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Panchito’s Flight – Story and Photography by Philip Giordano

1 20150828_8171_NYAirShow-2 A firsthand account of one lucky photographer’s flight aboard Panchito, a B-25J Mitchell bomber owned and operated by Larry Kelly during the inaugural 2015 New York Air Show at Stewart International Air Port. 1 20150828_8088_NYAirShow Anyone familiar with the B-25 Mitchell will immediately associate this warbird as the aircraft that completed the historic Doolittle Raid over Tokyo in 1942. However, the B-25 played a much larger role in WWII. Nearly 10,000 B-25s were built throughout WWII and they saw service in all theatres of the war including Alaska, North Africa, China, Europe, and the Southwest Pacific. Named for famed airpower pioneer Brigadier General William “Billy” Mitchell, the B-25 was designed as a medium bomber to operate from altitudes between 8,000 and 12,000 feet. Powered by two 1,700-hp Wright R- 2600 engines, it became standard equipment for the Allied air forces in World War II, and was perhaps the most versatile aircraft of the war. It became the most heavily armed airplane in the world, was used for high- and low-level bombing, strafing, photoreconnaissance, submarine patrol, and even as a fighter. Read more »

The 2015 New York Air Show – The First of Many


Newburgh New York's Stewart International Airport was the venue of the inaugural New York Air Show. Presented just 71 days after the Coney Island air show was cancelled, this event drew tens of thousands of spectators over a sun-drenched weekend. A series of high-profile events, including a Statue of Liberty flyover by Air Force F-22 and F-16 fighters (and photographed in the air from a B-25 Mitchell bomber), brought the curious public to the former Air Defense Command air base some 30 miles north of New York City. Warbird activity at this show brought together a mix of both familiar and a few seldom seen aircraft in the northeastern U.S..

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In the air, one highly visible and hard working warbird was Larry Kelley's Panchito, a B-25J bomber which is a key part of the DAV Flight Team. According to the DAV (Disabled American Veterans), their mission is: "Fulfilling our promises to the men and women who served. We are dedicated to a single purpose: empowering veterans to lead high-quality lives with respect and dignity". The Mitchell bomber was in the air almost as much as it was on the ground during the few days leading up to the air show, offering rides to media representatives to help "spread the word" about the DAV. Several military veterans flew also, and the aircraft had its tail gun assembly removed to become the perch for the photography of the Air Force jets over Lady Liberty on Thursday before the show. Of course, the crew flew a sparkling flight demonstration during the weekend shows too, showing off open bomb bay doors and making a pair of very satisfying photo passes for the crowd. Watch for a first-person account of what it's like to fly aboard this B-25 here in ClassicWarbirds in an upcoming post! An Air Force Heritage Flight was an attraction that included something out of the ordinary. First founded in 1997 by the Air Force, the civilian Foundation was formed at the end of 2010 to perpetuate the practice of teaming current Air Force jet fighters with warbirds from the past. Tommy Williams flew Comanche Fighters LLC's P-51K Mustang Fragile but Agile alongside Major John "Taboo" Cummings in the F-22A Raptor. The seldom seen -K version is essentially a P-51D that was built in Dallas TX, originally equipped with an Aeroproducts propeller. Tommy has an Air Force jet fighter and airline pilot background, as is experienced enough to be part of the handful of civilians that are authorized to fly rare warbirds like the P-51K in formations with current jet fighters.

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Larry Labriola flew an aerobatic display in his L-39C Albatross jet trainer; his Reno Air Races #7 was emblazoned on the fuselage. The Geico Skytypers supplied copious amounts of smoke and thunder to the show in their SNJ-2s modified with computerized smoke systems.


