Also be sure to check out our video playlist from the event!
A new album is now available in our photo gallery! Check it out here:
T-34 Mentor Pre-Oshkosh Gathering 2017 (Manitowoc, WI) – Ryan Sundheimer
Also be sure to check out our video of our flights with the T-34s:
Each month we bring you a compilation of the very best military aviation videos on our Youtube channel. These videos take you inside military operations all over the world for things like exercises, aircraft carrier operations, aerial refueling, and training missions. Please enjoy the October video, which you can watch below or view on Youtube: The Best Of Military Aviation – October 2016
Be sure to check out the other videos in the series as well by checking out the Best of Military Aviation video playlist!
Each month we bring you a compilation of the very best military aviation videos on our Youtube channel. These videos take you inside military operations all over the world for things like exercises, aircraft carrier operations, aerial refueling, and training missions. Please enjoy the September video, which you can watch below or view on Youtube: The Best Of Military Aviation – September 2016
Be sure to check out the other videos in the series as well by checking out the Best of Military Aviation video playlist!
One of the most amazing sights and sounds of EAA AirVenture every year is the warbird segment of the airshow. On some days, over 100 airplanes fill the sky together in a tremendous display of historical air power. The majority of these aircraft are part of the mass formations that circle and cross overhead, providing a backdrop for the other aircraft below.
The formations are usually organized by aircraft type; the T-6 Texans, the T-28 Trojans, the T-34 Mentors, and the Red Stars formation of Yak-52s and CJ-6s (plus one misfit SF-260 that I have had the pleasure of riding in). These groups represent pilots from across the country who fly and train together throughout the year to put on shows like these. Each of the groups arranges a pre-AirVenture gathering at an airport near Oshkosh in the days leading up to the event as a chance to meet up and get some last minute practice flights in. This year, I had the privilege of joining the T-34 Mentor Association members in Manitowoc, WI for their annual pre-AirVenture meetup.
Manitowoc County Airport (KMTW) is east of Oshkosh, near the shore of Lake Michigan. It is an untowered field with good ramp space and most importantly, EAA Chapter 383. Members of the chapter play host during the gathering, and their hangar and office are the hang out spot for the pilots. This year at least 20 T-34s were in attendance, with two, three, and four-ship flights launching in several waves beginning Saturday morning.
I was invited to join one of these flights, a four-ship. We headed out over the lake to work through different formations and rejoins, while other groups did the same in different pre-determined areas. Everything was expertly organized and briefed by T-34 Association President Billy “Smitty” Smith. Flights like this are required for each pilot to earn and maintain their “FAST card”, a certification of their ability to fly formation. Without this, they are not allowed to fly formation in waivered airspace, such as during the AirVenture airshows.
After several rounds of these smaller group flights, the group starts putting together the large mass formation. This usually begins to come together on Sunday afternoon, but unfortunately this year the weather was less than cooperative and it was delayed. I had to leave for Oshkosh without seeing the mass flight practice.
I’d see the group soon enough though, as they arrived during the airshow in typical dramatic fashion. If you’ve never witnessed it, it is quite shocking to see. All of the formation groups come in from different directions and at different altitudes, all pointed at show center. Last year they nailed the timing, resulting in a thrilling triple cross directly overhead. From the cross, each group begins a carefully calculated orbit to continue passing over and in front of the crowd while avoiding the dozens of other airplanes sharing the sky.
The chaos is incredible to witness, and most on the ground have no idea of how much work, practice, and planning is behind the spectacle. Luckily, these pilots are willing to put in the hours necessary to give us all a safe and entertaining show!
Check out the rest of my photos in our photo gallery – T-34 Mentor Gathering 2016 – Manitowoc, WI
Thank you to Billy Smith, Stephen Bohlig, Adam Silverstein, Malte Lorenz, Tim Kolp, the rest of the T-34 pilots, and EAA Chapter 383 for allowing me to join in the fun!
– Ryan Sundheimer
Aviation fans got an early treat this year when a whopping ten TBM Avengers came together for one special weekend in April.
The event, held at the Illinois Valley Regional Airport in Peru, IL, grew out of an annual private get together organized by local TBM owner Brad Deckert. The idea for this year was to get as many Avengers together as possible, and things quickly grew from there into an open invitation for aircraft and enthusiasts. As word spread and more pilots made plans to attend, estimates grew from 50 airplanes to 100 airplanes to 200 airplanes. Portions of the airport grass were converted to overflow airplane parking, and fuel trucks were purchased and borrowed since the airport had none.
