September 3rd, 2011
Vintage Aircraft Weekend
On this day I attended the Vintage Aircraft Weekend hosted by the Historic Flight Foundation at Paine Field, Mukilteo, Washington (another local museum with an excellent collection of flight capable historic aircraft owned by John Sessions a wealthy Seattle based international corporate attorney and entrepreneur). The theme for this years weekend was the Centennial of US Naval Aviation, the air show was meant to have a finale fly past by US Navy aircraft from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island (they have squadrons operating Grumman EA-6 Prowlers, Boeing EA-18G Growlers, Lockheed P-3 Orions, and various search and rescue helicopters), but alas for what ever reason they were a no show?
The lack of presence from the US Navy did not really matter as there were numerous historic naval aircraft on display including a Grumman F4F Wildcat (still being restored), Grumman F7F Tigercat (“Bad Kitty” sadly did not fly due to mechanical issues), Grumman F8F Bearcat (“Wampus Cat”) and a North American T-28 Trojan, along with a diverse array of historic civilian and military aircraft.
Meeting William E. Boeing Junior
A highlight of the weekend was a presentation by Addison Pemberton and William E. Boeing Junior (the son of THE Mr. Boeing, who started the famous company) to discuss the restoration to flying status of the historic Boeing Model 40C a mail plane built in 1927 that was the first Boeing built aircraft to carry passengers. This particular aircraft is the only one flying in the world and is based in Spokane, Washington.
The aircraft was reconstructed by Addison Pemberton over an 8 year period (the airframe was recovered from a crash site in the mountains near Canyonville, Oregon where it had sat for nearly 70 years. The original aircraft crashed in 1928, both passengers died in the fiery crash but the pilot somehow managed to survive, albeit burnt beyond recognition, losing both his ears and nose! Article on the history and crash of this reconstructed aircraft.).
William E. Boeing Junior (born 1923) is well known for his stewardship and support of aviation education, and although he was not involved in the running of the Boeing company (his father had long sold his share in the company) he has always been closely linked to the company and became a noted private pilot and industrial real estate developer. He is also a trustee of the Museum of Flight in Seattle.
William E. Boeing Junior stated during his presentation that the Boeing Model 40 saved the company in it’s day by winning them a US Goverment air mail run and helped them become the company they are today (if there was a lot of mail to be taken, passengers would get bumped off the flight as the mail made them more money!). Apparently the only picture of a Boeing aircraft that the Boeing family had hanging in their house was of this aircraft, so it had a special place in his father’s life. He supported and inspired the construction of exact replicas of the aircraft for the Museum of Flight, which were also built by Addison Pemberton and he was an active supporter of the flying reconstructed airframe. All in all an interesting presentation by both, and the highlight for me was that I got to meet William E. Boeing Junior and have a quick chat. To meet someone who’s family shaped a significant part of history was a very rare privilege indeed!
The air show was held on the opposite side of the field from the Flying Heritage Collection where I have been attending recent flying days. This provided a totally different view and perspective with a background of the Cascade Mountains and the Boeing Factory and numerous Boeing aircraft being prepared for delivery (new 747-8 Freighters, 787 Dream Liners, 767’s etc lined up right across the field) including a test flight of a new Qatar Airlines Boeing 777 and a take off of the Boeing 747 Dreamliner (Boeing’s heavy cargo plane for transporting parts to various factories). There is even an old Boeing B-52G Stratofortress out there (off in the distance). So apart from the scheduled flight display there was lots of other aircraft activity during the day.
There is a great little hill on this side of the field that provides the perfect vantage point for an air show. You are up high for an unobscured view of the runway and the show, but it also provided an unusual perspective of looking down onto the aircraft on static display. Something different from the usual spectator areas of air shows.
One static aircraft that created a lot of interest was a two seat Messerschmitt Me-262b Schwalbe (“Swallow”) built by Legend Flyers at Paine Field to the exact standard of the WW2 German jet fighter (except for the engine change as mentioned in my previous “Duel of eagles” post). An unusual sight at any air show. Unfortunately it did not fly as this particular airframe is still being test flown and does not yet have FAA approval to perform anywhere just yet.
The air show had many flying highlights, including:
A formation of a Republic P-47D Thunderbolt and two North American P-51 Mustangs (a rare B & more common D model), great to hear the roar of their engines and see them fly so low to the ground at high speed!
A great solo performance by a Supermarine Spitfire Mk.IX and the sound of it’s powerful Rolls Royce Merlin engine. The classic lines of the Spitfire are impossible to confuse with any aircraft and it is always fantastic to see one fly.
The Boeing Model 40C flew on two occasions, once in formation with a Waco UPF-7 (built in 1939) and then on the second with a rare Douglas DC-2 (the predecessor to the famous DC-3 “Gooney Bird”/C-47 Dakota). It was a rare opportunity to see such aircraft fly together!
An impressive display by the nimble and very powerful Grumman F8F Bearcat towards the end of the show was a first for me. The Bearcat was such a great performer that it was originally used by the US Navy Blue Angels. This particular airframe was formerly used as a racer at the Reno Air Races, but they restored it back to it’s former US Navy livery and appearance.
Massed formations of North American T-6 Texan’s (Harvard’s in Commonwealth nations) and various historic aircraft were also conducted throughout the day.
The finale was not the US Navy as mentioned earlier, but a North American B-25 Mitchell (“Grumpy”) WW2 bomber. The pilot put on a great low level, high speed performance and it was quite surprising how quickly the aircraft could turn and be back over the airfield! I was happy to see this as it didn’t fly at the Abbotsford International Airshow 2o11 in Canada due to engine trouble.
Another great flying display in Washington state, alas summer is coming to an end and there are no major shows now for this region. But luckily there are still two more flying days to go on the opposite side of Paine Field (Eastern Front and B-25 day). I really look forward to next summer and the flying program it offers!