Tom Pawlesh Reports:
“The Greatest Show on Turf” presented by the 1941 Historical Aircraft Group of the National Warplane Museum is just that, the greatest. One of my favorite shows of the season, the Geneseo Airshow just feels right. The show grounds, the proximity of the aircraft and the village of Geneseo all make for a very enjoyable weekend.
This year, the museum was headlining their Douglas C-47, affectionately known as “Whiskey 7”. On D Day, June 6, 1944, this historic aircraft was the lead plane in the second wave of attacks on Normandy, France. The museum has put together a “Return to Normandy 2014” campaign to fly W-7 back to France to participate in the 70th Anniversary of D Day. They plan to drop the Liberty Jump Team along with members of the 82nd Airborne Division, the same group that jumped on Normandy on D Day. The drop zone is near St. Mere-Eglise, the same location that W-7 dropped 17 men of the 82nd on D Day, 70 years ago. Please visit http://normandy2014.blogspot.com/ to learn more about this trip and to make a donation.
I had the privilege to fly in this D Day veteran on Friday before the show. The flight was a photo shoot with a Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, but we also had a special guest, Mr. Al Frank. Mr Frank and his son came to the airport to watch the arrival of the airshow aircraft. As he walked around W-7, he told one of the crewmembers that he was a WWII veteran and served in the Pacific. He said that he was a paratrooper with the 11th Airbourne Division and took off in a C-47 once but never landed in one. He was immediately invited along on our photo mission. Mr. Frank kept saying that he just came out to look and never imagined he would be flying in a C-47 again. He enjoyed the take off and the view of the countryside around Geneseo but when the P-40 pulled into formation off our left wing he couldn’t stop laughing and smiling. He said, “I never expected anything like this when I got out of bed this morning”. Thanks to the National Warplane Museum, Mr. Frank finally got to experience a landing in a C-47. This is what it is all about!
This years show had a large variety of aircraft ranging from the DeHavilland Chipmunk trainer to the massive Lancaster bomber. The show began with both the American and Canadian National Anthems while a skydiver jumped from a Stearman with the American Flag. Fly-bys progressed through the L-birds, Stearmans, Texans/SNJ/Harvards, C-45 and Cessna T-50 “Bamboo Bomber” and transports. Mark “Crunchy” Burgess flew an L-39C Albatross out of Rochester to make some passes and also flew an unusual formation with Andrew McKenna in the T-6 Texan. Aerobatics routines were flown by Rob Holland in his MX2, Manfried Radius in his H 101 Salto sailplane and father and son team, Andrew and Eric Boyd in their Pitts Specials. Warbird aerobatics were flown by John “Skipper” Hyle in his Harvard, Scott Yoak and Mark Murphy in their Mustangs, Dan Demeo in the Corsair, Tom Richards in the Warhawk and Andrew McKenna in the Texan. The Liberty Jump Team also jumped from the C-47.
A Salute to Veterans of all services from the United States and Canada was held midway through the show. All veterans were invited to show center to be recognized. While the Canadian and American National Anthems were played a Missing Man formation consisting of a Mustang, Warhawk, Spitfire and Hurricane flew overhead with the Mustang pulling up out of formation to salute those that did not return.
Warbird flights included formation passes of the Lancaster with a Spitfire and Hurricane on each wing, P-51 Mustangs, B-25 and P-40 and the replica Japanese Val and Zero. Other warbirds in attendance not mentioned above were: C-46 Commando, TBM Avenger, Yak-18, BT-13, T-34 and a variety of classic aircraft.
Living history reenactors complete with mess tents, motor pool, hospital and communications center provided commentary on life in the service during WWII. Dressed in accurate uniforms or civilian clothing, they added the human element as they posed for photographs with period vehicles and aircraft. Vendors sold WWII militaria, posters, models and uniforms among the many food choices. A classic car show and parade rounded out each day.