2018 Ray Fagen Memorial Air Show
by John Chvatal
There aren’t many air shows in the Upper Midwest that I look forward to with as much anticipation as the Ray Fagen Memorial Air Show, organized biannually by the Fagen Fighters WWII Museum in Granite Falls, Minnesota. The last time they held the event was in 2015, but scheduled runway resurfacing delayed the next iteration a year until 2018.
About a week out, I started paying attention to the weather forecast for the weekend of the show. It wasn’t looking too good, with predictions of rain for both Saturday the 16th and Sunday the 17th of June. Even on the Saturday morning, I had doubts that the rain would stay away. While there were periodic showers until around 1 pm, thankfully the skies cleared up just in time for the afternoon air show to take place.
Despite the inclement weather, the show was well attended. In fact, attendance numbers were up in comparison to 2015. Amongst the visitors were 41 WWII veterans, although the heat and humidity persuaded others it was safer to stay home. Of the aircraft on hand, there were 32 warbirds, coming from 12 different states for everyone to enjoy, although the weather prevented a further 19 warbirds from coming.
Aside from the windy conditions and temperatures reaching into the mid-90s, it was an enjoyable show which included numerous warbird flights as well as performances from Greg Shelton Airshows, Younkin Airshows, and the Aeroshell Aerobatic Team. Outside of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, it is a rarity in the Upper Midwest to have warbirds performing low level passes with pyro effects. The only real disappointment for me was not seeing the museum’s rare Curtiss Jenny fly.
The FM-2 Wildcat made a spirited display, but during one of its passes I heard the prop pitch make a rapid change. I asked Evan Fagen, the pilot, what happened. He said that the Wildcat experienced a runaway prop, which forced him to curtail his show and land as soon as he could. Because the propeller suddenly went into low pitch at a high power setting, the engine rpm far exceeded normal operating limits and let out a roar… much the way a car’s engine can do when you accidentally shift from fourth gear down into first instead of fifth. As a safety precaution, Fagen will be pulling the engine along with the propeller for inspection and possible repair.
While this air show isn’t as large as others, the fantastic atmosphere more than made up for it. Since the last time I was there, the museum has installed a period-correct water tower on site which originally came from nearby Pennock, Minnesota. Combined with the vintage air traffic control tower and a new-build hangar (with a design that harkens back to the early 1940s), you can’t help but feel more “connected” to WWII history. It is the kind of intimate air show which everyone interested in aviation history should attend, as you really get a chance to fully appreciate the ambiance of a bygone age, and that’s rarely possible at larger events. So make your plans for 2021, when the next Ray Fagen Memorial Air Show will take place!
Here is the list of aircraft and performers for this year’s air show:
P-51D Mustang 45-11381 Old Crow – Ray Fowler – (Roush Aviation – Livonia, MI)
P-51D Mustang 44-73264 Gunfighter – pilot: Larry Lumpkin – Lincoln, NE – CAF Great Planes Wing, Council Bluffs, IA
P-51D Mustang 44- 74942 Petie 2nd – pilot: Tony Buechler – P-51 Petie 2nd – Elm Grove, WI
F4U-4B Corsair Bu.97359 pilot: Trent Latshaw – Corsair – OK
F4U-4 Corsair Bu.97388 – pilot: Paul Ehlen (Wings of the North Museum– Eden Prairie, MN)
TBM-3E Avenger Bu.53818 – pilot: Gary Applebaum (Wings of the North Museum – Eden Prairie, MN)
AT-7C Navigator 43-33403 – pilot: Matt Younkin – Younkin Airshows –
AT-6G Texan 49-3449 Popeye – pilot: Bruce Olson – Eden Prairie, MN
SNJ-4 Bu.27754 Texan – pilot: John Bormes – Aberdeen, SD
Harvard Mk.II RCAF 2784 – pilot: Harrison Thompson – Brookings, SD
AT-6D Texan 42-85696 – pilot: John Sinclair (Wings of the North Museum – Eden Prairie, MN)
T-6G Texan 51-14791 – pilot: Mark Henley – Emelle, AL – Aeroshell Aerobatic Team #1
SNJ-4 Texan Bu.51971 – pilot: Brian Regan – AZ – Aeroshell Aerobatic Team #2
AT-6F Texan 44-82489 – pilot: Steve Gustufson – LA – Aeroshell Aerobatic Team #3
AT-6C Texan 42-4072 – pilot: Jimmie Fordham – LA – Aeroshell Aerobatic Team #4
BT-13A Valiant 41-9616 – pilot: Kurt Muhle – Columbus, NE
N2S-3 Kaydet Bu.38272 (mod. to 450 Super Stearman) – pilot: Greg Shelton – wing walker Ashley Shelton
L-2M Grasshopper 43-26383 – pilot: Mike Hamernik – Lincoln, NE
L-5B Sentinel 44-17191 – CAF Joe Foss Squadron – Sioux Falls, SD
Fagen Fighters WWII Museum Aircraft:
P-51D Mustang 44-72051 Sweet Revenge – pilot: Ron Fagen
P-51D Mustang 44-63864 Twilight Tear – Larry Cavanaugh
FM-2 Wildcat Bu.86774 – pilot: Evan Fagen – Wildcat, P-38 Scat III
P-38L Lightning 44-27231 Scat III – pilot: Evan Fagen
B-25J Mitchell 44-86698 Paper Doll – pilot: Evan Fagen, co-pilot Chris Howard
Kittyhawk Mk.I AK753 Desert Shark – pilot: Pete Johnson
P-40K Warhawk 42-10083 Aleutian Tiger – pilot: Ray Fowler
BT-13A Valiant 41-21386 – pilot: Jim Haggart
Cornell FH950 – pilot: Chris Howard
PT-22 Recruit 41-15277 – pilot: Keith Woods
Ercoupe N99741 (formerly owned by Ray Fagen) – pilot: Tim Howard
The author would like to thank Evan Fagen for granting him access to the flight line so he could capture some of the pre-show activities. He would also like to thank the Fagen family for all they do to preserve WWII history and to the volunteers who made this show a success. He looks forward with much anticipation for the 2020 show!
WarbirdsNews would like to thank John Chvatal for this report and his great images. We would also like to thank Matt McVicker for contributing some of the images here too. John Chvatal is a freelance web developer and aviation photographer, and for those interested in seeing more of his work, please visit his site at www.johnchvatal.com