The day before the main event, Friday, featured plenty of action itself. Throughout the day, the lineup of the giant torpedo bombers on the ramp allowed for a running count of Avengers in attendance. One by one they arrived and joined the lineup. The tenth and final aircraft arrived in the late afternoon. The airport was open for normal business all day, so traffic filtered in and out. One Avenger flight was launched in the afternoon; a four-ship formation along with a Cessna 210 photo ship. It was a warm up of sorts for the main photo flight that evening.
As the sun went down, crews gathered with several photographers to brief a major sunset photo flight. By shuffling pilots between airplanes, eight formation-qualified aircraft were established. The plan was to launch as two four-ship flights, Alpha and Bravo, and then join up together. The Cessna and a T-6 Texan were used as photo ships. With sunset approaching, it was a race to get out of the briefing and into the aircraft. AirshowStuff was able to hitch a ride in Bravo Four, the CAF Missouri Wing‘s Avenger and the last aircraft in the formation.
Unfortunately, 70 year old warbirds are not known for reliability and one aircraft could not get started. The rest launched and headed north to find some sunlight. Another aircraft began trailing smoke just after takeoff and returned to the airport as a precaution, leaving six aircraft – three in each flight. Alpha flight was already established in an echelon formation off of the T-6 photo ship when Bravo caught up, so the three newcomers joined up behind them to form a double echelon formation. After a few moments for photos, the formation was shifted into a six-ship echelon, stacked upwards. From our position on the end of the line, we were looking down at the amazing sight of five Avengers and a T-6, all lined up. Thanks to the skill of the pilots, and some pleasantly still evening air, the formation held together quite impressively until it was time to split apart. Two of the Bravo aircraft, including ours, headed back to the airport while the other four stayed for more shots with the other photo ship.
Saturday morning was the opening of the official event, which was completely free. Turnout was fantastic, and the airport was well prepared to handle it. Thousands of people wandered the ramp, getting an up close look at the many different kinds of aircraft parked there. Aided by absolutely perfect weather, arriving aircraft filled the pattern and clogged the taxiways. Several major warbirds, such as two P-51 Mustangs, an AD-4 Skyraider, and a T-28 Trojan flew in for the day as well. The Avengers got things going right off the bat, and launched all nine airworthy aircraft (one was hangared for maintenance) together. A three-ship formation led the parade, with the others following in trail for several passes before landing. The airport remained open the entire time, with more aircraft arriving constantly.
After the main flyby, the flying entertainment was mostly in watching the arrival traffic. The airspace was astoundingly busy, right up there with Oshkosh itself; and at an untowered field no less! Several groups of T-6s performed formation flybys during the the day, and a four-ship of Avengers launched around lunch time for some flybys, including a missing man formation. Several warbirds came back for a flyby before heading home and a pair of T-33s made several passes before landing. Thanks to an aerobatic box at the airport, several pilots took advantage of the opportunity to renew their aerobatic certifications by performing short routines for an observer on the ground. The crowd dwindled as the day went on, and by sunset the Avengers sat peacefully on the ramp.
In the end the event was wildly successful, with over 250 aircraft (52 of them warbirds) in attendance and more than 10,000 people on the ground. Arriving aircraft maxed out at 137 in just an hour – that’s more than two every minute! There is talk of bringing it back next year. If it does return, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better use of a spring day!
The photos shown here are just a small sampling of the event. Please be sure to check out the full Gathering of TBM Avengers 2016 album in our gallery!
Thank you to Brad and Jane Deckert for hosting, to Jordan Brown and the CAF Missouri Wing for allowing us to ride shotgun, and to all of the other pilots and crews that made the event such a success! Be sure to check out Warbird Digest for more photos from the sunset flight!
The Arsenal of Democracy flyover in Washington DC a little over a week ago was a huge success, and we have seen many spectacular images and videos from it. Hopefully you were able to see it in person or on the live stream, but if not you can catch CSPAN’s recorded footage online. What’s even more exciting is you can now take a seat in one of the more than 50 warbirds that participated! Check out the video below, provided by our partner JL Aero. The camera was mounted in the rear seat of a TBM Avenger in the flyby, and shows the taxi out, takeoff, formation flight en route, the flight down the mall, and landing. The most interesting moment may be the wingman’s in flight emergency captured by the camera, which you can read more about in the video’s description.
RideAlong! in the CAF National Capitol Squadron’s TBM Avenger torpedo bomber as it joins another TBM and the world’s only flying SB2C Helldiver dive bomber in the “Leyte Gulf” formation during the Arsenal of Democracy flyover in Washington DC. The AOD flyover was organized to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day, recognized on May 8th. More than 50 rare WWII warbirds from around the country gathered at airports in Manassas and Culpeper in the days leading up to the event. On the day of the flyover, aircraft took off and joined into 15 different formations, each representing a critical battle during the war. The aircraft flew down the Potomac River, down the National Mall, and then returned to the airports. Spectators on the ground were treated to a ceremony marking the significance of the day, and narration describing each formation as it passed overhead.
