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2012 Air Shows

County of San Bernardino Planes Of Fame Airshow, May 5-6, 2012

Location: Chino, CA
Admission: $20 ($15 advance) adults, $5 children 5-11, free for museum members, Grandstand seating $15, Sunrise Access Photo Pass (Includes Preferred Parking and One Adult General Admission) $75
Parking: Included in admission price, preferred parking $10.
Value: Excellent
The Planes of Fame Museum in Chino, California, held its annual air show on the weekend of May 5-6, 2012 with the theme: “1942-Turning The Tide.” Many consider this to be the premier warbird airshow in North America and the combination of great weather and a fantastic lineup made this year’s air show one to remember. The gates opened at 0800 (except for those who had signed up for the sunrise access at 0500), giving everyone ample opportunity to set up chairs along the extensive flightline and view the multitude of aircraft on static display. To airshow left on the hotramp were the Pacific fighters including three Japanese Zeros, ten Mustangs took pride of place lined up front and center, three B-25 Mitchells were parked to the right. Numerous aircraft were on static-only display, including three C-47s, and such rare aircraft as a meticulously restored highly-polished bare metal P-40C, a Japanese D4Y-1 Judy, and the P-59 Airacomet, all soon to return to the air. Impossible to miss was the EC-121 Warning Star Super Constellation from the neighboring Yanks Air Museum. This was the first year that Yanks Air Museum has participated in the air show, and I hope that their involvement continues to increase. Directly under the announcers stand, a group of VIP veterans had been assembled. Listening to them recall their courageous, and sometimes humorous, experiences was a fascinating and heartwarming experience.
The flying began promptly at 1100 with a five-ship missing man formation composed of a P-51 Mustang, SBD Dauntless, P-38 Lightning, F4U Corsair and B-25 Mitchell. The Silver Wings Wingwalking team of Hartley Folstad and Margaret Stivers then took to the skies in their silver 450 Stearman and “Margi” gracefully danced with her invisible partner. Then Rob Harrison upped the tempo as he took off in his bright yellow Zlin 50LX. The “Tumbling Bear” put on an impressive aerobatic performance. It was good to see him back in the skies and up to his old form.
Then it was time for the Pacific Theater Flight to begin. The skies were filled with the F3F Flying Barrel, F4U Corsair, F6F Hellcat, F7F Tigercat, SBD Dauntless, two F8F Bearcats, three A6M Zeke/Zeros (including the museum’s A6M-5 flying with the original Sakai engine), and four TBM Avengers. (Oddly missing from the flight was the F4F/FM-2, which shouldered most of the burden in the skies over the Pacific in 1942.) The aircraft made multiple passes, both in groups and singly, before turning to land. Clay Lacy finished out the morning’s flying with a spirited demonstration of the Learjet’s aerobatic capabilities.
A half-hour intermission provided attendees plenty of time to grab a bite to eat or something to drink at one of the numerous food booths or beer stands, as the lines never backed up. Prices were reasonable and the selection was varied. Free water from watercoolers was also available. There were plenty of portable toilets distributed over the grounds, with no lines whatsoever. Hand wash stations with soap and water never ran out of water or paper towels, as they were serviced during the day. Parents wishing to take a break from the action with their children had access to a large kids area, complete with bouncy rooms and other distractions.
The Korean Air War flight featured the F-86 and MiG-15 engaged in a mock dogfight and was rounded out by the Skyraider, Bearcat, Fairey Firefly and an AT-6 Texan in the FAC role. Then, for his first airshow appearance of 2012, and for the first time ever at Chino, Sean D. Tucker put on a twelve minute extravaganza of aerial artistry and raw power as he flew the bright red Oracle Challenger III biplane through a variety of aerobatic maneuvers which have to be seen to be believed.
The European Theater Flight featured the P-38J Lightning, P-47G Thunderbolt, P-63 Kingcobra, two Spitfires, a Yak-3, and a new-build FW-190 along with a large number of P-51D Mustangs. The aircraft banked hard as they flew tight circuits, providing excellent opportunities for photographing the topsides, and flew by in ever-changing order and pairings. First-time visitors oftentimes succumb to sensory overload, complaining of “too many planes!”

