Saturday, May 23, 2009

Chino Airshow Celebrates Grumman Aircraft

One of the finest Warbird Airshows in the world has to be the Chino Airshow hosted by Planes of Fame Museum, in Chino, CA. This year, the focus was on Grumman Aircraft and their fleet.

The gates open at 8am. For anyone interested in seeing these aircraft up close, they now have a “hot ramp” allowing people to get very close to the planes that will be flying during the day. This allowed lots of photo-ops for folks who would not normally get to stand next to a Bearcat or Tigercat.

Silver Wings Wingwalkers started the show. They are a crowd favorite and are especially popular with the kids. Wingwalkers are only as good as the pilots who keep them steady. Hartley Folstad and his wife, Margaret Stivers showcase wingwalking at its very best.

Minutes later, we watch five beautifully restored Grumman F8F Bearcats in close formation. And so it goes for the rest of the afternoon. It’s hard to choose favorites, so I’ll share with you how things unfolded.

Steve Hinton performed an amazing aerobatic display in a Tigercat. Aerobatic routines are generally done in tiny agile aircraft like my Pitts Special or the Zivko Edge. To see something as large as the Tigercat fluidly dancing through the sky, is truly a sight to behold. Only Steve Hinton could make that dance work. Amazing.

After a brief intermission, to allow arriving and departing flights and to give the Air Boss a chance to eat lunch. We now have the Korean War Air Flight which included a terrific fly-by of the MiG-15 with the F-86. Other aircraft sharing the sky during this demo include the Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star, T-6 Texan, several Hawker Sea Furys and a Skyraider.

Next up was the WWII Pacific Theater Fly-bys. This included several of the Grumman Aircraft including the SBD Daughtless, F6F Hellcat, F7F Tigercats, along with the F4U Corsair, FM-2 Wildcat and the Japanese VAL and Zero. The European Theater Fly Bys included the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, The Lockheed P38 Lightning, P-51 Mustangs, and two B-25s.

Many Airshow Regulars have seen The Horsemen, a two- or three-ship Mustang Aerobatic Team who have performed all over the country. This year, The Horsemen have changed their stead and now have a show with a three-ship BEARCAT Aerobatic Program. There are very few times during an airshow that all the pilots get to their feet and walk to the rail to watch. During The Horsemen’s segment, all eyes were skyward. Jim Beasley, Ed Shipley and the newest Horsemen, Dan Freidkin put on a wonderful show. And if you believe the rumors, they may have a three-ship F-86 demo next year. Now that would be remarkable.

Brian Sanders and Argonaut performed next. Brian’s dad, the late Frank Sanders developed a smoke generating system for his airshow performances back in 1972. He was approached by NASA to create Self Contained Smoke Generators (SCSG) to study wake vortexes. The SCSG and the newer Smokewinder are products of the Sanders Smoke Technologies and are used to provide smoke systems which are completely independent of the engine. Most aerobatic smoke systems are designed around the engines. During this demonstration, Brian shows the SCSG on the wing tips of his Sea Fury. This is another crowd pleaser, especially for the young ones, because of how the smoke trails and lingers and forms different shapes. Brian flies a beautiful routine, definitely another highlight to any show.

Next up on the agenda is what we call the Gaggle of Warbirds. On Saturday, we were treated to 30 beautifully restored antique aircraft taking to the air in formation. This is an amazing sight to behold, and impossible to capture on film. On Sunday, due to a bit of attrition, we were down to 22, but it was still a spectacular sight.

The USAF provided a few demos for us late in the afternoon. The USAF A-10 Warthog Demo is worth the price of admission right there. The single-seat, twin-engine, straight-wing jet was developed by Fairchild-Republic. An incredibly responsive and powerful aircraft, she has made the news with her firepower and her ability to bring pilots back safely after seeing some serious damage.

The appropriately named C-17 Globemaster was the final act in the show. This is a LARGE military transport aircraft developed by McDonnell Douglas. The C-17 is used for rapid strategic airlift of troops and cargo to operating and forward bases around the world. She flies with a crew of three, two pilots and a loadmaster. Nearly 170’ wingspan, with a max takeoff weight of 585,000 pounds and she cruises at Mach 0.76. But, the thing that makes her so special is her agility. To see this giant move the way she does is truly awe inspiring.

