’Vintage’ highlights at Airventure
The EAA Airventure Oshkosh fly-in and convention on 2329 July was among the best of recent times. A great variety of interesting aircraft attended and the ‘showplane’ parking areas were at their fullest for some years, featuring 2,979 aircraft over the week. This total included 377 warbirds (seven per cent up on 2017) and 1,094 vintage types.
While the daily airshows presented rather too many similar aerobatic displays and distant warbird racetrack patterns, there were numerous ‘old timers’ highlights. One was a mass launch of T-6 Texans/harvards for an ‘80’ formation flypast in the type’s anniversary year. It was good to see among them rare North American NA-64 Yale NX13397− the production prototype first flown on 12 February 1940. While destined for the French Air Force, it was instead sold to the British Purchasing Commission and entered RCAF service as ‘3464’. POST-WWII, the Yale was restored in Texas and, despite being parked at Del Rio for 35 years, was picked up by John and Mark Cyrier in June 2015 who got it flying again painted in its original markings.
A display by two former US Army training gliders, a Piper TG-8 (modified J-3 Cub) and a Taylorcraft TG-6 (modified Taylorcraft L-2) from the Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum at Hood River, Oregon was unexpected. One of the best warbird flights was performed by Dave Hadfield in the Vintage Wings of Canada Spitfire IX. Painted as MK304/ Y2-K, the aircraft flown by ‘Rosie’ Roland who lost his life in combat over France in July 1944, the Spitfire was judged Reserve Grand Champion. One of the most eagerly awaited participants was the World Heritage Air Museum’s Gloster Meteor T7 WA591 (NX313Q), imported from England earlier this year by Marty Tibbitts. Sadly, Tibbitts was killed when his DH Venom crashed at Sheboygan, WI en route to Oshkosh. The Meteor was honoured as the Best Jet Warbird and, along with the Spitfire, a Chipmunk and Jet Provost T5, formed part of the small RAF100 tribute.
World War II Grand Champion was P-51C Mustang Lope’s Hope 3rd restored by Aircorps Aviation for Bruce Eames/texas Flying Legends to represent the aircraft flown by Lt Donald S Lopez during WWII. The Best Light Transport award went to Beech GB-2 Traveller N582/FT478, recently restored by West Coast Air Creations of Flabob, CA for owner Granger Haugh. Best C-47 was the Commemorative Air Force’s N47TB That’s All Brother, now ready for the ‘D-day Squadron’ trans-atlantic crossing that will bring some twenty US-
based DC-3S and C-47s to IWM Duxford and Caen for June 2019’s ‘Daks over Normandy’ event.
Antique Grand Champion this year was Greg and Cindy Heckman’s fabulous 1928 Lincoln Page LP-3 C-5735. Restored over the last five years following decades in storage, it was flown on 31 May 2018−exactly ninety years after its original first flight− and retains its period engine and instrumentation. Antique Reserve Grand Champion was Jim Hammond’s 1935 Aeronca LB N16262. Completed and flown again by Andrew King in early July, it is the only airworthy lowwing Aeronca of 65 built. Silver Age (1928-36) Runner-up was another very rare type−glenn Peck’s 1931 Curtiss Wright 15-D Air Sedan NC436W, which he recently completed restoring for the Historic Aircraft Restoration Museum at Creve Couer, Missouri.
RAF100 was celebrated in the main exhibition square with a selection of EAA museum exhibits that included Kermit Weeks’ DH Mosquito RS712, a Tiger Moth and Pitcairn autogyro, plus a near-airworthy DH4. Built in 1918 under-licence by the DaytonWright company and fitted with a 400hp Liberty engine, the DH4 is nearing the end of its restoration in Tennessee. Kermit Weeks’ Sopwith Snipe and Pup, Fokker D.VIII and Albatros D.VA also took part, each taking its turn in a daily engine run slot.
Oshkosh always produces the unexpected and one instance occurred during Monday’s airshow. Jim Slattery’s two recently-restored F7F-3N Tigercats performed fast, tight paired passes. After landing, ‘374’/’JS’ N7629C, flown by Warbirds of America President Connie Bowlin, suffered a wheel rim failure. After a loud bang and a spectacular magnesium fire, the aircraft was brought to a controlled stop.
Yet again, a memorable Oshkosh. Next year (22-28 July 2019), even more vintage delights are promised by the EAA.
Report & photos: Nigel Hitchman
TOP: A highlight of the ‘Harvard 80’ celebration, the prototype NA-64 Yale
ABOVE: Just 253 TG-8 ‘glider Cubs’ were produced, this survivor being among Oshkosh’s surprises
Antique award-winners included this magnificent Lincoln Page LP-3…
… the only flying low-winged Aeronca, 1935 LB N16262…
US D-day forces lead aircraft That’s All Brother was the winning C-47
Splendid flying from Dave Hadfield in Reserve Grand Champion Spitfire IX ‘MK304’
P-51C Mustang N6555B, a very polished WWII Grand Champion
The judges’ favourite light transport was this Rn-painted Beech GB-2 Traveller
Newly imported from the UK, Meteor T7 WA591 was judged the Best Jet Warbird
… and 1931 Curtiss Wright 15-D Air Sedan NC436W
A rare shape among the RAF100 exhibits, the Pitcairn autogyro
Sopwith Snipe, one of four of Kermit Weeks' WWI aircraft at Airventure
ABOVE: It ended safely but Tigercat ‘374’s landing incident was spectacular