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2012 Air Shows
Warbirds Over the Beach Airshow, May 18-20, 2012
Location: Virginia Beach, VA
Admission: $25/day ($45/all three days) adults, $12 ($20) youth
Parking: Included in admission price, preferred parking $10.
Value: Very good
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The Military Aviation Museum held its fourth annual “Warbirds Over the Beach” Airshow May 18-20. The museum has been growing at an amazing rate, and the list of planes scheduled to fly was very impressive. Unfortunately, high gusty winds on Saturday limited the flying to the “heavies” and low ceilings and rain on Sunday led to the cancellation of all flying. Nevertheless, the flying which did take place, and the extensive lineup of rare or unique aircraft displayed along the flightline, made for an enjoyable weekend despite the poor weather. A special highlight of the show was the first airshow flight of the museum’s new Messerschmitt Me262.
The show takes place adjacent to the museum, with the aircraft taking off and landing from a grass airstrip very close to the flightline seating. This, plus the line of trees directly opposite, allows for some very nice photography, especially with slow shutter speeds. However, due to FAA limitations on the separation of the crowd from the demonstration box, the flying takes place at airshow right, with the aircraft circling clockwise. This means that the aircraft display their bellies as they bank, and also that one is shooting into the sun. It’s not clear whether this layout can ever be modified, but in the meantime the pilots did their best to jink and bank to show off their aircraft. Almost all of the aircraft were from the museum itself. The Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum’s Lancaster had been scheduled, but was unable to attend; instead they sent their Fairey Firefly. Every aircraft scheduled to fly was arrayed along the flightline, from trainers to fighters to bombers. Almost forty warbirds were lined up and waiting. Access to the aircraft was unlimited, there were no barriers or ropes to interfere with photography, and the grass field provided perfect period settings for many of the pre-war planes. The PT-19 and SNJs took off regularly during the morning, providing a bumpier ride than most of the paying passengers had expected.
Unfortunately, the high and gusty winds prevented most of the planes from performing. The C-46 Commando which had been scheduled to open the show with a paratrooper drop had to abort the drop, but rewarded the viewers with a high-speed below-the-trees pass over the runway. Airboss Timothy Gamanche did his best to rearrange the schedule, managing to get some of the larger aircraft into the skies on Saturday. The action began with a mock attack by a Val replica being repulsed by an immaculate FG-1D Corsair flown by Obie O'Brien who actually flew the Corsair in combat in Korea. Soon the TBM Avenger and PBY Catalina took off to continue the Pacific Theatre Flight. Shortly thereafter the Me262 appeared overhead. It is, of course, one of the handful of newly-built replicas, and staged out of nearby Suffolk Executive Airport as it is not yet cleared to operate off of grass fields. It was a real thrill to see that distinctive shark-shaped silhouette in the sky, expertly shown off by Wolfgang Czaia. The B-25J Mitchell “Wild Cargo”, the recently acquired and returned-to-flight B-17G Flying Fortress “Chuckie” and a German Ju52 filled out the remaining European Theatre Flight. The Ju52 also had to cancel its planned Fallschirmjäger drop, with the reenactors limited to putting on a ground training performance. Museum President Jerry Yagen provided top cover flying the P-51D Mustang “Double Trouble two.”
Unlike most large airshows, this event is very much a social gathering, with ongoing entertainment during the day, and a steak dinner on Saturday night attended by pilots, aircrew and attendees alike. A number of veterans, including former USAAF and Luftwaffe pilots, were present, signing autographs and answering questions. The airshow also attracted a rather large contingent of military re-enactors, who set up camps all along the flightline demonstrating typical WWII living conditions. A fair number of vehicles such as half-tracks and jeeps were also on display. A German 88mm Flak and an American howitzer attracted a lot of attention, especially when they were fired. Musical entertainment was provided throughout the day by Frank Cubillo singing Sinatra, and WWII-era favorites sung by Theresa Eaman and also by the Victory Belles. The Abbott and Costello tribute show provided some well-needed comic relief from the weather. The empty museum hangars were filled with various booths and displays, and the WWI hangars, filled with a large number of replica aircraft, were open and provided a preview of the autumn “Biplanes and Triplanes” airshow as well as shelter from the weather.
There was a small number of food booths (but no beer stands) selling a variety of foods from funnel cakes to barbeque. Prices were reasonable and the selection was varied. Free water from water buffaloes was also available. There were plenty of portable toilets distributed over the grounds. Parking was a breeze, with a large number of volunteers providing expert guidance.
I’d like to thank Chris Vtipil for coordinating the media access and providing assistance during the airshow. This airshow, with so many rare or unique aircraft based at the museum, has enormous potential for becoming a “must-see” warbird show. I look forward to visiting again under better weather conditions.

Aircraft which flew on Saturday included:

  • Aichi D3A Val (replica)
  • AT-6 /SNJ Texan
  • B-17G Flying Fortress “Chuckie”
  • B-25J Mitchell “Wild Cargo”
  • C-46 Commando “The Tinker Belle”
  • FG-1D Corsair
  • Junkers Ju52
  • Messerschmitt Me262
  • P-51D Mustang “Double Trouble two”
  • PBY-5A Catalina
  • PT-19
  • TBM-3E Avenger

Notable warbirds on static display included:

  • AD-4 Skyraider
  • Bücker Bü-133C Jungmeister
  • DHC-1 Chipmunk
  • DH-82A Tiger Moth
  • Dragon Rapide
  • FM-2 Wildcat
  • Fiesler Fi-156 Storch
  • Fairey Firefly
  • Focke Wolfe FW-44J Stieglitz
  • Focke Wulf Fw-190 A-8
  • Hawker Fury
  • Hawker Hurricane
  • P-26 Peashooter
  • P-40E Kittyhawk
  • Polikarpov I-15bis
  • Polikarpov I-16 Rata
  • Polikarpov I-153 Chaika
  • Ryan PT-22
  • Spitfire Mk IX
  • Yak-3M
Rating: 8.5 out of 10 due to weather.
Review and photography by Norman A. Graf for AIRSHOWSREVIEW LLC.
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