2015 Event Review

Planes of Fame Airshow, May 1-3, 2015
Location: Chino, CA
Admission: $20 ($15 advance) adults, $5 children 5-11, free for museum members                   
Parking: Included in admission price, preferred parking $10.
Value: Excellent
Rating out of 10: 10
 
MCAS Yuma base commander
Boeing P-26 Peashooter
“A Salute to Veterans” was the theme for the 2015 Planes of Fame Air Show. Nearly 50 aircraft performed for the record crowds of 30,000 and over a dozen veterans shared their experiences in panel discussions. In addition to the warbirds that one expects to see in Chino the airshow featured modern tactical demonstrations by the US Air Force’s premier fighter aircraft, the F-22 Raptor, and the Canadian Force’s CF-18 Hornet.  Aerobatic performances from biplanes to jet planes rounded out the aerial entertainment.

Except for those hardy photographers who showed up at 05:00 for the sunrise photo tour, the gates opened at 08:00. Parking, as always, was very well handled by the legions of well-trained volunteers. One of the marks of a professional airshow is how well parking is handled. Too many shows forget that parking is both the first thing and the last thing that visitors experience. Chino handles parking exceptionally well. Security and ticketing are also a breeze. Buying tickets online in advance is not only cheaper, but results in quicker entry. A quick scan of the code and an exchange for a wristband sped the attendees through the security checkpoint and then on to the trams, which quickly and efficiently transported the crowds of aviation enthusiasts to the runway. There was plenty of room along the lengthy fenceline. Some photographers opted for airshow left to catch the planes as they banked in, others preferred the western end to avoid shooting into the sun. Many alternated either during the course of the day or from day to day. No matter where you chose to sit, there was not a bad seat at this show.All of the aircraft scheduled to fly were lined up in front of the fenceline and this area was open to the public in the morning. There were also many other aircraft on static display only, so it took quite a while to see all of the aircraft up close. The Veterans' Panel also took place in the morning. Over a dozen veterans were invited to share their experiences with the audience. Although the discussions were broadcast over the PA system, there were large crowds arrayed in front of the stage. Another group of veterans was featured during the noontime intermission.

