|Planes of Fame Airshow, April 29 - May 1, 2016
|Location: Chino, CA
|Admission: $25 adults, $5 children 5-11, free for museum members
|Parking: Included in admission price, preferred parking $10.
|Rating out of 10: 10
One of the Heritage Flights
This year's Planes of Fame Airshow commemorated the 75th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor with two Zeros and five Warhawks in attendance. In all, nearly 50 aircraft performed for the record crowds of 35,000 and many more planes were on static display. In addition, over a dozen veterans shared their wartime experiences in panel discussions. The F-16 Viper Demo Team provided lots of modern jet excitement and participated in three different Heritage Flight configurations. Civilian and warbird aerobatic performances rounded out the aerial entertainment.
The Planes of Fame Airshow was selected by as the Best Airshow of 2015, so expectations were high as this show approached. Except for less-than-stellar weather on Saturday, the show did not disappoint. Last year's Friday night Twilight Show was such a success that it was repeated this year, drawing even larger crowds. On Friday, the Viper Demo Team put on two tactical demonstrations, with Major Craig Baker really tearing up the sky. The afterburner was especially visible as the sunlight began to fade during "Rocket"'s second demo. Unique to the Twilight Show was the Golden Age of Aviation flight, featuring civilian and military aircraft from the interwar years. This year's flight was much expanded, including more than two dozen vintage aircraft, all flying during the "Golden Hour" of sunlight. One of the highlights was a beautiful polished-metal Lockheed Electra.
|The flying schedules on Saturday and Sunday were roughly the same, varying only slightly to take Saturday's weather into consideration and accounting for mechanical difficulties. The N9MB Flying Wing only flew on Sunday, for instance. The gates opened at 08:00 and flying started at 10:40. This left barely enough time to view the scores of aircraft on static display before the hot ramp was closed off. However, spreading the viewing over the three days left ample time to investigate each plane in detail. The Veterans' Panel also took place in the morning. Over a dozen World War II veterans were invited to share their wartime experiences with the audience. The discussions were broadcast over the PA system, so could be listened to while enjoying the static displays, but I find it rewarding to listen to the veterans in person. Several of the veterans had authored books and were autographing copies.
|Each day's flying began with a re-enactment of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The museum's own A6M5 Zero, flying for the first time since returning from its tour of Japan, was joined by the Commemorative Air Force's Zero to fly against several P-40 Warhawks. After the dogfights concluded, all five of the P-40s in attendance joined up for a Missing Man flyby. It's a very rare sight to see that many Warhawks together, let alone flying in tight formation.
The European Theater aircraft flight featured fly-bys by many of the fourteen P-51 Mustangs in attendance, two P-40 Warhawks, P-63 King Cobra, P-38 Lightning, two Spitfires and a P-47 Thunderbolt. A lone FW-190 represented the Axis powers. Joining the fighters were a B-25J Mitchell and two C-47s. The two Skytrains were flown in such a spirited manner that the Chino crowd, used to amazing sights, let out a collective shout of "Woah!" as the pilots banked hard, putting the large cargo aircraft up on a wing.
A Vietnam War aircraft flight demo had appeared on earlier schedules, but did not materialize. However, the Korean War air battle demonstration was as good as ever. Starting off with propeller aircraft (Sea Fury, Yak-3, F4U Corsair, AT-6 and P-51) it soon turned into a jet dogfight featuring a matchup between the iconic F-86 Sabre and MiG-15 Fagot. The museum's T-33 Shooting Star joined in a final tight formation flight of these vintage '50s jets.
For the first time ever, the show featured a number of aircraft from the Texas Flying Legends Museum: FM-2 Wildcat, TBM-3 Avenger, P-40K Warhawk "Aleutian Tiger", B-25J Mitchell "Betty's Dream", P-51D Mustang "Dakota Kid II" and Spitfire MkIX "Half Stork". They had made their SoCal debut at the LA County Airshow earlier in the month but put on an even more impressive demonstration of formation and individual aerobatic demonstrations in Chino. Hopefully this trend continues in future shows.
