the first aircraft to respond to the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. All of the cockpits are open for people to climb up and see.

In addition to the static aircraft from the museum, a C-17 Globemaster III flew in from March AFB, and an SH-60 Seahawk from HSC-3 came from NAS North Island. One of the unique features of the Wings Over Wine Country Airshow is the opportunity for the people to walk out on the flight line and get up close and personal with all the warbirds that would be flying later that day. They had six P-51 Mustangs, a TBM Avenger, a Hawker Sea Fury, a T-6 Texan and the Pacific Coast Museum’s own C-1A Trader all available for morning photos before flying later that afternoon. The C-1 Trader is only one of 9 remaining in flyable condition.

To set the ambiance for the show, the USAF Travis Brass Ensemble played a variety of songs from the Air Force’s repertoire to make the audience feel like they were back in WWII while walking around the warbirds. The airshow also hosted two WWII veterans that were celebrating their birthdays. Both were over 100 years old and received a great standing ovation from the crowd. The winds were so extreme on Saturday that the Wings of Blue Demonstration Team had to cancel their routine since it was unsafe for the skydivers, but they did perform on Sunday. When their Twin Otter passed over the crowd for the streamer drop, the wind was so strong that the streamers didn’t even land on airport property.

The local Sheriff department put on a short demo with their helicopter inserting a SWAT team into a tactical scenario. A couple other performers during the show were Dennis Sanders in his Hawker Sea Fury and Brad Wursten in the MXS-R. Both put on an amazing display, and the one benefit with the high winds was that the smoke cleared after every pass they made, making it great for photographers.

Next to fly were the P-51s, Avenger, Texan and C-1 Trader. They made several passes in a racetrack pattern for the crowd. It’s always great to hear that many heritage aircraft in the sky at once.

The hot ramp is set up in a unique configuration compared to other airshows. The Canadian Forces Snowbirds and the A-10 Warthog were actually parked behind the airshow crowd. The taxiway ran from behind the crowd, to along the right side of airshow display and out to the runway.

This gives the crowd the chance to line up along the back and right sides of the display area to wave to the pilots of the A-10 and Snowbirds while they taxi out for their performances. The Snowbirds flew a graceful routine as always. Their female pilots in the squadron were popular with the kids, and they were happy to inspire the next generation of pilots.

This airshow was also the debut of the A-10 Demo Team’s new heritage paint scheme. They told us that even though it was intended for the 2020 airshow season, they were so excited and received so much positive feedback on social media that they decided to fly it for the last couple shows of the 2019 season. We were glad they did! The A-10 flew as the final act, and even though the sun was directly in front of the crowd by the end of the day, that didn’t stop us from enjoying seeing that beautiful airplane. Steven Hinton joined the A-10 at the end of the demo with the P-51 painted in the identical scheme as the A-10. It was a great day and we look forward to attending again. Thank you Pacific Coast Air Museum for hosting a great air show!

Grumman Cats Review

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Last Cat Standing, the Grumman F-14 Tomcat

Grumman Aircraft Engineering began its run as an aviation powerhouse at the end of the Great Depression, in 1929. Sixty-five years later, it was merged into the Northrop Corporation in 1994.  Known for designs that primarily served the U.S. Navy and its' aircraft carriers during its six and a half decades of design, development and manufacturing, it is the company's well known Grumman "Cat" series of fighters that capture many people's attention.

 

General Motors-built FM-2 version of the Grumman F4F Wildcat

The carrier-borne fighter designs designs that began with the F4F Wildcat and ended with the F-14 Tomcat were chiefly fighters; their names were taken from different feline species or, during the World War II years, a derivative of the "cat" name with an adjective in front of it.

World War II in the Pacific... the carrier borne F6F Hellcat that dominated the skies during the latter half of the conflict

A inter-war years heavy fighter, the F7F Tigercat served as a night fighter in Korea

The F4F Wildcat, F6F Hellcat, F7F Tigercat, F8F Bearcat, F-9F Panther and Cougar, F11F Tiger, and the F-14 Tomcat are easily recognizable, but some obscure types, such as the XF10F Jaguar and even a non-"cat" XF5F Skyrocket were also fighters.

Plus, Grumman built other airframes that were primarily bomber and anti-submarine specialists, like the TBF Avenger, AF Guardian series, the S-2F Tracker, plus the C-1 and C-2 Greyhound COD designs, and the E-1 Tracer and E-2 Hawkeye AWACS series. Don't forget the A-6 Intruder and the recently-retired EA-6B Prowler too. Other manufacturers built Grumman Designs, like the General Motors FM-2 derivative of the F4F Wildcat and the TBM version of the TBF Avenger.

Too late to see combat in World War II, the Grumman F8F Bearcat was a shipborne interceptor designed to counter Kamikazes

Here is a gaggle of Grumman "Cat" photos, including others not mentioned in the body of this article... like the F9F Panther.

