Another fantastic AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, is now in the history books. The World’s Greatest Aviation Celebration saw the increase of several key elements in 2018. Attendance at EAA’s annual event was an all-time high, roughly 601,000, or nearly two percent above 2017’s record.
More than 10,000 aircraft arrived at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh and other airports in east-central Wisconsin. At Wittman alone, there were 19,588 aircraft operations in the 11-day period from July 20-30, which is an average of approximately 134 takeoffs or landings per hour.
Aircraft taking part at Wittman totaled 2,979, which was the second straight year above 2,900. By category, the aircraft included 1,160 homebuilt aircraft (a 5% increase), 1,094 vintage airplanes, 377 warbirds (a 7% rise), 185 ultralights and light-sport aircraft, 75 seaplanes, 22 rotorcraft, 52 aerobatic aircraft, and 14 hot air balloons.
EAA Chairman Jack Pelton said, “A ‘perfect’ event may be unattainable, but AirVenture 2018 came about as close as one could imagine. The combination of outstanding programs, aircraft variety, a robust economy, and good weather combined to complement the efforts of our staff and 5,000 volunteers throughout the grounds. The week was upbeat, exciting, and filled with many ‘Only at Oshkosh’ moments.”
AirVenture never fails to bring rare and unique acts and events, and this year was no exception. For warbird enthusiasts, the only disappointment was the lack of the highly-anticipated XP-82 Twin Mustang. Unfortunately the airplane did not make Oshkosh, because it had not yet made its first flight; however, warbird enthusiasts were delighted by many other amazing vintage military aircraft.
The undisputed stars of the warbird show were, without a doubt, Jim Slattery’s brace of Grumman F7F Tigercats, which were presented in flight by EAA Warbirds of America pilot Connie Bowlin and Stew Dawson. These classic WWII-era naval fighters also featured in Thursday’s Warbirds in Review presentation.
Notes: Sequential serial numbers, built by Fighters Rebuild out of Chino and WestPac
One of the themes of AirVenture 2018 was the Royal Air Force Centenary. Several types represented the RAF, including Vintage Wings of Canada’s Spitfire Mk IX TE294 brought down from Gatineau, Quebec by Dave Hadfield on behalf of owner Mike Potter. This Spitfire is a stunning representative of the breed, and was largely restored by Vintech Aero, Vintage Wings in-house restoration shop. She won Reserve Grand Champion at AirVenture 2018, which is no small feat, given the competition she faced. Spitfire TE294, marked as Y2-K, honors the legacy of RCAF 442 Squadron pilot Flt Lt Walter Arnold “Rosie” Roseland, who gave his life for King and Country over France on July 13, 1944. For more on the life of “Rosie” Roseland, please click HERE to read the beautifully written and illustrated Vintage Wings of Canada article by Dave O’Malley.
Another jewel honoring the Royal Air Force was the oldest flying jet in the world: Gloster Meteor T7 WA591. This recently imported aeroplane is owned and operated by the World Heritage Air Museum. The appearance of the Meteor was especially poignant, due to the tragic loss of her owner, Marty Tibbitts, in the crash of his deHavilland Venom shortly after departing for Oshkosh on July 20th. It is an enormous testament to the spirit of Tibbitts family and friends that the Meteor made her appearance.
Two more new warbirds debuted at AirVenture: the stunning P-51C LOPE’S HOPE 3rd and John O’Connor’s F4U-7 Corsair (marked as an AU-1).
AirCorps Aviation presented P-51 LOPE’S HOPE 3rd, which flew for the first time following a total rebuild on October 16, 2017. This is the third, highly authentic Mustang restoration that AirCorps has completed since 2011. This restoration is based upon the remains of P-51C 43-24907, whereas the original LOPE’S HOPE 3rd was 42-103585. Texas Flying Legends Museum chose to restore this Mustang in Lt. Donald S. Lopez’s color scheme to honor his service in World War Two, and his later career which included flying as a test pilot in early jets after World War Two, and his contributions to the aviation community as Deputy Director of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. The “new” LOPE’S HOPE 3rd won the Grand Champion-WWII Award, confirming the outstanding quality that goes into anything that comes from AirCorps Aviation’s restoration shop.
For Corsair lovers, John O’Connor’s F4U-7 made its debut after the recent application of a new paint scheme honoring Lt Col John Bolt, who flew with VMF-214 “Black Sheep” Squadron. Bolt, already an ace in World War Two, flew F-86s with the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War, scoring six kills, including two in one day. O’Connor’s Corsair is painted to represent an extinct AU-1 Corsair variant, making for a unique and appealing scheme that demanded attention in AirVenture’s Warbird Alley.
Another welcome participant at Oshkosh AirVenture 2018 was the extraordinarily rare Dayton-Wright DH.4 Liberty. Dating all the way back to 1916, this aircraft type, a variant of the deHavilland DH.4, can be considered as America’s first warbird, since it was the first American-built aircraft to see combat in WWI. This particular example was built in 1918, and was one of a number of examples which the legendary Frank Tallman and Paul Mantz acquired from U.S. government surplus after WWI. Dorian Walker was responsible for the rebuild. It is a simply magnificent authentic example of an aviation era that has almost vanished from our skies. It is down to people like Walker and his Friends of Jenny organization that we still have a few original aircraft from WWI capable of flying.
The “Heavy Weight” category saw the participation of three Skyraiders and several C-47s. Cavanaugh Flight Museum brought its Douglas AD-6/A-1H Skyraider and the Douglas AD-5W/EA-1E Skyraider, while Paul Wood’s Warbird Heritage Foundation brought its Douglas AD-1 Skyraider. Cavanaugh Flight Museum had recently refinished their A-1H Skyraider in its original USAF Vietnam War combat colors. Warbird Digest delivers the whole story inside Issue #79, click HERE.
Thanks to the D-Day Squadron, AirVenture saw the participation of a large number of C-47s and DC-3s. At one point there were 12 Gooney Birds on the field. The D-Day Squadron is helping to organize a mass flyover of vintage Douglas DC-3s and C-47 Skytrains over the beaches of Normandy in France during the June 2019 events that will commemorate the thousands of soldiers who fought and died during D-Day. C-47s led the Allied invasion during D-Day, dropping paratroopers behind enemy lines late at night to help prepare for the beach landings that took place on the morning of June 6. The flyover will be part of the larger Daks Over Normandy event, which will feature DC-3s and C-47s from other countries.
Here are more photos provided by David F. Brown Photography and George Land.
David F. Brown Photography