I hope you have enjoyed hearing about the Planes of Fame Airshow. I hope you will make a pilgrimage to one of their locations in the near future. The currently have two locations, one in Chino, CA and the other in Valle, AZ. They also put on wonderful educational programs throughout the year. Check out their website to learn more about the programs that are available.

One more comment, this was my first airshow with a camera in my hand other than my Blackberry. I hope you enjoy some of the pictures I have added here. I hope to continue to learn the fine art of airshow photography.

Back to Air Racing News

Red Bull in San Diego

Last year’s champion, Hannes Arch had a serious bird strike at the San Diego race last month. He hit a pelican! This caused him to lose his lead and dropped him to third on the podium. Nicolas Ivanoff of France won his first race and Paul Bonhomme took second place. Current standings for the season still have Hannes in first, with Ivanoff nipping at his heals with Bonhomme just one point behind.

National Championship Air Races – Reno

It looks like we are still playing musical airplanes during the off-season. Frank Taylor recently purchased Dago Red. Yes, the same Frank Taylor who owned the slick racer years ago. We do not expect to see her at Reno again until 2010, but let’s keep our fingers crossed. Smart money has Skip Holm back in the driver’s seat.

Word is that both September Pops and Rare Bear both received new paint jobs last month. And we are looking at a low rookie count for Pylon Racing Seminar in mid June, but we’ll make the best of it. I have heard of some pretty exciting aircraft that will be in attendance at PRS. Next month, I hope to cover what happens at PRS and any other news coming out of Reno. Stay tuned, this should be a great year.

Fly Low, Fly Fast, Turn Left

Marilyn Dash

Ruby Red Racing


Caption – Three-ship Horsemen Routine in Bearcats


Caption – one of the Bearcats flown during the show

Credit : Marilyn Dash


Caption – The Lineup of Grumman Aircraft

Credit – Marilyn Dash


Caption - Two Tigercats in the air and one being fueled on the ground

Credit – Marilyn Dash


Caption – MiG 15 and F86 in Formation


Caption - Brian Sanders performs in Argonaut


Caption - Round Engines are notorious for their smoky starts

Credit : Anthony Taylor

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

After Hours at the Races

One of the hidden secrets of racing at Reno is the things that happen after the races have ended or before the crowds arrive.

Racers are required to be there by the Sunday before Race Week. It’s always fun to get there a few days early and watch the “arrivals”. Low passes and fly-bys are the order of the day. You wouldn’t want to miss the arrival of some of the big iron, especial the old Ione Air Force.

My crew and I usually arrive either Friday or Saturday to begin the Tech Inspections. Each class has Technical Inspections that happen before any aircraft is allowed on the race course. The classes all have different criteria they look for, and the inspectors also check for FAA requirements. Some inspections take a few hours, some go on for days.

In the Biplane Class, we have two gentlemen who go through our airplanes with a fine toothed comb. They are not looking to nitpick. They are looking to keep the airplanes and the pilots safe. Our Lead Tech Inspector is JC Brandt and he is assisted by his brother, Bob. These two have found many little problems and sometimes a few large ones.

My first race year, they found a hair brush under my seat – which had fallen out when I was retrieving my purse – and had not been there during my flight, HONEST! Well, the next day I had a case of Aqua Net Hair Spray in my Pit. Did I mention a good amount of teasing is done (pun intended).

Two years ago, they found a more serious problem. This inspection uncovered a structural issue with my race plane that needed to be repaired before they plane could fly again. I was actually envisioning taking the wings off and trucking the airplane home where repairs would take place.

Randy Goss, the son of famed T6 Champion, Al Goss, laughed at me and told me to go find Lonnie over at the Rare Bear Crew. He was apparently an Artiste with a welding gun. Two hours later, we were ready to go. It cost me a case of beer and I found friends for life. A year later, George Giboney and John Parker of Thunder Mustang fame were kind enough to help with another large issue.

This is also the time where we all reconnect. Many of us have known each other for 10+ years, however – we only see each during that ten day period in September. There are lots of hugs and chit chat and catching up over a beer happening during these early days.

One of the other events that take place includes the T6 Salsa Party. Each T6 team makes their Masterpiece Salsa. Beer, Margaritas and jell-o shots are shared along with the large trays of salsa and chips. Because of the nature of these people, the competition is fierce. Everyone works hard to make their best possible salsa. Mango, pineapple, hot, medium and mild; it’s all there. And it’s all in good fun.

