Madison, Wisconsin was the place to be this year for those who wanted to see some warbirds just before EAA AirVenture 2015. Featuring over a dozen rare and unique World War II aircraft, Heavy Bombers Weekend offered fans a great up-close view of aircraft including the B-29 Superfortress, B-17 Flying Fortress, T-6 Texan, and P-51 Mustang. The majority of the aircraft stopped at Dane County Regional Airport on their way to Oshkosh from points all around the country, creating quite an assorted gaggle of types.
As the doors opened at 9:00 am on Friday, fans began trickling in and, in many cases, headed straight for the B-29 Superfortress, “Fifi”. Fifi is currently the only flying B-29 Superfortress in the world (pending the flight readiness of ‘Doc’, another B-29 that is being restored). Others formed a line to go on a tour through EAA’s B-17 “Aluminum Overcast”. Rides could be purchased in most of the aircraft, ranging from the T-6 to the P-51 to the B-29. Some were not offering rides but were selling merchandise. A few small booths also offered food, drinks, and trinkets. The event continued Saturday and Sunday.
Make no mistake, the event is not an airshow. Regular traffic at the busy airfield continued throughout the day and the only flights were done for the passengers. Luckily, the B-17, T-6, and P-51 were kept busy with rides throughout the day; even more flights took place over the weekend. Any break in the warbird traffic was filled by airliners and general aviation aircraft. Several UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters from the National Guard base on the other side of the field flew throughout the day. Eventually EAA’s Ford Trimotor, which had been kept away by dismal weather the day before, arrived and started offering the cheapest rides of the event. Unfortunately, it blew an engine after just a few flights and had to be tucked away for repairs. Perhaps the biggest arrival of the day was the PB4Y-2 Privateer, the last of its kind still flying today. The PB4Y-2 is a naval patrol version of a B-24 Liberator, with a single tail configuration rather than the original twin tail. It served as a patrol bomber during World War II and the Korean War and will be a major attraction at AirVenture in the days to come.
The volunteers did a tremendous job of organizing the event. EAA Chapter 93 provided the volunteers to monitor the ramp and keep spectators off of the active portion. Wisconsin Aviation allowed the use of their impressive facilities, even while dealing with the normal aircraft traffic. The ramp was kept active, but spectators were given plenty of space and time to wander among the aircraft. Many of the crew were nearby to answer questions and swap stories.
Although the event closed at 5:00 pm, AirshowStuff was allowed on the ramp at sunset and into the night for a special photo shoot. We need to thank Pete Buffington, Jeff Davis, and Wisconsin Aviation for this incredible opportunity!