|Warbirds Over the Beach Airshow, May 16-17, 2015
|Location: Virginia Beach, VA
|Admission: adults $30/day ($50/all three days) youth $15 ($25/all 3 days)
|Parking: On-site, included in admission price.
|Rating out of 10: 9
Military Aviation Museum is great place to visit!
What better way to celebrate Armed Forces Day than by attending a warbird air show? Many air shows feature warbirds as part of their flying or static lineup, but the Military Aviation Museum's "Warbirds Over the Beach" airshow is one of the very few that flies warbirds exclusively. This show, one of two the museum hosts each year, is devoted to World War II and draws primarily on the museum's own collection, but also includes a variety of visiting aircraft. World War II military re-enactor groups and period comics and musicians provide additional entertainment on the ground.
The gates opened at 9:00AM each day. Parking was efficiently handled by a cadre of trained volunteers and it was a short walk to the showline. Planes were already flying; warbird ride sales were available from 8:30AM to 1:00PM and after the show into the evenings. There was plenty of room to set up folding chairs or claim a spot in the bleachers. Personal coolers with water, soda and snacks were permitted; many families set up picnic areas and settled in for the day. The flying performances were scheduled to begin at 1:00PM so there was plenty of time to view the aircraft on static display. All of the aircraft scheduled to fly were arranged on the edge of the grass runway and visitors were encouraged to get up close and personal; there were no ropes or stanchions keeping people away or intruding on photographs.
Additional aircraft were to be seen in the Fighter Factory restoration hangar or in the museum's other buildings. The museum also has an extensive collection of World War I replica aircraft that are flown during its annual Biplanes and Triplanes Air Show (scheduled for October 3-4 this year). In June, 2013, shortly after our last visit, the museum faced severe financial difficulties and it was feared by many that the museum would have to close. Although the situation turned out not to be as dire as first reported, the museum was forced to sell off a number of aircraft, chief among them the B-17G "Chuckie" and the FW-190 A8. However, the museum is now doing well, and new aircraft are once again being acquired.
Soon enough it was time for the show to begin. Unlike during our last visit, the weather was perfect: clear blue skies with puffy white clouds and a light breeze. All of the warbirds, except for the Me262, take off from and land on the grass strip adjacent to the museum. This provides some excellent photographic opportunities of these phases of their flight. However, because of the proximity of the trees on the other side of the runway the airshow box is to the west. This makes photography of the aircraft in the air difficult, as one is looking at the underside of the aircraft as they circulate in the pattern and one is also shooting into the sun, making for back-lit images. The pilots, however, do their best to ameliorate the situation by banking as much as possible during their approaches. The flying began with formation flights by several AT-6 and SNJ trainers. This was followed by a paratrooper drop from the C-46 "Tinker Belle." Unfortunately, Sunday's planned jump from the Ju52 transport did not take place. The rest of the afternoon's flying was arranged thematically, beginning with trainers then proceeding through flights from the various theaters of operations. The U.S. trainers and liaison flight featured the Boeing Stearman, Stinson L-5 Sentinel, the North American AT-6 Texan and the Piper NE-1, the Navy's version of the L-4 Grasshopper. The breadth of the museum's collection allowed for a separate flight of foreign trainers and liaison aircraft composed of the de Havilland Tiger Moth and Chipmunk, the Focke-Wulf FW 44 Stieglitz, the Polikarpov Po-2 Mule and the Messerschmitt Bf108.
The U.S. aircraft were separated into European and Pacific flights. The former featured the North American P-51D Mustang, B-25 Mitchell and the newly-acquired P-64 replica, which were joined by the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk. The U.S. Pacific flight was composed of the Consolidated PBY Catalina, Grumman TBM Avenger and FM-2 Wildcat, Vought FG-1D Corsair and the Douglas SBD-5 Dauntless. Although the AD-4 Skyraider technically did not see service during World War II, it did not look out of place flying with the others.
The European theater foreign flight was composed of British, German and Soviet aircraft, ranging from the Junkers Ju52 to the late-war Messerschmitt 262 jet along with the Hawker Hurricane and Yakovlev Yak-3. The Supermarine Spitfire was on the flightline, but did not fly. The Hurricane was later joined in the sky by what many in the crowd considered the star of the show, the de Havilland Mosquito. They flew a number of passes in formation, then individually. We would have welcomed a few low-level passes but understand the flight restrictions that need to be adhered to during the airshow. As the formal flying ended, the warbird rides resumed, so there was no rush to the exits. Many stuck around on Saturday for the steak dinner and hangar dance or simply to view the aircraft one more time. Many of the military re-enactors bivouac on site, so there was no curfew and visitors could stay as late as they wanted.
Jonathan Lichtenstein and Mark Whall teamed up again to provide narration and kept the audience well informed. Air Boss Jeff Comeau, assisted by Don Siemieniak, did a great job of keeping the flying safe and on-schedule. Musicians, singers and comedians provided period entertainment throughout the day in the comfort of the Navy hangar. There were several food booths, and Saturday featured an evening steak dinner and hangar dance, so there was plenty to do in addition to watching the planes fly. Attendance was estimated at slightly over 5,000 for the weekend, which is surprisingly low for an airshow of this caliber.
We would like to thank Chris Vtipil for coordinating the media access and providing assistance during the airshow. We'd like to thank Jerry Yagen for "keeping them flying" and all the sponsors, performers and volunteers who made this year's show such a success.
Flying warbirds included:
Douglas AD-4 Skyraider
North American AT-6 /SNJ Texans
North American B-25J Mitchell “Wild Cargo”
De Havilland DHC-1 Chipmunk
de Havilland DH-82A Tiger Moth
de Havilland DH-98 Mosquito
Chance Vought FG-1D Corsair
Curtiss C-46 Commando “The Tinker Belle”
Fairchild PT-19 Cornell
Grumman FM-2 Wildcat
Focke-Wulf FW-44J Stieglitz
Stinson L-5 Sentinel
Messerschmitt BF108 Taifun
Piper NE-1 (L-4 Grasshopper)
Curtiss P-40E Kittyhawk
North American P-51D Mustang “Double Trouble two”
North American P-51D Mustang “Red Nose”
North American P-64 (replica)
Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina
Polikarpov Po-2 Mule
Ryan PT-22 Recruit
Boeing PT-17 Stearman
Douglas SBD Dauntless
Grumman TBM-3E Avenger
|Report and photography by Norman A. Graf for