One of the past events, which have sadly gone dormant over the years, is the tug races. Each team would have their tugs out and raced them on the taxi ways. I’ve heard the stories, but have never seen them. They have been replaced to some degree by golf cart races – but it’s not nearly as much fun.

After sunset, you will sometimes see the Unlimiteds come out to do “night runs”. Last year, Voodoo and 232 were out nearly every night entertaining the crowds. 232 let’s out some unbelievable flames that are quite visible in the darkness, as seen in the picture. I don’t think I missed a night run last year. All of them were breathtaking and ear drum breaking.

Just after sunrise, you will sometimes see the “dawn patrol” – again after a day and night of wrenching, some of the aircraft are taken up at the crack of dawn to test whatever modifications were done. These are always fun to watch as well. Last year, Strega was up several mornings during the week. Dago Red and Voodoo were also out for early runs. Many fans would come out a little early to see them take to the air.

Provenance Fighter Sales would have Margarita parties nearly every night when they brought a contender to the show. They had a little Tiki Bar set up and always had a crowd. I cherish all of my PFS shot glasses, t-shirts, hats and visors. I hope they bring another racer, the bar and blender again soon!

But, the grandfather of all race events has got to be the Warlock Party. I have attended for several years and wouldn’t miss it for the world. Nearly every racer and crew member attends, some for a few minutes, some stay late, and others dance and sing the night away.

Yes, there is a band. We affectionately call it the Warlock Band. There is singing, by Al and Randy Goss, Anita and even Sandy Sanders has taken the microphone now and again. Randy Goss and I have threatened to do a duet one year. Maybe 2009 will be the year!?

Al Goss is the man behind Warlock. He has the most dedicated crew and fan following of any non-unlimited team. Al has been racing since 1981. He has been a contender every time. He is a class act and a good friend. When I do something stupid, he shakes his head, when I do something smart, he nods his head. It is nearly indecipherable to most, but I know what he’s saying. He’s not a man of many words.

Weddings have occurred at the Warlock Party. In fact, we may have another one this year. What better way to start your life together than to get married during the Reno Air Races at the Warlock Party!

As you can see in the pictures, everyone is wearing their Warlock hat, visor, shirt, or jacket. I even have a Warlock Thermometer on my deck. Wearing your Warlock Gear is the highway to COOL! So, if you want to be one of the insiders at Reno, hop on over the Warlock Pit and get yourself some Warlock Gear. Say Hello to Al, Randy, David, and Anita.

Other news…

This month, I was hoping to do a story about Furias’ return to Reno. However, it looks like the team has decided that there was too much work to do and to make sure they weren’t rushed, they decided to aim for 2010 instead of 2009. I take my hat off to the team for making a tough but probably wise decision.

Pylon Racing School, aka PRS or Rookie School will take place mid June. The number of rookies this year is pretty low, so if you are thinking about racing your wings, head over the RARA’s website ( to learn more about it.

May brings us several awesome airshows and events, including the Red Bull event in San Diego. Hannes Arch won the first race of the year in Abu Dhabi. Paul Bonhomme and Nicolai Ivanhoff joined him on the podium in second and third respectively.

The Chino Planes of Fame Airshow is always a favorite for anyone interested in Warbirds. This year they will be honoring Grumman Aircraft. The Horseman will be doing their amazing formation aerobatics in three Bearcats. This is an amazing show, folks!

Watsonville and Madera Airshows are also on the agenda for May. Both of these shows are worth the weekend away to see some beautiful and rare aircraft.

Check your local areas for shows near you. And don’t forget to make your reservations for Reno as soon as possible. The Blue Angels will be there this year, for the first time since 2000.

Fly low, Fly Fast, Turn Left

Marilyn Dash

Ruby Red Racing


Credit = Tim Adams

Caption = September Fury during a night run

Credit – Tim Adams

Caption = Strategies are worked out before and after the races

Al Goss

Credit = Dr. Fred

Caption = Everyone’s favorite racer, Al Goss.

Warlock Band

Credit – Dr. Fred

Caption = The Warlock Band rocks the pits.


Credit Tim Adams

Caption: After the engine change, Voodoo does their night run.

early morning with Strega

Credit Tim Adams


Strega takes to the air for her Dawn Patrol