Next, combining warbirds with aerobatics, The Horsemen put on a very impressive demonstration of precision formation flying, with Steve Hinton flying lead in the P-38 Lightning and Dan Friedkin and Ed Shipley flying on his wings in two P-51 Mustangs.

Commemorating the 70 th anniversary of the Doolittle raid on Tokyo, three highly polished B-25 Mitchells made several close passes, including very low level runs with open bomb-bays and banana passes for the photographers. The N9M Flying Wing, built in 1944 as a 1/3 scale test model for the XB-35 bomber program but looking as modern as the B-2 stealth bomber, was also put through its paces, banking sharply to show off its triangular planform, or turning razor-thin in straight and level flight.
The final aerobatic performance of the day featured Dennis Sanders in the Sea Fury “Argonaut”, the swirling vortices from his wingtip smoke generators dancing and coalescing into rings. Then it was time for the Airpower Flight. The air boss, in an impressive display of coordination and timing, puts as many planes into the air as he can, arranged in thematic groups. Soon the sky was filled with over 25 aircraft! The long stream of aircraft made several passes, as the announcer struggled to keep up with calling out the types of planes.
A QF-4 Phantom II from Holloman AFB made two high speed passes, vapor forming above its wings and riveting the attention of the crowd once again skywards. A dirty pass followed by a full afterburner climb to altitude brought the Phantom into formation with two waiting P-38 Lightnings and a P-51D Mustang. It was strange to see a Heritage Flight without a grey USAF fighter, but the three passes by the four veterans and the final break after the final overhead flight were an impressive end to a fantastic air show.
The perfect weather and impressive lineup attracted a record crowd estimated at 35,000. Nevertheless, the large group of volunteers, dressed in conspicuous orange T-shirts, kept the operations running like clockwork. Parking was a breeze, and the pre-sale of electronically readable tickets kept the lines at the entrance to a minimum. The shuttles to and from the flightline operated continuously and efficiently, their easy-on, easy-off design allowing attendees to easily board and exit quickly. Kevin Thompson did an excellent job of announcing and the airboss did a terrific job of getting the aircraft into the air on time and safely back on the ground. The veteran ground handlers efficiently directed plane traffic along the tarmac, handing the aircraft off to the next handler with a panache usually only seen on the decks of aircraft carriers. All too soon the resident aircraft were parked, and the visitors had started their departure flights. Another amazing air show at Chino had come to an end. See you there next year!

Some of the performers in the air were:

  • Sean D. Tucker, Oracle Challenger III Aerobatics
  • Silver Wings Wingwalkers
  • Rob Harrison “The Tumbling Bear”, Zlin 50 Aerobatics
  • Clay Lacy, Learjet Aerobatics
  • The Horsemen, flying a P-38 and two P-51s, Aerobatics
  • The Heritage Flight: QF-4, two P-38s, P-51

Notable flying warbirds:

  • A6M Zeke/Zero (3)
  • AD-6 Skyraider
  • B-25J Mitchell (3)
  • F-86F Sabre
  • FW-190
  • F3F Flying Barrel
  • F4U Corsair
  • F6F Hellcat
  • F7F Tigercat
  • F8F Bearcat (2)
  • Fairey Firefly
  • MiG-15 Fagot
  • N9M Flying Wing
  • P-38 Lightning (2)
  • P-51 Mustang (10)
  • P-47G Thunderbolt
  • P-40N Warhawk
  • SBD-5 Dauntless
  • Sea Fury (2)
  • Spitfire MkV replica
  • Spitfire MkXIX
  • TBM-3E Avenger (4)
  • Yak-3

Other notable aircraft on static display:

  • C-47 Skytrain (3)
  • D4Y-1 Judy
  • EC-121 Warning Star Super Constellation
  • H-21 Flying Banana
  • P-59 Airacomet

Current military aircraft in attendance:

  • F/A-18F CAG from VFA-41
  • C-17 Globemaster III
  • QF-4E Phantom II
Rating: 10 out of 10.
Review and photography by Norman A. Graf for AIRSHOWSREVIEW LLC.
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