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Random Warbirds #10

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A pair of North American F-86/Canadair Sabres at Nellis AFB.

Well, the end of 2020 is almost upon us, and here’s our final Random Warbirds scrapbook… including this one, we did ten of them this year beginning in March. Enjoy!

Hawker Andover C.1 at RAF Fairford, U.K.

KAMAN HOK (OH-43D) at NAS North Island for the CONA celebration.

Aero L-29 Delphin at Reno Stead, Nevada.

NASA Martin B-57B Canberra at Edwards AFB, California.

MiG-15bis at Nellis AFB, Nevada.

B-17G, made to portray B-17F Memphis Belle, at NAS Brunswick, Maine.

Consolidated PB-4Y waterbomber at Fox Field, Lancaster, California.

General Motors FM-2 Wildcat at an unknown airport.

Chance Vought F-4U-5N of the Collings Foundation at Westfield, Massachusetts.

Boeing B-17G at Brown Field, San Diego, California.

Northrop F-89 Scorpion in front of a Lockheed C-130 Hercules at Elmendorf AFB, Anchorage, Alaska.

Focke-Wulf 189D-13 at the Flying Heritage Collection.

RB-47H at the Air Force Armament Museum, at Eglin AFB, Florida.

Grumman HU-16 Albatross at Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

Royal Australian Air Force DeHavilland Canada Caribou at Avalon, Australia.

A YAK-52 surrounded by Nanchang CJ-6s in the skies over Titusville, Florida.

Douglas A-26B Invader at Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

Douglas AC-47D Spooky gunship at the Air Force Armament Museum, Eglin AFB, Florida.

Curtiss P-40E Warhawk at an unknown airfield.

MiG-21UM or similar model at Mojave, California.

North American F-100F at Westfield, Massachusetts.

Grumman F7F Tigercat at Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

Royal Australian Air Force/General Dynamics F-111C at a Red Flag exercise at Nellis AFB, Nevada.

Wings Over Houston 2020

 

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With an unused airline ticket in my bank, I returned to the Wings Over Houston Airshow for a second year in a row after the official announcement that it was a go for October 9-11. In this Covid-19 year of 2020, any airshow is a reason to be thankful.

A trend that had begun in late summer was the socially distant drive-in show and Wings Over Houston went forward under this plan with only a few weeks to put it together. This would be the first mass public event in Houston all year and we were reminded often that it was being watched closely.

On the Friday of my arrival, Hurricane Delta was passing by. It was breezy and rainy but no direct hits for Houston and all flying was canceled. For the people of Southern Louisiana, this was, unfortunately, the second hurricane in five weeks.

Saturday began with bright sun as we checked in for media. Oddly, we were the only ones who could not drive a vehicle onto the ramp. For this drive-in show, patrons would pay by the carload, bring their own food and drink, mask up to go to the bathroom and otherwise remain within the footprint of their vehicle. There were no static displays or vendors.

The location for media was a grass island near the Air Boss. As the morning went on, four rows of paying carloads were parked in front of us and we were too far away from the fence for any ground photos. It was not an ideal spot. Media Coordinator, Scott Tims, offered us another spot at extreme airshow left at the fence. Many of us took advantage of this and it ended up being as ideal as possible on show day.

The sun angle is tough in the morning as the sun rises from the front of the north-south Runway 17/35 configuration at Ellington Field. Due to the Hurricane, many Warbirds canceled their plans and the jet teams relocated to Fort Worth. Early on Saturday, the teams returned to Ellington offering some interesting photographs against the sun.

Prior to the show, Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawks and MH-65 Dauphins were flying regular operations and even the Army’s AH-64 Apaches of “The Wolfpack” were active throughout the weekend. Our north end location offered us some good and close views of this group of helicopters.

The show opened with a flag drop by the Re/Max Skydiving Team circled by aerobatic pilots Jason Newburg (Pitts S2S) and Debby Rihn-Harvey (Extra 300).

The A-10 Thunderbolt II Demonstration Team flew first with their fetching heritage paint scheme. Although the sun angle was still tough, there was a good amount of moisture in the air for wingtip vortices.

Before noon, there was also a Coast Guard Search and Rescue demonstration, civilian performers, Jacquie B and Debby Rihn Harvey, and the F-16 Viper Demo Team. We were disappointed to have the gray jet on Saturday instead of “Venom” but the demo was still loud and fast.

After noon, Tora! Tora! Tora! filled the sky with smoke reenacting the attack on Pearl Harbor. Other Warbirds, which arrived Saturday morning, joined the time slot to include PBJ, “Devil Dog” and a C-45 in NAS Dallas markings.

Additionally, as the time slot belonged to Warbirds, a rare P-63 King Cobra performed a solo routine followed by P-51 “Shangri-La”. On Sunday, they would join up for some formation flying.

An act I had never seen before was the Phillips 66 Aerostars. Three Extra 300s in similar but not uniform markings performed a formation display.

The C-17 Demonstration Team from Joint Base Lewis-McChord performed a solo routine and then the Re/Max Skydiving Team performed an afternoon jump. A Mig 15 performed a solo routine and then Jason Newburg performed and then raced Shockwave in her new paint scheme.

