Last weekend, I spent Friday through Sunday volunteering at the Planes of Fame airshow.
Volunteering meant everything from carrying fences, helping with crowd control, carrying boxes, and doing it all in temperatures that sometimes exceeded 90 degrees.
“Are you hydrating?” Was our battle cry.
I came home sunburned, exhausted, and sore.
But it was an incredible experience, and an amazing walk through history on so may levels.
I have a passion for vintage aircraft that started at a young age. I remember attending this very same show with my father over 30 years ago.
My father spent over 40 years working and flying aircraft. He started in the United States Navy in the 1950s, working on aircraft that flew in World War 2, moved into working on commercial airliners for Western Airlines, and finished working for McDonnell Douglass on the first aircraft with electronic, “glass” cockpits.
Quite a change in technology in less than five decades!
Being a part of this airshow is an opportunity to go back in time, and visit the world he lived in and helped create. Many of the aircraft he worked on were in attendance and even flew in the airshow.
Me and the Grumman F6F Hellcat in the background. This is the first type of airplane my father worked on.
Friday started with practice and setup, but as late afternoon set in, the F-22 Raptor took to the air and gave a spectacular demo of what it could do. By directing the thrust coming out of its engines, it can do things that appear to ignore both aerodynamics and physics.
F-22 in flight. It’s a little blurry, but you can see the afterburners lit.
After the sun had gone down, a Canadian F-18 performed a twilight show. He took off and showed the crowd what afterburners look like at night. It’s spectacular. The pictures don’t do justice!
The Canadian F-18. Afterburners at night are spectacular!
The next Saturday, an amazing selection of aircraft flew. The show started with 1930s vintage aircraft. These airplanes represented state of the art at the time, things like retractable landing gear, and all metal construction!
A Seversky AT-12 Guardian and a Curtiss P-36 Hawk on the ground.
The AT-12 in flight, representing 1930s technology.
Next came 1940s technology like the Corsair and the Mustang. The planes got more powerful, they were faster, more maneuverable.
A North American P-51 Mustang flying by in the background while another warms up in the foreground
The Avenger taking flight. I’ve been fortunate enough to be part of the team that restored the fabric on the rudder of this aircraft. My father also worked on these. I have a special connection to it.
Aircraft from the 50s also flew. Propellers have given way to jets, and breaking the speed of sound more commonplace.
One of the icons of 1950s jet aircraft, the North American F-86 Saber.
The Lockheed T-33 landing after performing a demo.
The Saturday Show wrapped up with another flight by the Raptor and F-18 Hornet
The Raptor flying past with its weapons bay doors open.
The Hornet before its flight. The paint scheme commemorates the Battle of Britain and the Canadians who participated in it.
During this time, there were also acrobatic acts by Sean Tucker of Team Oracle, Rob Harrison the “Tumbling Bear”, John Colliver in his T-6 Texan, and Clay Lacey performing acrobatics in a Learjet! Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get pictures of those. But it is quite a show.
But as I heard big piston engines rumble and jets roar, I had a few moments to look back at what was state of the art starting in the 1930s, then how technology evolved until the Raptors that represent state of the art now. How did we get so far so fast?
Two F-22 Raptors. How quickly technology has evolved.
Thinking back to those first airplanes, when “computer aided design” was using your slide rule, data management was not losing your notebook, simulation was building a model and putting it in a wind tunnel. They didn’t have the benefits of electronic computers, server banks, and cloud applications.
These old machines tell the stories of those who created before us. Engineers like Kelly Johnson, Ed Heinemann, pilots like Bob Hoover, Jackie Cochran, and Bud Anderson, to the many assemblers and mechanics, who made concepts into reality, and kept those machines flying. In many cases, under the stresses of war.
The Douglass Skyraider. Designed by Ed Heinemann
So why take this moment to look back over our collective shoulders at what you could argue is “obsolete”?
Your first thought: “the old machinery is interesting.” You might say: “It’s just something that’s cool if you’re into history”.
But I would ask to think beyond that initial thought.
Isaac Newton is credited as saying. “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”.
Here, in this little airport in Chino, I hear the voices of those giants, both famous, like the men and women named above, and those little known, like my father. Not to mention the many volunteers at Planes of Fame, who have taught me so much over the years that I’ve been there.
When I pause for a moment, I hear their voices in those old airplanes, and they inspire me.
So take a few minutes and think about it.
And go out and find your own giants!
Here are a few more pictures of the show for you to enjoy!
From left to right: F-22 Raptor, 3 P-51 Munstangs, and a B-25 Mitchell in formation.
A solid old workhorse, the Douglass C-47 flying past.
The flight line, Corsairs in the forground, then history as far as the eye can see.
A McDonnel Douglass (now Boeing) C-17 Globemaster flew in to be part of the display.
The Lockheed P-38 Lightening. Designed by Kelly Johnson