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2013 Air Shows

Wings Over Houston Airshow, October 26-27, 2013

Location: Ellington Field, Houston, TX
Admission: $25 adult, $5 child, under 6 free. Family packs and advance purchase discounts available.
Parking: Free on-site. Free shuttle bus service from select Park & Ride lots.
Value: Exellent
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The 29th Annual Wings Over Houston Airshow was held October 26-27, 2013 at Ellington Field in Houston, Texas. Presented by the Commemorative Air Force, the world’s largest flying museum, it’s no wonder that this airshow is dominated by warbirds. The emphasis was on World War II: from the Tora!Tora!Tora! display depicting America’s entry into the conflict to the B-29 which dropped the bombs that ended the war. The flying spanned not only the action from the Pacific to Europe, but also featured aircraft from all roles: trainers, liaison, utility, fighters, dive bombers, torpedo bombers, light and heavy bombers. There was also a special flying tribute commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Korean War. The air war in Vietnam was represented with a set of aircraft on static display. With such a large number and variety of warbirds demonstrating America’s airpower heritage, plus an exceptional group of aerobatic performers, this was the perfect place to end the 2013 airshow season.
Although the weather on Saturday was perfect, Sunday morning began with a severe thunderstorm that had high winds and lightning and which drenched the field with over an inch and a half of rain. The schedule described here for Saturday was of necessity modified for Sunday. The gates opened promptly at 0800. With close-in parking and efficient security and ticketing at the gates, getting to the flightline quickly to secure a spot along the fence was a breeze. Unlike at many shows, all of the aircraft which perform are viewable on static display both before and after flying. It pays to get there early to see all the aircraft on the hot ramp. The RE/MAX Parachute jumpers flew in the flag to start the show at 10:30 and returned later in the day with wingsuits. The CAF Red Tail Squadron’s RISE ABOVE travelling exhibit was on hand to share the history of theTuskegee Airmen. The P-51C Red Tail Mustang flew a very nice aerobatic routine, and three Tuskegee Airmen, Charles McGee, George E. Hardy and Alexander Jefferson, were special guests of the exhibit. Other aviation and military legends and heroes were on hand at the Autograph Tent sharing their stories and answering questions. A very special missing man formation was flown during this airshow. Just days before, the P-51D Mustang “Galveston Gal” from the Lone Star Flight Museum had crashed with the loss of life of both pilot and passenger. Two pairs of Bearcats and Corsairs performed the tribute flight.
The sky suddenly filled with a multitude of Japanese aircraft: dive bombers, torpedo bombers and fighter escorts. Tora!Tora!Tora!: the surprise was complete. Explosions soon rocked the infield and aircraft flew in from all directions. A B-17 flew low over the runway, and a lone American fighter, the P-40 Warhawk, fought valiantly against the attackers. It was, of course, the carefully choreographed re-enactment of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Unfortunately, it soon became a bit too real, as thick, impenetrable clouds of acrid smoke completely obscured the action and caused many to retreat from the fence to seek relief. There was a considerable break in the action as fire trucks and crews put out the grass fires. The flying resumed with a large number of trainer, liaison, and utility aircraft filling the skies and making numerous passes. This was followed by the Naval Aviation flight, featuring a Wildcat, Tigercat, Corsair, two Bearcats, Helldiver and Avenger. Six aircraft from the Texas Flying Legends museum then put on a very spirited show. The A6M2 attacked the B-25 Mitchell, with both aircraft banking, jinking, climbing and diving. Finally the Corsair and Warhawk downed the Zero. The two Mustangs put on a nice aerobatic display to end the demonstration. Then it was time for the heavies. Where else in the world can you see the B-25, B-17, B-24 and B-29 bombers all in the air at the same time, making multiple simulated bombing runs with pyrotechnics? One really nice feature of this airshow is that the aircraft make passes from the left and the right, giving you views of both sides of the aircraft. One of the highlights of the show for many in the crowd was the beautiful series of “banana” passes by the heavy bombers, “FIFI” in particular.
This year marks the 60th anniversary of the cease-fire which ended active hostilities in the Korean War. That air war marked the transition from propeller-driven aircraft to jets, but many of the WWII-era aircraft continued to serve. The F8F, F4U, P-51, and B-29 were joined by a T-33 in a display of early-50’s airpower. Coming too late to see action in Korea, the Soviet-designed MiG-17 figured prominently in the Vietnam War. Randy Ball put on a very impressive display of the Fresco’s capabilities, including generous application of its famous afterburner.
It wasn’t all warbirds, though; there was also plenty of world-class aerobatic action. Paul Fiala, John Klatt, Michael Goulian, Matt Younkin and Debby Rihn-Harvey (fresh from competing at the 27th World Aerobatic Championship) all put on impressive demonstrations in aircraft as varied as the Great Lakes biplane to the Extra 330SC.
Photographers had the option of purchasing a Sunrise Photo Tour Pass or Photo Pit Pass to gain either early access or elevated risers, tent area, drinking water, and restrooms in a chalet area. The viewing area is west of the 17/35 runway, meaning that the afternoon sun is behind you, making for perfect conditions for photographers. The action, especially taxiing, takes place quite close to the audience; a 300mm lens is sufficient to capture all but the smaller aerobatic planes in detail. Ralph Royce and Rob Reider teamed up once again as Air Boss and Announcer, respectively.
ASR Media would like to thank Scott Tims for organizing the media opportunities and all the staff and volunteers for making Wings Over Houston one of the world’s premier warbird air shows. Keep ‘em flying!
Performers included:
Fighters, Dive- and Torpedo-Bombers:
  • Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero “Last Samurai”
  • Chance Vought F4U-5 and FG-1D “Whistling Death“ Corsair
  • Grumman F4F Wildcat
  • Grumman F7F Tigercat “Here Kitty, Kitty!”
  • Grumman F8F Bearcat “204S”, “ Denver 14P”
  • Curtiss P-40K “Aleutian Tiger” and P-40N Warhawk
  • North American P-51C Mustang “ Tuskegee Airmen”
  • North American P-51D Mustang “Dakota Kid II/Long Island Kid”, “Little Horse”, “Boo-Man Choo”
  • Curtiss SB2C Helldiver
  • Grumman TBM-3 Avenger
  • Tora! Tora! Tora! (Val, Kate and Zero replicas)


  • Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress “ Texas Raiders”
  • Consolidated B-24A Liberator “Diamond Lil”
  • North American B-25J Mitchell “Betty’s Dream”, “Doolittle Raiders”
  • Boeing B-29 Superfortress “FIFI”

Trainers, Liaison, Observation & Utility:

  • North American SNJ/AT-6 Texan (x5)
  • Fairchild PT-19 Cornell
  • Stinson L-5 Sentinel
  • Beech CH-45 Expeditor
  • Beech T-34 Mentor (x2)
  • North American L-17 Navion
  • Vultee BT-13 Valiant
  • Cessna O-2A Skymaster (x3)
  • Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star
  • Cessna T-50 Bamboo Bomber
  • Yakovlev Yak-52


  • Michael Goulian, Goodyear/Whelen Extra 330SC
  • John Klatt, Air National Guard MXS
  • Randy Ball, Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-17F
  • “Dusty” from Disney's PLANES
  • Matt Younkin, Twin Beech 18
  • Paul Fiala, Great Lakes biplane
  • Debby Rihn-Harvey, CAP 232

Static displays included a special Vietnam War collection:

  • Douglas A-26 Invader “Million Airess”
  • North American F-100 Super Sabre
  • Douglas A-4 Skyhawk
  • Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-21
  • Bell AH-1 Cobra
  • Bell UH-1 Iroquois
  • Grumman S-2 (S2F) Tracker
Rating: 9.0 out of 10

Review and photography by Norman A. Graf for ASR MEDIA LLC.
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