At 5:35, you will see the other TBM Avenger “Leyte 3” suddenly break from the formation. The pilot declared an in flight emergency due to a broken hydraulic fitting in the engine area. The atomized fluid looked like smoke and the pilot thought the aircraft was on fire. He turned immediately towards Reagan National Airport (visible in the background) and landed safely there.
Don’t forget to subscribe to AirshowStuff on Youtube for more amazing videos like this one!
For the past few weeks, the Canadian Forces Snowbirds and CF-18 Hornet demo teams have been ripping up the skies over Comox, BC, practicing their routines for the upcoming air show season, now just around the bend. We were lucky enough to participate in observing their practices and operations last week, and even a unique air-to-air photo op!
View all of the photos from Comox in our photo gallery: Canadian Snowbirds/CF-18 Hornet Air to Air and Comox Practice
Winter training takes part at CFB Comox on Vancouver Island as the base offers both teams the chance to practice over land and water with the Strait of Georgia just beyond the base perimeter. To the east are the majestic peaks of the Beaufort Range offering additional practice opportunities. While at Comox, both teams will fly at least once nearly every day, rain or shine. The wind and rain were heavy during last Thursday’s practice and both teams went out; the Snowbirds over Air Force Beach and the CF-18 over the base, both performing low shows.
Both teams have maneuvers to perfect in their routine. Thorough debriefs follow each practice, where the team reviews their entire performance and critiques each maneuver to correct mistakes, some not even visible to observers on the ground. Each member of the Snowbirds is tasked with progress reports during the debrief to pass along any improvements or struggles they have had since the last practice. Flying the routines is only one element of the practice for the team. Simulator training also occurs, practicing taxi maneuvers and close proximity parking to perfect the ground performance as well. These practices develop the team into the fantastic performers we love to see each season.
This year, the Snowbirds are changing things up a bit. For shows with adequate runway length and fair weather, the team will depart in a 5 jet/4 jet formation takeoff, as opposed to their traditional 3/3/3 formation. You’ll also notice some new maneuvers such as the Card Nine and the Double-Take (as seen above) inserted into their performance this year.
As we reported previously, this year’s CF-18 demonstration aircraft is wearing a gorgeous camouflage scheme honoring the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. But you may not have known that there’s quite an interesting history behind the paint scheme chosen to adorn this year’s Hornet. The scheme matches that of a Hawker Hurricane Mk. I belonging to No. 1 Fighter Squadron RCAF, later renamed 401 Fighter Squadron, piloted by F/L Gordon R. MacGregor. From Jim Belliveau, the graphic artist who designed and painted the aircraft:
“The serial identifier used of YO-H was not only piloted by MacGregor… it was the first RCAF aircraft to score a confirmed kill in the battle.
I could go on in detail about the rationale behind the two murals, but the decision to feature the iconic pics of St. Paul and the London dockyards is rather subjective, and you may not want to… go there.
In my mind the St. Paul mural depicts the ultimate hope that good will always triumph over evil. And as to the dockyards, both that industrial area of London, and collaterally the working class who lived there, took a disproportionate amount of the bombing campaign in the war. It is my small tribute to those wonderful East Enders who were the quiet unsung heroes of the battle.”
The practices at Comox are not only an opportunity for the teams to practice their flights, it is also one of the first opportunities for the public to get a glimpse of the team. The people of Comox and Courtney, BC flock to the shores of Air Force Beach for a free air show that truly looks amazing. The Cascades on the mainland just across the water offer a spectacular scenic backdrop and the lighting in the afternoon is excellent.
CFB Comox operations continue as normal during these practice weeks. The base is home to RCAF 19 Wing consisting of 407 Maritime Patrol Squadron, one of only two squadrons that operate CP-140 Auroras, and 442 Transport and Rescue Squadron, operating the CC-115 Buffalo and CH-149 Cormorant. Search and rescue operations and regular missions along the coastline of British Columbia carry on while hosting the teams. Comox also serves as a forward operations base for CF-18 Hornets deployed to the region.
On April 28, the teams flew their acceptance shows over Comox and on the 29th they headed back to their bases to prepare for their upcoming first shows. The CF-18 will quickly be heading south to Chino, CA for the Planes of Fame air show this weekend (May 1-2) while the Snowbirds will be heading to Dallas, GA with the CF-18 for the Salute America Airshow on May 9-10. Be sure to check the CF-18 and Snowbird schedules to find out where you can see them perform this year!
Special thanks to: Lt. Patricia Brunelle and Lt. Mathew Strong for the help in covering their team’s practices, 442 squadron for the CC-115 ride and photo ship, and the Canadian Armed Forces for letting this Yank visit.