The 40th Anniversary Geneseo Airshow – The Incomplete Story

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Also known as The Greatest Show on Turf, The National Warplane Museum titled their 40th Anniversary airshow, “Operation Thanks from Above”, which took place on July 10th and 11th, 2021. This represented a carryover from the area flybys conducted in 2020 to honor First Responders, Healthcare Professionals and Essential Workers.

Due to a family event back home, I could not attend the air show. I decided, though, that after the 2020 we all had, if my friends at the museum were holding an airshow, I would make the trip to see everyone. In fact, I did not see a lot of flying between Wednesday and Friday, but that certainly does not mean I did not have an enjoyable time. It was good to be back. Hence, this is the incomplete story, short of the main event.

The show went from a possibility, to a socially distant go. Once the planning for the show was in progress, New York State relaxed all Covid-19 restrictions but the plan would remain the same for a drive-in airshow with marked parking spaces and buffer zones.

The weather pattern was not typical of Western, New York at this time of year. The days prior were very hot, then it cooled a bit and then got rainy. Over a 5 day period, it rained on 4 of the days. This canceled the Friday, Members Only practice show and most of Sunday.

A number of the scheduled performers were already on the grounds and in the big hangar when I arrived on Wednesday morning such as Aerobatic Champion, Rob Holland, Greg Koontz’ red Super Decathlon and Warbird Pilot, Thom Richard and his TP-40, “American Dream”. Genny’s Flagship, C-47A, “W-7” was parked out in the sun on the turf and B-17, “The Movie Memphis Belle” was just outside of the hangar. Later in the day, she received an eye-satisfying power washing. Although she has been housed here for many years, she does not belong to the Museum. I heard she was out of Annual Inspection and not scheduled to fly this weekend. She did move under power, though.

A special event occurred Wednesday afternoon when a 99 year old, former P-40 pilot took a ride with Thom Richard. They were out about 40 minutes, or so. What a thrill for all involved including the many family members and friends present.

With all this going on, it was almost 5pm when I dropped into the Administration Building to see my friends. Perennially, I have a job in clearing tables and chairs in the big hangar after the Saturday Night Dance. With no dance this year, I made myself available except for one condition, when it is time to take pictures. I assisted with parking lines, hand stacking planes in the hangar, squeegeeing rain water out of the hangar, setting tables and chairs for the performer’s tent, and showing the F-22 Demo Team Safety Pilot, “Batman” the museum, the history of the show and why he was there to perform.

Thursday had a dreary, foggy start. Although I wasn’t there, I imagined this moody lighting is what an English Airfield looked like on a 1943 morning with “the Belle” anticipating the day’s mission. Other arrivals on Thursday included Rick Volker in his SU-29 and The Alabama Boys brought their Super Cub in a trailer and assembled it in the hangar. Later that evening, the Fokker D-VII replica took flight. As the penultimate German Fighter of World War I, she exhibited speed and tight turning during a short practice display.

On Friday, Members in good standing were invited to attend the practice show. Two Army helicopters arrived for static display, a UH-60 Blackhawk and a CH-47 Chinook. The Misty Blues, all-women jump team was also present. Shortly after, a rain storm came and lasted about an hour followed by a second one. Ceilings remained low afterward and there was no other flying. When I saw the Emergency Services leaving the grounds, it was time to pack up for home. Just prior to leaving, the Canadian Harvard Aircraft Association arrived in a four ship to land. I read that one of them had a landing incident Saturday and ended up in the cornfield across the turf runway. There were no injuries and the show went on. I was sorry to miss the show but glad to see my friends and spend time at the Museum.

I want to acknowledge Dave Cooper and his team for their efforts in making the show happen as it is so important, financially for the Museum. It takes a little from everybody. Special shout outs to Donna “Geneseo Fuel”, Air Boss Todd, Tina, Peter, Zach, Jeremy, Hangar Master Craig, Paul, Harley Riding Warbird Enthusiast Steve, BJ, Tom, Dakota, Rob, Jody and those I am probably forgetting. Until next year, if not sooner.

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