On the ground, further warbird participation included the American Airpower Museum's combat veteran C-47 Dakota on Saturday, an additional L-39C Albatross in eye-catching arctic camouflage, a rare UH-1B Huey helicopter, and an additional SNJ - longtime air show veteran Thunder Pussy, once part of the Six of Diamonds team. A bright red Fairchild 24 Argus, owned by Sean and Susan Neal, was painted to represent a Rehoboth Beach, Delaware-based Coastal Patrol subchaser aircraft used for anti-submarine patrol during World War II. The aircraft is receiving bomb racks under the fuselage too; many civilian-turned-warplanes were equipped with one or two 100 pound bombs underneath as they carried out inshore patrols during the war. One disappointment was the cancellation of the Horsemen P-51 aerobatic team shortly before the show, but the variety of warbirds more than made up for that void. Better news is that tickets for the 2016 show - yes, planning for next year's event is already in motion - went on sale the moment the inaugural 2015 show ended! Many thanks go out to Cathy Bassett and Phillip Marro of the New York Air Show for their work for allowing our photographers and writer gain outstanding access to the show's events.

Oshkosh 2015 Scrapbook, Volume 2

bombers2.jpg These photos are a second look (Scrapbook Volume 1 has already been published here a few stories ago) at just some of the warbirds that attended the 2015 EAA AirVenture event in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.  The EAA Warbirds of America organization has acres of parking to the north of show center, where you can stroll between rows of fighters, bombers, trainers, transports, liaison aircraft, and jets.  Many years there are one-of-a-kind aircraft present, and there are warbirds airborne during the afternoon air shows that occur all week long. To show the uninitiated just how large the scope of warbird participation is at Oshkosh each year, here's the official EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015 Aircraft Awards for warbirds... pay particular attention to all of the names of the categories and to some of the distances travelled to attend the show!


Preservation Award  Carey Hardin Starkville, Mississippi Boeing Stearman N2S-4 Kaydet, N59901 Mike Weinfurter Rhinelander, Wisconsin Cessna TL-19A Bird Dog, N96071 Mark Howard Edmond, Oklahoma Fairchild PT-26A Cornell, N9279H Craig Sommerfeld Kelley, Iowa Beechcraft T-34 Mentor, N245Z Tom Bullion Memphis, Tennessee Stinson-Vultee AT-19, N60058 Michael Porter East Liverpool, Ohio Boeing Stearman PT-17 Kaydet, N59293 J Judges’ Choice: CJ-6 Scott Wallace Dayton, Ohio Nanchang CJ-6A, N202ME Judges’ Choice: L- Bird James Johnson Midlothian, Texas Cessna L-19/O-1E Bird Dog, N354X Judges’ Choice: Jet Fighter Dean Cutshall Fort Wayne, Indiana North American F-100F Super Sabre, N2011V Judges’ Choice: L-17 Thomas Gordon Jr. Loveland, Colorado Ryan L-17, N4238A Best Jet Dianna Stanger Port Lavaca, Texas Aero Vodochody L-139 Albatros, N1390A Silver Wrench Code 1 Aviation Rockford, Illinois Best L-Bird Stewart Ellis Luthersville, Georgia Cessna O-1A Bird Dog, N5308G Silver Wrench Montague Bono Chino, California Best Trainer Richard Curtis, Howard Botts & Wayne Borman Valley Center, Kansas Fairchild PT-19B, N464BC Silver Wrench Curtis, Botts & Borman Valley Center, Kansas Best Stearman Paul Ehlen Eden Prairie, Minnesota Boeing Stearman N2S-1 Kaydet, N50061 Silver Wrench Air Corps Aviation Bemidji, Minnesota Keep ’em Flying Award Ron Whitt Slinger, Wisconsin Aero Vodochody L-39C Albatros, N976BH Gold Wrench Code 1 Aviation Rockford, Illinois T-34 Greg Scileppi Denver, Colorado Beechcraft T-34 Mentor, N343ZM Gold Wrench Blackwell Aviation Belle Vernon, Pennsylvania Most Authentic Restoration Max Chapman & John Muszala Idaho Falls, Idaho North American P-51B Mustang, N515ZB Gold Wrench Pacific Fighters Idaho Falls, Idaho Dirty Bird James Lyle Fort Lauderdale, Florida Douglas C-47 Skytrain, N74589 Reserve Grand Champion - World War II Paul Ehlen Eden Prairie, Minnesota North American P-51D Mustang, N1751D Gold Wrench Air Corps Aviation Bemidji, Minnesota Grand Champion - Post World War II Brian Reynolds Olympia, Washington Goodyear FG-1D Corsair, NX72NW Gold Wrench Airpower Unlimited LLC Jerome, Idaho Grand Champion - World War II Gerald Yeagen Virginia Beach, Virginia de Havilland Canada FB26 Mosquito, N114KA Gold Wrench Avspecs Ltd. Auckland, New Zealand
mossie 1 Next year's AirVenture Oshkosh will run from July 25th through July 31st, 2016.  Now that the 2015 edition is in the books, the question on many warbird enthusiasts' mind is "What'll show up next year that's out of the ordinary?"  My take on this is is, that Oshkosh is "extraordinary" anyway, so anything could happen. Photos and article by Ken Kula, table of awards courtesy of the EAA.

