“If you don’t like the weather in Colorado, just wait 15 minutes.” So goes the conventional wisdom from locals.
Unfortunately nobody informed Mother Nature of the time limit as heavy rain rolled in during the first day of the Pikes Peak Regional Airshow and cancelled the second half of the flight schedule, including the Thunderbirds.
This was only the second anniversary of this young airshow, held Sept. 23-24, 2017, at the Colorado Springs Airport, and the first year with a top-tier team as a headliner.
The weather reversed itself on Sunday, with a cold drizzle that lasted most of the morning followed by low clouds and wind that kept many of the scheduled appearances ground-bound.
On Sunday, festivities eventually got underway when Bernie Vasquez took to the air to perform aerobatics in the Texas Flying Legends Museum (TFLM) P-40 Warhawk.
This aircraft gained immortality serving with the Flying Tigers in China and was one of two TFLM aircraft brought in for the airshow.
Kyle Franklin, the only non-warbird performer in the lineup, piloted his custom Franklin Demon-1 biplane “Dracula” through a dazzling routine. This aircraft may share the look of a classic Waco, but it is a fully modern aerobatic plane with an excess of power and maneuverability.
A Heritage Flight demonstration followed with USAF Capt. Chad “Possum” Rudolph piloting a veteran A-10 Thunderbolt II while Steve Hinton flew formation in the P-38 Lightning “White 33” that recently regained airworthiness after a lengthy restoration. White 33 is one of 10 flyable Lightnings in the world, a short list that welcomes any growth.
A warbird parade kicked off with a pair of Grumman products, a tubby F3F biplane fighter resplendent in pre-war colors, and a FM-2 Wildcat in Royal Navy colors.
Warren Pietsch, Chief Pilot and Director of the TFLM, then took to the air in the museum’s lovely Spitfire Mk IX. This aircraft is an actual combat veteran that flew 19 missions supporting the D-Day invasion in 1944.
Thunderbolt fans were rewarded with two airborne P-47s, one from the local National Museum of World War II Aviation and the other, Hun Hunter IV, from the Tennessee Museum of Aviation. These two were followed by a locally owned P-51 Mustang “’Stang Evil.”
The best part of the show, at least for me, was the opportunity to see two Grumman F7F Tigercats flying together. With only seven airworthy examples worldwide, having two of these beautiful aircraft in the air is a special occurrence.
Both of these belong to collector Jim Slattery, who generously provided many of the aircraft exhibited at the airshow.
While the airshow theme certainly favored warbirds, a variety of general aviation aircraft were present for the show. Static displays included a pristine Howard DGA-15 along with military Stinson L5 and Cessna 305 aircraft.
Local FBO Doss Aviation displayed a DA20 Katana sporting sharkmouth art.
The Civil Air Patrol displayed one of its GippsAero GA8 Airvans alongside a 182 Skylane. A C-21 Learjet was on display next to a firefighting C-130 Hercules.
With the weather on Sunday, none of the bombers ended up flying, becoming part of an impromptu static display on the hot ramp. This group included a PBY Catalina, B-25 Mitchell, a pair of TBM Avengers, an SBD Dauntless, and an AD-5 Skyraider.
Even though the Thunderbirds had to switch to their “flat” performance routine to accommodate the low cloud cover, fans were still thrilled by the performance.
Although Colorado is the home of several airshows, this was one of only two Thunderbird appearances during the season.
Among the ramp exhibitors was the Kiddie Hawk Air Academy, a non-profit organization dedicated to introducing children to aviation. Its primary tools are the Kiddie Hawk Trainers, cleverly engineered, pint-sized mechanical flight simulators.
Reminiscent of the coin-operated rides outside supermarkets, these are fully capable of roll/pitch/yaw using the joystick and rudder pedals and the young ones definitely enjoyed themselves and hopefully sparked an interest in aviation.
The Pikes Peak Regional Airshow featured more than 25 historic aircraft, many from World War II. The show benefits museums located in the Colorado Springs area: the National Museum of World War II Aviation, the Peterson Air and Space Museum, and the Fort Carson 4th Infantry Museum.
The National Museum of World War II Aviation opened in October, 2012. The museum campus occupies 20 acres with three hangars at the Colorado Springs Airport, and is co-located with Bill Klaer’s WestPac Restorations’ facility, one of the nation’s premier restorers of World War II-era aircraft.
The Peterson Air and Space Museum is one of 12 field museums that make up the US Air Force History and Heritage Program. It is located at Peterson AFB, and the main museum building was once the original terminal building for Colorado Springs Airport.
Located at Fort Carson, the 4th Infantry Division Museum collects, preserves and exhibits artifacts related to the history of the 4th Infantry Division (1917 to present) and supports education, training, research, and historical programs.