Owls Head Transportation Museum’s Wings and Wheels Spectacular

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The Owls Head Transportation Museum presented a flying display on August 3rd and 4th, 2019. There were a number of warbirds which took to the skies that weekend, here's what happened at the show. Late summer in Mid-Coast Maine normally has pleasant weather and warm sunlight. When there’s high pressure in the area and a sea breeze kicks up, the temperature is wonderful and the air is crisp and clear. So were the conditions at Rockland’s Knox County Regional Airport on the first day of the annual two-day air and ground transportation show presented by the Owls Head Transportation Museum. The Museum is on the west side of the airport, opposite from the small but busy airline terminal. The Wings and Wheels show, sometimes referred to as the “Rally”, normally occurs during the first full weekend of August. Several weekends later, the big New England Auto Auction, featuring scores of pristine cars and other motorized modes of transportation, wraps up a busy month for the Museum.

A steady stream of local airline Cessna Stationaires and 402s, plus privately owned pleasure and business craft came and went for most of the day, but for about three hours after noontime, a series of performances offered aerobatics and flybys of some vintage and rare aircraft. Intersecting runways allowed for most of the day’s flight operations to occur directly in front of the spectators, save for a few corporate jets which need the longer, more distant runway.

Before the TFR airspace went into effect (needed for the aerobatics), a pair of Stearmen – a PT-17 and N2S, offered 20-minute rides around the coastline. Painted to represent a World War II training scheme, the Naval version was noted to be a VIP transport... as a VN2S.

A psudo-Dawn Patrol consisting of the Museum’s replica SPAD XIIIc1 and Nieuport 28c1 World War I fighters departed for a local flight. They arrived back at the airport and were tied down away from the World War II fighters (and their strong propwash).

Later in the morning, the Museum’s pair of restored 1930 classic biplanes – a Curtiss-Wright Travel Air D4000 Speedwing and Pitcairn PA-7s Sport Mailwing flew some low passes down the runway closest to the museum.

When the aerobatics portion of the show began, Jason Flood in his modified Pitts S-1S. The man has an interesting past… he soloed on his 16th birthday – in a Pitts special biplane. He was rated for, and competed in aerobatics at 17 years old in a Pitts biplane too. Jason survived a banner-towing accident in 2011, battling back from severe injuries. More recently, after some down time to recover from that accident, he began competing in aerobatics again. As his biography notes: “Jason has made a habit of ranking 1st place in just about all of the regional aerobatic competitions he attends”. He’s also one of the youngest showmen on the circuit, and home-based in New Jersey.

Then it was Dan Marcotte’s turn to dazzle the crowd, in two different ways. His web site states that he offers “inspiring, surface level aerobatics… and jet car madness” too! First, he flew his acrobatic routine in his Ultimate 10-200 biplane. With very little straight and level flying, Dan is no stranger to the Knox County Regional Airport, having entertained the Wings and Wheels crowds for several past Wings and Wheels shows. In 2003, Dan got his pilot’s license and with just 80 hours to his credit, travelled to Reno Nevada, completed his Pylon Racing School training, and placed 4th in the Bronze race in his aircraft category on his first competition.

Since then, he’s had a diversified flying career, including aerobatics competitions and speed racing at Bonneville Salt Flats. He’s a metal fabricator and in 2015, introduced his own home-built jet car, complete with an afterburning J-85 engine, once used in a Northrop F-5 fighter jet. This year, the lucky Wings and Wheels crowd saw Dan perform in both his machines.

Later, the North American T-6 Texan, the P-51 Mustang “Never Miss” and the TBM “She’s the Boss” made a series of passes, seemingly lower each time. Watching the World War II aircraft dive in from a high altitude gave one a near head-on profile for a few seconds, and the aerodynamic design differences between an in-line engine versus a radial engine was readily apparent.

Of course there were automobiles by the score… some older than the dawn of powered flight, and others were built late in the last century. A demonstration of antique bicycles was fun to watch too. And, the Museum’s rotary engine, mounted on a stand, was run up… the spinning cylinders were a blur through the (castor?) oil smoke. All in all, it was a great day to see many different styles of aviation technology, as well as a broader scope of cars and trucks too. Here’s their web address: http://owlshead.org/

AIRVENTURE 2019 YEAR OF THE FIGHTER PART 1: A SALUTE TO THE NORTH AMERICAN P-51 MUSTANG.