Ahead of the F-35A Demonstration, the A-10 and F-16 launched into a hold. It was originally planned for a five ship Heritage Flight but the Raptor broke after the second maneuver. P-51 “Glamorous Glenn III” joined from her home airport and made it a typical four ship flight. Although there was no jet team, having all four United States Air Force Demonstration Teams at one show made it a can’t miss event for me.

Upon exit, I noticed two things. The ramp had cleared out pretty quickly and there was very little trash left behind. Two points for the drive-in format.

Sunday morning started foggy but it burned off before showtime. We had been notified earlier that the F-22 from Saturday could not be repaired in time and the other Raptor was broken in Fort Worth. The team used two Tyndall airframes which are the oldest in the fleet. The demonstration was scrubbed. As the day wore on, it was announced that a local business family offered to fly “Cabo” to Fort Worth in their Citation 525 to pick up the other jet. This shuffled the lineup for an exciting finish. The A-10 Demonstration Team had already flown an earlier demonstration but volunteered to fly another one in the afternoon. All the jets would fly in the afternoon under optimum lighting conditions. Unfortunately, the F-22 required fuel and could not join for the five ship Heritage Flight but we did see a full demonstration. The business family was applauded when they returned home.

Before departing the show on Sunday, we were invited back to a hangar where the Mig 15 and other aircraft are kept. Despite Friday’s weather, it was a perfect airshow weekend.

I wish to thank the great Media Team at Wings Over Houston. I saw some familiar faces from 2019 and they were very accommodating to us. Head Cheese-Scott Tims, Watchdog-John Szalkowski, Momma Bear-Stacy Mills, and our Last Cabbie-Barbara Britt. Additionally, I noticed a company, Homeland Staffing, cleaning the porta potty handles with regularity for the safety and comfort of all. Police and trash runners were also on the job facilitating wherever necessary. My hat’s off to the team that pulled it off despite Covid-19 and a passing hurricane. Thank you for giving me one more show in 2020.

Brigadier General Charles “Chuck” Yeager Has Died

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Brigadier General Charles “Chuck” Yeager

Brigadier General Charles “Chuck” Yeager died in Los Angeles on Monday, December 7, 2020 at age 97. The famous pilot served in the U.S. Army Air Corps and Air Force for decades, becoming an ace fighter pilot in World War II, and continued his military flying career after the war ended. He is well known as the first pilot to break the speed of sound barrier.

Speaking at the 50th Anniversary of breaking the sound barrier ceremonies

On October 14, 1947, then-Captain Charles “Chuck” Yeager exceeded the speed of sound over the High Desert of California. Officially, it was the first time (with proof) that Mach 1 had been exceeded… and there should be an asterisk after this statement. This was the first time that it was successfully exceeded, as other pilots may have unknowingly exceeded this benchmark, but lost their lives as control was lost or their aircraft broke up. It was a very important achievement for the new U.S. Air Force – a new branch of service in existence for less than a month after the Army Air Corps was restructured and renamed.

Yeager, second from left, joins other flight test team members from the X-1 historic flight

The purpose-built Bell XS-1 (eXperimental, Supersonic), known as the X-1 later, was part of a program begun by the U.S. Army Air Force and the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) to exceed the speed of sound. Initial glide tests began at the Pinecastle Army Air Field (AAF) in Florida on January 19, 1946. Later that year, the program moved to California’s Muroc AAF base. The program’s first powered X-1 flight occurred on December 9, 1946, on flight number 15. Captain Yeager broke the sound barrier on flight number 50, officially reaching Mach 1.06.

Born in 1923, Chuck began his military career in 1941 as a mechanic; his flight training for the Army Air Corps began in 1942. He ended the war flying the P-51 Mustang as an ace – actually a double ace, with 13 victories. He became a flight instructor, and then embarked on his test pilot career. While serving in that capacity, he flew numerous experimental piston, jet and rocked-powered aircraft during his storied career. Later, he attended additional military schools and led various Air Force Squadrons and Wings as their commander. In June 1961 Yeager became commandant of the Aerospace Research Pilot School, which soon was renamed the Air Force Test Pilot School, based at Edwards AFB, California. He attained the rank of Brigadier General in 1969, and retired from the Air Force in 1975.

Chuck Yeager, at home on an airport parking ramp, this time in Mojave, CA

After military life, he continued to be involved in aviation, setting world records in a Piper Cheyenne in 1985 and being one of the Northrop representatives touting the F-5G/F-20 Tigershark fighter. He also took time to become a spokesman for AC Delco automotive products. Mr. Yeager was a frequent attendee of the EAA/Oshkosh Conventions, where he still flew P-51 Mustangs during the weeklong event.

Planeside interview after completing a recreation of the smashing of the sound barrier in an F-15D Eagle

In 1997, he and many of the Bell X-1 flight team were honored at special tributes in the Edwards AFB area to mark the 50th anniversary of the official breaking of the sound barrier.

Yes, 50 years after the original X-1 record breaking flight, he piloted the F-15 Eagle to recreate the event!

