Warbird Heritage Foundation Acquires P-51 Mustang “Moonbeam McSwine” To Honor Vlado Lenoch

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Vlado Lenoch and Moonbeam McSwine

Moonbeam McSwine is coming home!

The Warbird Heritage Foundation announced Wednesday that they’ve purchased the P-51 Mustang named “Moonbeam McSwine” from its most recent owner, Mr. Frederic Akary of France. The aircraft will reside under a new FAA registration number, N51VL, in honor of Vlado Lenoch.

Vlado and Moonbeam were synonymous; he flew the aircraft for over 20 years before he sold it to Akary in 2012 and began flying WHF’s P-51 Mustang “Baby Duck” at airshows instead. Vlado and passenger Bethany Root were flying in Baby Duck when they were killed in a crash last July. The aircraft was completely destroyed in the incident.

Moonbeam McSwine ReassemblyMoonbeam McSwine Reassembly

Rumors have been swirling for weeks now that Moonbeam was being brought home to the US to be flown as a tribute to Vlado, but until today nothing was confirmed publicly. The aircraft has arrived from overseas and is scheduled to be re-assembled at Tab-Air in East Troy, WI before joining the WHF fleet in Waukegan, IL. If all goes well, the aircraft should be up and flying in time for this summer’s airshow season!

Moonbeam McSwine Reassembly

Moonbeam’s history dates back to October of 1944, when it was manufactured in Inglewood, CA. In the 70s, 80s and 90s, Moonbeam raced in the Reno Air Races. Vlado flew it regularly in the United States Air Force Heritage Flight program (see the video below) before he sold it to Frederic Akary in 2012. Since then, it has been seen regularly at airshows across Europe.

We were fortunate to work with Vlado for many years, and continue to mourn his loss. This tribute is well deserved, and Moonbeam will certainly see many emotional reunions with Vlado’s friends as it returns to the airshow circuit. We look forward to bringing you plenty of photos and videos of this piece of history!

Historic “Memphis Belle” B-17 Moved Into US Air Force Museum Hangar

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B-17 Flying Fortress "Memphis Belle" and "Shoo Shoo Shoo Baby" - National Museum of the United States Air Force

On March 14th, the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force marked completion of the B-17F “Memphis Belle” restoration project. In view of invited media and 300 Air Force Museum Foundation members, the “Memphis Belle” was towed from the Museum’s restoration hangar to the WWII Gallery where it replaced “Shoo Shoo Shoo Baby”, a B-17G which had been on display there since 1988. The B-17G was removed from the hangar and placed into storage, where it awaits transfer to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum at a later date.

B-17 Flying Fortress "Memphis Belle" - National Museum of the United States Air Force

The “Memphis Belle” bears a paint scheme representative of the aircraft’s appearance on May 17, 1943, when the aircraft’s crew completed their 25th combat mission, thereby completing their tours of duty. They became the first Air Force bomber crew from Europe to return to the United States after reaching that milestone. This achievement earned the aircraft and crew national recognition, a war bond tour, and enduring historical significance.

B-17 Flying Fortress "Memphis Belle" - National Museum of the United States Air ForceB-17 Flying Fortress "Shoo Shoo Shoo Baby" - National Museum of the United States Air Force

The Museum’s “Memphis Belle” exhibit officially opens on May 17th, the 75th anniversary of the aircraft’s historic combat mission. Until then, the aircraft remains obscured from view by a large partition. Plans for the exhibit debut include a static display of B-17 bombers, a gathering of WWII reenactors, and a big band concert, among other events.

– Article and photos by Ryan Grantonic

B-17 Flying Fortress "Memphis Belle" - National Museum of the United States Air ForceB-17 Flying Fortress "Memphis Belle" - National Museum of the United States Air Force

Doolittle Raiders Honored With B-25, B-1 Flybys In Dayton 75 Years After Famous Mission

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B-25 Mitchells - Doolittle Raid 75th Anniversary - Dayton, OH

Eleven B-25 Mitchells roared over the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, OH on Tuesday in an incredible tribute to the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders. The flyover came 75 years to the day after the 16 B-25s and 80 airmen took off from the USS Hornet to bomb Japan. Although it inflicted little damage, the psychological effects of the raid forced a change in Japanese strategy that altered the course of the war.

B-25 Mitchells - Doolittle Raid 75th Anniversary - Dayton, OHB-25 Mitchells - Doolittle Raid 75th Anniversary - Dayton, OH

The rare warbirds are all privately owned and operated, and had gathered in nearby Urbana, OH before landing at the museum for public display. They performed a mass formation and missing man flyovers during a memorial service for the Raiders this afternoon. The only surviving member of the Raiders, Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” Cole, was in attendance.

