The Planes of Fame Air Museum hosted another fabulous warbird weekend air show May 4 and 5 at Chino, California. The emphasis at Chino is on wave after wave of warbirds flying loud and low circuits around the airfield, providing a stunning visual and aural experience unique to Chino.
This year’s show drew about 15,000 people Saturday and a like number on Sunday, said Harry T. Geier, Planes of Fame’s director of marketing and development. Largely fair skies and temperatures in the 70s favored the show.
On both mornings, Planes of Fame pilots flew a special formation with the museum’s prewar AT-12 and P-26 joining with the P-51A. As the three fighters passed show center, they left a gap to memorialize fellow Planes of Fame pilot David Vopat, who was killed in the crash of the museum’s Northrop N9M Flying Wing in April.
A silver Douglas B-26 Invader in Korean War markings, nicknamed “Sweet Eloise II” was a crowd-pleaser at Chino. The Invader has become increasingly rare on the air show circuit, and this combat veteran had many cameras turned toward it. Owners Phil Gattuso and Steve Penning from Santa Rosa, California, spent six years going through the B-26, inspecting and repairing as needed.
In the aft crew compartment, an aluminum surface still bears several holes and patches from a shell burst that injured the SHORAN (navigation and bombing system) operator over Korea. That’s a rare and sobering witness to combat history not often found on a restored warbird. This warbird spent many years as a firefighting aerial tanker before entering the museum and warbird worlds.
Eric Tucker brought his fresh Piper Cub act to Chino for the first time. It’s a combination of the classic slapstick non-pilot-flying-a-plane-badly with a finale that sees him place his Cub atop a modified ambulance roaring down the runway. Tucker uses carefully honed maneuvering to keep the Cub under control even when it looks to be anything but.
About 50 warbirds kept up an active pace both days of the air show, flying in groups representing various conflicts and theaters of operations.
The 75th anniversary of D-Day was noted with the presence of four C-47 and similar C-53 transports and parachute jumps over the field reminiscent of the Normandy invasion three-quarters of a century ago.
The Planes of Fame warbird weekend is traditionally the first weekend in May. Museum officials say they already look forward to another show next year.