There’s a saying that goes something like this: “There are old pilots, and there are bold pilots, but there are no old, bold pilots”. Of course there are exceptions to every rule though, and Chuck Yeager is indeed one of the very few exceptions to this statement. Rest in Peace, General Charles Yeager; our condolences go to his family and friends from the Photorecon.net, ClassicWarbirds.net, and CivilAviationWorld.com team.

This article contains previously published material from a 2015 ClassicWarbirds.net article.

The Great “Arsenal of Democracy” B-29 Superfortresses

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One of the larger attractions of the 2020 “Arsenal of Democracy” flyover were the only two flying B-29 Superfortresses, “Doc” and “FiFi”, joined in flight for just the fourth time since their restorations. On practice day Thursday, the two flew in formation over the town of Culpeper, VA along with several alternating formations of disparate World War Two (WWII) aircraft.

B-29 History
The United States Army Air Corps realized that America’s primary strategic bomber, the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, was inadequate for the Pacific Theater. The Air Corps needed a bomber that could carry larger payloads and operate at 3,000 mission miles.

Between May 1941 and May 1946, a total of 3,970 Boeing B-29 Superfortress bombers were produced in four different plants with the majority (2,766) being built in Wichita, KS and Renton, WA. One of the largest aircraft of WWII, the B-29 had new state-of-the-art technology, including a pressurized cabin and a “Central Fire System” employing analog computers operating four remotely controlled gun turrets- each armed with two .50 caliber machine guns.

During WWII, B-29 Superfortresses were only used in the Pacific Theater, dropping over 180,000 tons of bombs and shooting down twenty-seven enemy aircraft. Their first combat mission was flown on June 5, 1944, from India “over the hump” to China. On August 6, 1945, the B-29 “Enola Gay” dropped the world’s first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. Three days later, B-29 ”Bockscar” dropped a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki. The B-29 remained in active service throughout the 1950s and in other various roles until its retirement in 1965. Today, twenty-two B-29s are on display throughout the United States.

“FiFi”
“FiFi” was the first fully restored B-29 to take flight. Built in July 1945 at Boeing’s Renton, WA plant as AF S/N 44-62070, the Superfortress went straight from the factory to a training squadron- never seeing combat. Following retirement in 1958, the bomber was used for target practise at the U.S. N. Proving Grounds at China Lake, CA. In 1971, Dallas businessman and WWII Army Air Force veteran Victor N. Agather, rescued the plane from the scrap yard. Ownership passed to the Commemorative Air Force (CAF) on March 23, 1971. After three years of restoration, the B-29 was christened “FiFi” in honor of Agather’s wife- Josephine “Fifi” Agather. Registered as NX529B, “FiFi” is maintained and operated by the B-29/B-24 Wing of the CAF at its Dallas, TX Executive Airport headquarters.

“Doc”
“Doc” is one of 1,644 B-29 Superfortresses manufactured at Boeing’s Wichita, KS plant during WWII.
In March of 1945, B-29 No. 44-69972 was delivered to the U.S. Army Air Corps. In July of 1951, “Doc” was assigned to radar calibration duty, along with a few other B-29s. The squadron was known as the “Seven Dwarfs.” In May of 1955, “Doc” was assigned to target-towing duty. A year later, “Doc” and the rest of its squadron became targets for bomb training at China Lake. For the next 42 years, the Superfortress lay unattended in the Mojave Desert.

In 1987, Mr. Tony Mazzolini found “Doc” and began plans for removal and restoration of the B-29 to flying status. It would take twelve years before Mazzolini and his team were able to take possession from the U.S. government. Following, for the next fifteen years, the Superfortress was extensively restored by volunteers at the Wichita, KS Boeing plant where it was originally built. “Doc” returned to flying status on July 17, 2016 after a successful flight at McConnell AFB, KS. The Superfortress now resides in a brand new hanger owned by the Wichita, KS based 501c3 non-profit- “Doc’s Friends.”

Serving as honorary air boss for the 2020 “Great Arsenal of Democracy” flyby was Retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Bob Vaucher. Vaucher, now 101 years old, led a massive “show of force” formation of 525 B–29 Superfortresses that overflew the battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, as Japan officially surrendered to Allied forces on September 2, 1945. The retired Lt. Col. was again on the flight deck of a Superfortress when taken on a flight over northern Virginia, in honor of his distinguished military service.

Aside from those in the air and on the battlefield, there were other WWII veterans making sacrifices on the home front. One of the most iconic symbols of America’s “Great Arsenal of Democracy” was “Rosie the Riveter.” The recognizable character, with a red bandanna on her head and bent-arm pose to show might, was created to counter the Japanese propagandist Tokyo Rose. On the ramp at Manassas, admiring the B-29s, was a real-life “Rosie the Riveter.” Ninety-five year old Connie Palacioz is one of the last surviving women who worked in the Boeing Wichita, KS plant. 1,644 B-29s were manufactured at Wichita during WWII and Ms. Palacioz riveted nose assemblies on every one of them! Following WWII service in the Pacific, B-29 “Doc” sat in the Mojave Desert for 42 years. When found, only seven rivets were missing from the nose section! A testament to the gallant work of those “Rosie the Riveters.”

Story by:
Daniel O. Myers