Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Legends over Madera and Rookies over Stead

This month we visited two terrific venues we wanted to share with you.

Legends over Madera

June started with the return of the Legends over Madera Airshow. Years ago, it was called the Gathering of Warbirds. And anyone who ever attended it has incredible stories to tell. Warbirds from all over the West Coast would come into town and the entire Central Valley would turn out to watch them. Apparently one year, nearly an entire squadron of B-25 Mitchell bombers made famous by Doolittle's raid over Tokyo, were in attendance. For some reason not totally clear to me at this time, the Gathering stopped. There were people in and around Madera that have tried to bring it back for years. And this was the year.

In four months, Joe Conway and his team did their best to revive the legendary show. The team put together one incredible event. It all started with a welcome concert on Friday night featuring Pilot, Airshow Fan and Country Music Legend, Aaron Tippin.

Aaron is a 2nd generation pilot. His dad, Tip, was also a pilot and Aaron wanted to fly at a young age. He spent some time flying professionally and was sidelined by the energy crunch in the early eighties when airlines were furloughing their pilots. He then made it to Nashville and history was made. However, Aaron’s love for flying and his constant support of Airshows and his Patriotism are legendary.

Caption: Aaron Tippin’s Concert Friday night
Credit: Anthony Taylor

The Show

We were treated to incredible static displays, ranging from warbirds and jets to home-built aircraft and antique biplanes. Rides were available in such varying aircraft as a P-51 Mustang, T-6 Texan, B-25 Bomber and a 1927 Travel Air Biplane. Bob Berwick brought his Travel Air from Sonoma and was seen giving rides to lucky Airshow attendees until sunset every day.

Aerobatic Activity included a single ship aerobatic routine with Chuck Hall in his P-51 and John Collver in his T-6, and then they joined forces for a two-ship session. This is the first time I have seen this new addition to the circuit and I am looking forward to seeing it again. Others who provided dual shows include Bill Cornick and his protégé Spencer Suderman, both giving single ship performances and joining forces later in the day for their finale. Bill Reesman MiG-17, Julie Clark T-34 and the Patriots L-39 Jet Team finished the line-up. The Patriots are currently the only Civilian four ship aerobatic jet team, and they are amazing to watch.

The show was a great success for the attendees and the performers. But the real winners are the Airshow Fans. What the Madera Airshow team did in four months is outstanding. They now have a full year to make it better. Ideas include lowering prices, more media coverage and moving the concert from Friday to Saturday night and bringing in larger crowds.

Madera Airshow - crowds were thin, but fun everywhere
Credit: Marilyn Dash

I can see the Legends of Madera becoming another “Go To” Airshow each year. Joe Conway, Stephen Davis, the Madera Jet Center and many others should be proud of their achievements of reviving a Phoenix.

Pylon Racing Seminar aka Rookies over Stead

Everyone was worried about the number of attendees we would have at Pylon Racing. Worry no more. The Racing Seminar was well attended and included some very interesting aircraft.

The Jet Class Fans were treated to the usual L39s and L29s with their hot engines. But, the star of the ramp was the Vampire. Yes, a Dehavilland Vampire Dh-115/T-11. Built in 1958, it was built by Pilatus, under contract to Dehavilland. The paint scheme is authentic to a Commander who flew the type. This is a Classic Jet and will be a crowd favorite in September, as it was at PRS in June.

PRS Vampire
Credit: Jarrod Ulrich

The Unlimiteds in attendance included two P40s, one flown by John-Curtiss “JC” Paul and the other by John Maloney. These two have incredible aviation lineage. John Maloney flew the P-40E nicknamed Sue after JC’s mom, Sue Paul. John is no Rookie to Air Racing; however the rules state if you have not flown on the course either qualifying or racing in the last three years, you must attend PRS. Watching John, you knew he was no stranger to the course.

Caption: John Maloney in the P-40E
Credit: Jarrod Ulrich

JC flew the P-40N nicknamed Parrothead due to the distinctive paintjob known as the Napier Field Parrothead. JC is the son of John and Sue Paul. They are the curators and memory keepers for the Warhawk Air Museum in Nampa, ID. While it was JC’s first time at Reno as a Racer, he is no stranger to the sport, or to Warbirds.

Caption: JC Paul’s Parrothead P-40N
Credit: Jarrod Ulrich

These two aircraft were used in the recent Pearl Harbor movie and are on display at the family Museum, more on that later.

Another aircraft on the ramp during PRS but rarely seen at Reno these days included the T-28. Years ago, T-28s raced at Reno in their own class. However, the last time one flew in the Unlimited Class was 2000 with Skip Holm in the driver’s seat. The minimum speed to qualify in the Unlimited Division is 300 mph, just ask Tom Camp and his Wildcat, Air Biscuit. Time will tell if the T-28 will make the cut, but it will sure turn a few heads and make a lot of noise along the way.

Douglas Matthews attended PRS last year in his beautiful P-51, The Rebel. This year, he chose to bring his Corsair instead. She was painted in Luke Field colors with Douglas’ name emblazoned on the side, with his correct title, Lt. Cmdr (ret).

Steven Hinton was at PRS practicing with his new ride, Strega. Tiger Destefani has turned over the reins to his priceless Mustang to the young man, who also comes from a fine aviation pedigree. Stevo looked great on the course and we really look forward to seeing what he can do in September.

Sherman Smoot was in attendance at PRS for the first time ever with his ride, Czech Mate. Many speed modifications were completed this year and the team wanted to see what they could do on the course. They brought their own racing fuel and when he lit the fires, several of us had him timed at 472 mph a whooping 20 mph increase over last year’s qualifying time. Some nay-sayers remarked about the lack of pylon judges on the course. I have two things to say to them. Why would they go to all the trouble of bringing Czech Mate up to PRS to test the speed mods only to cut a few corners? And, she looked, sounded and appeared to be a whole lot faster than last year. The little Yak that could may just be a giant killer again.

Adding to the mix were the instructors Stu Eberhardt in Merlin’s Magic and Dan Vance in Lady Jo. All in all, it was a terrific group of aircraft and a fine group of pilots.

Next month will be the Reno Preview Column. The Deadline for entries has us with a full field in Unlimited and Jets and a nearly full field in all the other categories. Others may join the entry list as a late entry and will be conditional.


As many of you know, I’m a big supporter of Aviation Museums. Flying museums like Warhawk and Planes of Fame are my favorites, of course.

Warhawk is having their Salute to North American Aviation the weekend of July 11-12th. They have Col. Bud Anderson on the agenda as a guest speaker. Take the family and head out to Nampa, ID to support this terrific establishment. The same weekend the Planes of Fame museum in Chino will be hosting Yak Fighters. Go to their websites to see other upcoming events.

If you cannot make it to these shows, find the local Aviation Museum near you and head over there. Bring the kids.

Next Month

Currently in the works is our Reno Preview. Don’t’ forget to make your reservations as soon as possible and buy your tickets now. We are expecting you.

Fly low, fly fast, turn left…
Marilyn Dash
Ruby Red Racing

Caption: Bob Berwick takes a break from “hopping rides” at Legends over Madera
Credit: Marilyn Dash