Elena “Tinkerbell” DePree Reports:
Saturday’s dawn looked promising. Thick, white clouds with the sunlight peeking through as the sun came up. Pretty soon that blue Texas sky was at her full glory and we knew that it was going to be a good day for an airshow. Gates opened at 7:30 for the 50th Commemorative Air Force Airsho in Midland, Texas. The crowds started coming and the airplane crews started getting busy cleaning and answering the various questions from the crowd. Veterans came by, remembering their time….in the gunners seat….in a radio room. Several of the bombers added signatures to their bomb bay doors of a veteran who flew.
Being a woman working on a B-17 is not your everyday thing. I am honored and very fortunate to be able to talk about her and work on her. We shared the ramp with FiFi, the world’s only flying B-29 Superfortress; Maid in the Shade, Texas Raiders, and Yellow Rose. On Saturday morning, FiFi, Texas Raiders, Maid in the Shade, and Sentimental Journey each had revenue rides. The P-51 Mustang, Gunfighter, was also doing a brisk business of ride selling.
Rob Reider, the official airshow announcer, came by to say hello and that we would be in for a great show. The pilots had their briefing at 9:00 and we got all the rev rides done in time before the show started.
First in the awesome line up was Greg Shetterly. He wowed the crowds with his acrobatic antics and then was joined in the air by his son, Joe Shetterly. They flew some formation acro for a few minutes and then Joe took over and performed flawless acro moves in his nimble little airplane.
Lewis & Clark airshows put on a really cool display with their micro jet. When you see it, you instantly think of a James Bond movie. Justin Lewis, who is an A-10 combat veteran put the tiny jet through its paces as the crowd oohed and aahed.
Jan Collmer was next up and there was smoke all over the place during that performance. The crowd loved it!!
Andrew Wright of Carbon Fiber airshows rounded out the lineup of small, acrobatic airplanes. He tumbled and twisted his airplane to its limits and made you wonder what else he has up his sleeve for future shows.
All of a sudden, you heard the wailing of a siren. Wait a minute….we are getting invaded!!! I see Japanese Kates and Vals and Zeros…. Yeaaa, it’s one of ours!! A P-40 joined the fray to try and score a hit as it set its gunsights on an escaping Zero!!
TORA TORA TORA put on a spectacular display of aerial flying and the pyrotechnic specialists that were working with them made the ground shake. This years pilots consisted of Patrick Hutchins, Jim Ryan, Mark Allen, Mark Todd, Craig Hutain, Mike Anderson, Mike Burke, and Dan Reedy.
As TORA landed, all of the bombers got ready to go. There was the 2 B-17’s, 3 B-25’s, 2 A-26’s, the B-24, and the B-29. We flew several photo passes with our bomb bay doors open and one high speed banana pass!! As I looked back one time, I saw FiFi drop and A-bomb on Midland. The bomb squad really blew up a big one for that feat!!! As we landed, I see a flash of yellow and silver pull up and to the right.
Thom Richard was giving the crowd a taste of how fast an Unlimited Reno Racer can go. He had his highly modified P-51 Precious Metal at the show.
As the show wound down and the crews buttoned up their airplanes, thoughts turned to supper and sleep.
People don’t realize how much work go into keeping your airplane clean, checking the oil and gas, and the all over climbing around on it. You are tired and hungry at the end of the day. All you want is a hot meal and a clean bed, but let a little girl or little boy come by with a question or asking for a picture, and all of that goes right out the window. That girl or boy (or man or woman) will get that picture and all of their questions answered no matter how long it takes. For you see, it is those people who come to see us and it is those little boys and girls that we are going to try to pass the wisdom and education of flying the warbirds to. We will one day pass the torch and when we do, we want that person to love it just as much as we do. Keep ‘em flying!!!