The Baltic Bees

bees15-229.jpg The photography of Dietmar Schreiber. With 42,000 spectators around Lake Wolfgang and 286 take-offs and landings on the lake, the Scaleria Air Challenge 2015 was the biggest floatplane event to ever happen in Austria. Organized and sponsored by the Scalar Event Resort in St. Wolfgang - upper Austria, the Scalaria celebrated its tenth anniversary in July 2015. Once again it was a well organized and enjoyable event set in the fantastic landscape of the Salzkammergut. Flying participants were The Flying Bulls with its shiny fleet, the Breitling Super Constellation, the Baltic Bees Jet Team and Iren Dornier`s Do24. Beside these, many smaller amphibian and float planes from all over Europe visited the Lake. Flying highlights were the Flying Bulls P-38, Corsair and Alpha Jet formation, the Flying Bulls DC-6 formation with the Super Constellation, and the Baltic Bees Jet Team display. During the Scaleria we had the chance to meet the great crew of the Baltic Jet Team. A wide range of nice pictures on the ground and in the air were the result of that meeting.

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The Baltic Bees are a professional civilian aerobatic jet team equipped with six Czech-built L-39C Albatross airplanes which are light jet trainers designed for advanced aerobatics. The home base of the team is Jūrmala airport (EVJA), 60 km west of Riga, Latvia. The team was formed in 2008, performing as a two-ship formation. After two more jets were added to the team a full display program was created. A fifth was added, and after the addition of the 6th aircraft, the team to created an advanced display program and gained a favorable reputation as a professional civilian aerobatic team. Aboard from the beginning of the team, the well known aerobatic and solo pilot Valery Sobolev created the display program. A flight instructor, he was the only team member that had previous experiences in team aerobatics.

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Since the beginning of the last century, the Wright Brothers' original Flyer design has changed dramatically, and the sky has been crisscrossed with many distinctive jet planes. L-39C Albatross takes a worthy place in this lineage. The aircraft used by the “Baltic Bees” is the L-39C Albatross, a tandem 2-seat jet training aircraft in use by various, mainly European air forces. It was developed by the Czechoslovakian firm Aero Vodochody under a Warsaw Pact contract, directed to create a military training aircraft for the uniform preparation of pilots of the Air Forces. Now the plane has found wide popularity all over the world, both among private owners of the plane, and aerobatic jet teams. The airplane possesses good technical, aerodynamic characteristics and simplicity in control. The aircraft includes zero-height ejection seats for pilot and trainee.

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On the first part of a ferry flight from Salzburg to their home base in Latvia, we had the chance to join the Baltic Bees. It was a great experience to fly on board one of their L39s to Lodz in Poland. Article and photos copyright by Dietmar and Alex Schwarz, August 2015

Editor's note: The Aero Vodochody L-39 Albatross serves as much as a warbird as it is a current military jet trainer.