The flying began promptly at 11:00AM and already with the first four-aircraft flight there was a surprise. A bare-metal Curtiss P-36 was in the lead flight paired up with a similarly marked Seversky AT-12 (two seat trainer version of the P-35). The freshly restored Hawk was making its public debut and only airshow appearance in the US. The Hawk is owned by The Fighter Collection, based in Duxford, England. What a treat to see it fly before it headed off to the UK. The show was light on bombers this year, but more than made up for it with the breadth and depth of fighters. The Army aircraft flight featured fly-bys by many of the eleven P-51 Mustangs in attendance, two P-40 Warhawks, P-63 King Cobra, P-38 Lightning and a P-47 Thunderbolt. Joining the fighters were a B-25J Mitchell and C-47 Skytrain. The Korean air battle demonstration featured the iconic matchup of the F-86 Sabre and MiG-15 Fagot. The Museum's Sabre featured new markings this year, honoring Captain Clifford Jolley, who shot down seven MiG-15s in Korea. Jolley flew with the 335th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, "The Chiefs", so the Sabre now bears an Indian head in full war bonnet, seven kill stars and the words "Jolley Roger" on its nose. Two T-33 Shooting Stars joined in on the jet dogfight. Also flying during this segment were the Sea Fury, Yak-3, F4U Corsair and P-51.
The afternoon's Navy flight featured several Grumman 'Cats: two F4F/FM-2 Wildcats, an F6F Hellcat, F7F Tigercat and F8F Bearcat. Joining them were the Hawker Sea Fury, TBM Avenger and two Corsairs. An Aichi Val (replica) and Mitsubishi Zero were also in the pattern.The show featured "civilian" aerobatic performances by Sean D. Tucker in the Oracle Challenger III biplane, Rob Harrison in the Zlin 142c and Clay Lacy in the Learjet. Warbird aerobatics were performed by Dennis Sanders in the Hawker Sea Fury, John Collver in his North American AT-6 Texan "War Dog," and Greg "Wired" Colyer in his Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star "Ace Maker II."
The Canadian Forces CF-18 demonstration team started their 2015 season at this show. This year's theme commemorates the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain: the Hornet's top side paint scheme features the earth tone and dark green camouflage worn by Hurricanes and Spitfires of the early 1940s. It fit right in with all the warbirds. This year's demonstration pilot, Captain Denis "Cheech" Beaulieu, put on a spectacular show, whether it was a low and slow "dirty" pass or buzzing the tower close to Mach 1.
Captain John Cummings of the USAF Raptor Demonstration Team closed the show with an impressive display of modern jet fighter capabilities in the F-22. Chino was one of only 21 airshow appearances for the Raptor this year, and the only repeat show from last year. Word is they'd like to return next year. Following his demo "Taboo" joined up with several warbirds for the Heritage Flight. This is one of the very few shows with enough warbirds and Heritage Flight qualified pilots on hand to stage a four-ship flight. On Friday, the Raptor was joined by three Mustangs. But not just any Mustangs, three different models: P-51A "Mrs. Virginia," P-51B "Boise Bee" and P-51D "Spam Can." The weekend's Heritage Flights were composed of the P-38J "23 Skidoo", the P-51D "Wee Willy II" and the F-86F "Jolley Roger." The choice of aircraft was interesting from a number of perspectives: two props and two jets; two single engine and two double engine aircraft; two Lockheed and two North American aircraft. Kudos to the organizers for their attention to detail.
New this year was the addition of a preview day and twilight show on Friday. This included rehearsal and practice flights by a number of performers, chief among them the F-22 and CF-18 demo teams. Each team performed twice on Friday, once during the afternoon and once in the evening. Unlike many of the other night shows in southern California this spring, Chino's show took place during the "golden hour" of the evening, when lighting conditions were perfect for photography. The sun reflecting off the Raptor's fuselage made it look gold-plated. The CF-18 demo closed the show with "Cheech" taking off right at sundown, blasting the tarmac with the flames from his afterburner as he rotated sharply on takeoff. He repeated his performance from the afternoon, but the afterburner stood out sharply in the gloaming. The only departure from his standard routine was when he deployed his tailhook on landing. The trail of sparks lit up the night as he dragged it the length of the runway! What a way to end the day and start the airshow season. Two thousand people attended the night show and from all accounts it was a huge success. We look forward to it becoming a standard part of the show.
We would like to thank Jerry Wilkins and Harry Geier for arranging the media access and to the many pilots, sponsors, staff and volunteers who made this airshow such a success. If you missed the show this year mark your calendars and join us next year on the first weekend in May in Chino for one of the best warbird shows around.
Performers included:

F-22 Raptor Tactical Demonstration
Heritage Flight: P-38J, P-51D, F-86F, F-22
RCAF CF-18 Hornet Tactical Demonstration
Sean D. Tucker, Oracle Challenger III Aerobatics
Rob Harrison “The Tumbling Bear”, Zlin 142c Aerobatics
Clay Lacy, Learjet Aerobatics
John Collver, AT-6 Texan “War Dog” Aerobatics

Notable flying warbirds:

Mitsubishi A6M Zeke/Zero
Douglas AD-6 Skyraider
Seversky AT-12 Guardsman
North American B-25J Mitchell “Photo Fanny”
Messerschmitt Bf108 Taifun
Douglas C-47 Skytrain
Aichi D3A1 Val (replica)
North American F-86F Sabre “Jolley Roger”
Grumman F4F Wildcat (2)
Vought F4U Corsair (2)
Grumman F6F Hellcat
Grumman F7F Tigercat “Here Kitty Kitty”
Grumman F8F Bearcat
Focke-Wulf FW-190 Würger
Hawker Sea Fury
Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-15 Fagot
Ryan PT-22 Recruit (2)
Boeing P-26 Peashooter
Curtiss P-36 Hawk
Lockheed P-38J Lightning “23 Skidoo”

Report and photography by Norman A. Graf for The Aviation Magazine

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