Doolittle Raid MemorialB-1B Lancer - Doolittle Raid 75th Anniversary - Dayton, OH

Later in the ceremony, two B-1B Lancer bombers also performed a flyover. Both aircraft are from squadrons that participated in the original raid in 1942, and one of them was recently rechristened “Ruptured Duck” in tribute to one of the raid aircraft.

The NMUSAF has hosted several of the annual Doolittle Raider reunions in the past, including in 2010 and 2012.

Thank you to forum user DanODell for the photos! For more photos and videos from the event, be sure to check out the Doolittle Raider 75th Anniversary thread on our forums!

First Flight Of B-29 Superfortress “Doc” Announced

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B-29 Superfortress "Doc" First Flight
Photo credit: Doc’s Friends

The eagerly anticipated first flight of the B-29 Superfortress “Doc” has been scheduled for Sunday, July 17th. The flight will mark a culmination of 16 years of restoration by volunteers in Wichita. The flight is expected to take place in the early morning, weather allowing, and viewing information will be announced for anyone in the area who wants to watch. The group leading the restoration recently obtained permission from the Department of Defense to use the military runway at McConnell AFB for the flight.

The planned timing does leave open the possibility for Doc to attend this year’s EAA AirVenture Oshkosh show at the end of the month. Hours of flight testing will need to be completed first, though. The world’s only other flyable B-29, “Fifi”, is already confirmed for AirVenture.

Step Into History With This Rare Footage Of A Spectacular 1945 Airshow

What do you get when you mix the jubilation of ending the Second World War and an Army Air Forces (AAF) with captured enemy aircraft and technology? One of the coolest airshows a warbird buff could possibly imagine! Check out this footage of the Freeman Field Airshow held in September of 1945, 70 years ago.

Some of the highlights you’ll see in this incredible footage are a flying Junkers Ju 290 A-4 (which was a frequent performer at airshows at the field), a mass formation of B-25 Mitchells, low and fast passes by P-47 Thunderbolts, and a fantastic static lineup with a Ju-88, Me-163, V-1 and V-2, and even a Fairchild C-82 Packet on display. Certainly this was one of the coolest shows one could catch in the 20th Century, but how did it come to be and whatever happened to those aircraft?

The end of the war effort meant that it was time to start collecting and shipping home the captured enemy vehicles and materials. An effort was made to evaluate these captured technologies in the form of Operation Lusty, of which General of the US Army Air Forces Henry “Hap” Arnold ordered one of each type of enemy aircraft operated preserved. When the aircraft were shipped to the US, they were split between the US Navy and Army Air Forces. The AAF began storing their captured aircraft at Wright Field until there was no longer space left for the remaining examples. The surplus aircraft were sent to Freeman Field near Seymour, Indiana as it had ample space for the remaining aircraft.

From June of 1945 to December of 1946, Freeman Field was the new Foreign Aircraft Evaluation Center for the AAF where Axis aircraft were evaluated, cataloged, and stored in preparation for the planned AAF museum. When the field was closed, most of the aircraft had been sent away for disposal. The larger aircraft were sent to Davis-Monthan Field (now Davis-Monthan Air Force Base) and the fighters to the Special Depot III, Park Ridge (now O’Hare International Airport). Sadly, a small number of aircraft were destroyed at the field prior to shutdown. There are a small number of survivors of Operation Lusty like the Arado Ar 234, Dornier Do 335, and Heinkel He 219, which are now apart of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.

Though today we may never see the same scale of variety and examples of rare aircraft on display again at modern airshows, we can’t give up too much hope, as there are several groups that are tracing the burial pits of those destroyed aircraft at Freeman Field in search of what might be inside them. Regardless, this footage is truly remarkable to watch again and again.

#MustangMonday P-51 Fan Photos – June 15th, 2015

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We asked our Facebook fans to share their best P-51 #MustangMonday picture and they delivered! Scroll through the pictures below to see the best fan submissions today on our Facebook page. Just because #MustangMonday is almost over, doesn’t mean the Mustang love has to stop! Feel free to post pictures of the P-51 or any airshow photo you have on our Facebook fan page anytime!

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Fan Submissions: Theme Week 17 – P-51 Mustang

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Thank you to all of our fans for submitting to our P-51 Mustang theme week! Another week with over 100 submissions and some of the best pictures we’ve seen from our fans yet! We posted some of our favorite P-51 Mustang photos throughout the week, and asked you to share some of your own shots to be featured right here on our blog. Check out just a sampling of the submissions in the slideshow below!

Do you have some photos you’d like to share? This week’s theme is Harriers! Got a great shot of an AV-8B or a Sea Harrier? If you would like to contribute to our next theme week, go to our Facebook page, like the page, and upload your photos to our wall!

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