The afternoon's Navy flight featured several Grumman 'Cats: an F6F Hellcat, F7F Tigercat and F8F Bearcat. Joining them were the Hawker Sea Fury, TBM Avenger, two Corsairs, an SBD Dauntless and a B-25J Mitchell.
|Interspersed with the warbird flights were a number of individual aerobatic performances, both civilian and military. The show featured "civilian" aerobatic performances by Sean D. Tucker in the Oracle Challenger III biplane, Kent Pietsch in the Interstate Cadet and Rob Harrison in the Zlin 142c. Warbird aerobatics were performed by Dennis Sanders in the Hawker Sea Fury, John Collver in his North American AT-6 Texan "War Dog," Stew Dawson in the F7F Tigercat "Here Kitty Kitty!" and Jim Beasley in the P-51D Mustang "Wee Willy II." Bridging the divide were the Granleys, Bud and Ross, flying a beautiful formation aerobatic sequence in their Yak-18 and Yak-55.
|After back-to-back performances by the F-22 Raptor Demo Team the previous two years, this year's show featured the F-16 Viper Demo Team. Major Craig Baker showed the crowd what this fighter jet is capable of, making multiple high-speed passes and wringing an incredible amount of vapor out of the sky during high-g maneuvers such as the minimum radius turn. The Viper may be getting old, but it is still a highly capable and lethal fighter jet. "Rocket" also flew in three distinct Heritage Flight formations during the weekend, including the only four-ship flights scheduled for this year
We would like to thank Jerry Wilkins for arranging the media access and to the many pilots, sponsors, staff and volunteers who, once again, made this airshow such a success.
Airboss Jim "JD" Dale and Assistant Airboss Robert "Bob" Lewis were responsible for keeping the aircraft on schedule, with Announcer Kevin Thompson providing the narration. Color commentary was provided by Rob Reider (for the Texas Flying Legends Museum) and Jon "Huggy" Huggins.
F-16 Viper Tactical Demonstration
Three different Heritage Flights:
P-38J, P-51D, F-86F, F-16
P-40 (3), F-16
P-38J, F-86F, F-16
Sean D. Tucker, Oracle Challenger III Aerobatics
Rob Harrison "The Tumbling Bear", Zlin 142c Aerobatics
John Collver, AT-6 Texan "War Dog" Aerobatics
Bud and Ross Granley, Yak-18 and Yak-55 Aerobatics
Kent Pietsch, Interstate Cadet Aerobatics
Stew Dawson, F7F Tigercat "Here Kitty Kitty!" Aerobatics
Jim Beasley, P-51D Mustang "Wee Willy II" Aerobatics
Notable flying warbirds:
Mitsubishi A6M Zeke/Zero (2)
Douglas AD-6 Skyraider
North American B-25J Mitchell “Photo Fanny”
Douglas A-26 Invader “Silver Dragon”
Douglas C-47 Skytrain (2)
Aichi D3A1 Val (replica)
North American F-86F Sabre “Jolley Roger”
Grumman F4F Wildcat
Vought F4U Corsair (2)
Grumman F6F Hellcat “Minsi III”
Grumman F7F Tigercat “Here Kitty Kitty!”
Grumman F8F Bearcat
Focke-Wulf FW-190 Würger
Hawker Sea Fury (2)
Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-15 Fagot
Ryan PT-22 Recruit (2)
Boeing P-26A Peashooter
Lockheed P-38J Lightning “23 Skidoo”
Curtiss P-40 Warhawk (5)
Republic P-47 Thunderbolt
North American P-51 Mustang (14):
P-51A “Mrs. Virginia”
P-51D “Buzzin’ Cuzzin”
P-51D “Dakota Kid II”
P-51D “Diamond Back”
P-51D “Fragile but Agile”
P-51D “Kimberly Kaye”
P-51D “Lady Alice”
P-51D “Little Sandra”
P-51D “Spam Can”
P-51D “Speedball Alice”
P-51D “Straw Boss 2”
P-51D “Wee Willy II”
Bell P-63 King Cobra
Douglas SBD-5 Dauntless
Supermarine Spitfire MkIX (replica)
Supermarine Spitfire MkXIV
Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star
Grumman TBM-3 Avenger
Texas Flying Legends Museum Warbirds
P-40K Warhawk “Aleutian Tiger”
B-25J Mitchell “Betty’s Dream”
P-51D Mustang “Dakota Kid II”
Spitfire MkIX “Half Stork”
|Report and photography by Norman A. Graf for with additional images by Geoffrey Arnwine