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Our coverage of EAA AirVenture 2019 starts with a look at an aircraft that hardly needs an introduction and solidified its place in aviation history over 75 years ago. The aircraft that would eventually become known as the Mustang was born in 1940 and was originally designated the NA-73X. It took only 102 days for the first prototype air frame, manufactured by North American Aviation, to be rolled out after The Royal Air Force signed a contract. A short 48 days later the Mustang would take flight on October 26, 1940. The P-51 Mustang was originally developed for the Royal Air Force and designated the Mustang Mk1 which was used as a tactical reconnaissance and fighter/bomber platform as World War II raged on in Europe. The United States would enter World War II and immediately saw the need for an advanced fighter aircraft. The United States Army Air Corps evaluated the Mustang, and after switching from an Allison engine to a Rolls Royce Merlin engine, which gave the Mustang much better performance the P-51 B and C models entered the war effort. The United States Army Air Corps would use Mustangs as escorts for bombers and also in the fighter bomber role.

The definitive version of the Mustang known as the P-51D model which has a top speed of 440 mph and a range of 1,650 miles with external fuel tanks, entered World War II in 1944. The “D” model would become one of the premier fighter aircraft in its day. Over 15,000 Mustangs would be built, it would see combat in the European, Pacific, Mediterranean, and Italian Theaters during World War II and has approximately 4,950 destroyed enemy aircraft to its credit with only the Grumman F-6F Hellcat claiming to have destroyed more enemy aircraft than the Mustang. When World War II ended the newly formed United States Air Force, Strategic Air Command employed the Mustang alongside the Twin Mustang which were re-designated as the F-51 and F-82, F for fighter as opposed to P for pursuit. Mustangs would serve a number of roles including use as a fighter, trainer, and reconnaissance platform.

First taking flight in June 1945, the Twin Mustang was designed as a very long-range escort fighter to escort bombers during World War II in the Pacific Theater. The Twin Mustang saw the combination of two newly designed P-51H model Mustang fuselages that would share a common wing. The twin Mustang was the last piston powered fighter to be ordered but never saw combat service in World War II as the war ended before it became operational. A pair of Allison V1710-143/145 counter rotating liquid cooled V12 engines powered the Twin Mustang to a top speed of 461 miles per hour and a range of 2,240 miles. In total 272 twin Mustangs would be built before production ceased.

In 1950 war would break out on the Korean Peninsula and the Mustang would once again be called to serve in a combat role. The Mustang went to war and served as a reconnaissance, ground attack, and also in the fighter and night attack rolls. The F-82 would actually be credited with the first three North Korean aircraft shot down. Mustangs would serve many years until replaced by the jet powered North American F-86 Sabre and the Grumman F-9F Panther. The Mustang would continue to fly with United States Air Force Reserve and United States Air Force Air National Guard through the 1950s until finally being retired in January 1957. The Twin Mustang would continue to serve with the Air Defense Command as an all-weather interceptor until 1951 when the Lockheed F-94 Starfire took over this role. The Mustang however would go on to serve with many different air forces of the world including, Australia, Canada, and Sweden. The Mustang would actually serve with the Dominican Air Force until 1984.

Many P-51 Mustangs were sold as surplus after World War II and the Korean War and ended up in civilian hands for a fraction of its value today. That brings us to AirVenture 2019 and the main theme of this year’s show” Year of the Fighter”, which included a salute to the North American P-51 Mustang as well as World War II Triple Ace Colonel Clarence “Bud” Anderson. Colonel Anderson served with the 363rd Fighter Squadron, 357th Fighter Group and flew a North American P-51D-10-NA Mustang named “Old Crow”. Colonel Anderson went on to serve in the United States Air Force until finally retiring in 1972. The Thursday airshow honored Colonel Anderson and also highlighted the P-51 Mustang, it featured no less than 18 different Mustangs.

AirVenture invited every flyable P-51 in the United States to attend this year’s show and several different Mustangs were present. Notable attendees included P-51B-1NA Mustang, registered N551E, named Old Crow and owned by Jack Roush. Minot North Dakota based P-51C-10NT, better known as Lopes Hope 3rd was a welcome visitor. Scott “Scooter” Yoak had his beautifully restored P-51D-30NT, registered N51HY, and named Quicksilver on hand. AirVenture 2019 also welcomed the ultra-rare P-51H-5NA Mustang, one of only two left flyable in the world. This Mustang is registered N551H and is owned by Steven Coutches and is based at Livermore California.

One of the biggest highlights of AirVenture 2019 was, N887XP, military serial number 44-83887 the only flyable XP-82 Twin Mustang in the world. This Twin Mustang is the second XP-82 built, and is one of only five left in existence, and was restored to flying status after 11 years of restoration work. Tom Riley is the proud owner of this beautiful aircraft and is flown by Ray Fowler. The XP-82 won the Phoenix Award at this year’s show.

The P-51 Mustang served this country proudly and now thrills air show audiences around the world and will continue to do so for many years to come. In our next article we continue our look at AirVenture 2019 with a look at some of the modern military fighters that were present at this year’s show.

Until next time” Blue Skies to All!”