P-63 - P39

The CAF P-63F and P-39Q flying in formation at the 2016 Wings Over Houston Airshow. Photo by Kevin Hong

“Only at Oshkosh!”… Anyone who’s been to AirVenture Oshkosh is familiar with the phrase, but it so often proves true. The event is so prestigious that it has an almost unique ability to bring together rare and amazing aircraft in combinations impossible to arrange anywhere else. This year is no exception. First of all, we are going to see two B-29 Superfortresses flying together for the first time in four decades when Doc takes to the skies with FIFI. There is also the 75th anniversary celebration for the 8th Air Force on Saturday, July 29th. This should see the three current strategic bomber types in the US Air Force inventory; a B-1, B-2, and B-52 fly in formation for the first time at a civilian air show. A stream of warbird bombers, including the B-29s, a pair of B-17s, up to a dozen B-25s and an A-20 will follow closely behind this amazing sight!

But of similar importance, WarbirdsNews can also confirm that three P-63 Kingcobras will join a P-39 Airacobra in the air at AirVenture this year, something likely not seen since the days of the Cleveland Air Races back in the late 1940s! Thanks to sponsorship from BELL Helicopter, the efforts of pilot Mark Todd, Tim Savage and Warbird Digest, and yes, us here at WarbirdsNews, this historic flight will take place.

The P-63s scheduled to appear are the CAF Dixie Wing’s recently restored P-63AJohn Bagley’s P-63C-5  and the Kingcobra from the CAF P-63F Sponsor Group. The P-39Q belongs to the CAF Central Texas Wing.

The CAF Dixie Wing’s P-63A 42-68941, wearing authentic markings from its time as a test aircraft with NACA, will also perform a heritage flight with a current NASA Northrop T-38. The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) was the predecessor of today’s NASA, which makes this flight so significant. Bell Aircraft initially used the CAF’s P-63A as a test platform, but transferred her to NACA in January 1945 for use in a series aerodynamics tests. This unique Kingcobra flew again for the first time in forty years this past February 18th, following a sixteen year restoration involving many thousand hours of volunteer labor.

The Dixie Wing's P-63A the day it returned from the paint booth at Delta TechOps. Photo by John Willhoff

The Dixie Wing’s P-63A the day it returned from the paint booth at Delta TechOps, but prior to the application of the NACA markings. Photo by John Willhoff

The Bell P-63C-5 Kingcobra is owned and operated by John Bagley as part of the Legacy Flight Museum in Rexburg, ID. This is a magnificently restored aircraft, and won Grand Champion Warbird at Oshkosh in 1998 when owned by former Apollo 8 commander Frank Borman.

John Bagley is the owner and operator of this rare Bell P-63C-5 Kingcobra (S/N 43-11223). Photo by Doug Fisher

John Bagley is the owner and operator of this rare Bell P-63C-5 Kingcobra (S/N 43-11223). Photo by Doug Fisher

The CAF P-63F Sponsor Group’s Kingcobra also underwent a recent rebuild, though far less demanding than the CAF’s P-63A. She made her first post-restoration flight on April 14th, 2016 near Houston, Texas. This Kingcobra, serial 43-11719, is unique and one of just two P-63Fs ever built.

The CAF P-63F Sponsor Group over Houston. Photo by Glen Watson

The CAF P-63F Sponsor Group over Houston. Photo by Glenn Watson

The CAF Central Texas Wing’s P-39Q is one of only two flying Aeracobras in the world. The CAF CenTex Wing recently added new nose art to the little fighter. The left side has ‘Big D’ stenciled on it, while the right side has a red Pegasus motif. Captain Jack Ogilvie, a native of Dallas, Texas flew a P-39 with these markings in North Africa during WWII. Jack Ogilvie visited with the CAF unit at their Wings Over Dallas air show last year, which prompted the nose art change in his honor.

The CENTEX Wing P-39Q with its old nose art. Photo by Luigino Caliaro

The CENTEX Wing P-39Q with its old nose art. Photo by Luigino Caliaro

As the current program stands, the Cobras should be flying together on several different days during AirVenture 2017, but please be sure to check the EAA’s daily program published during the event, as schedules can sometimes change with very little notice. The flight of FOUR Cobras flying together is something which is sure to impress… and something you will likely “Only see at Oshkosh!”

One Comment

  1. Mike Mahoney says:

    I hope they fly Tuesday, my only day up there.

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