The Culpeper Airfest, dubbed the “best little air show in the east” took place under glorious autumn skies on Saturday, October 10th. While it may not have had the heavy iron of a major air show, it was still filled with marvelous, rare aircraft on display, and some fabulous flying. The organizers, event staff and performers all worked incredibly hard to create an intimate, and enjoyable day of fun for the 10,000 or so spectators who came to take it all in. For such a ‘small’ show, there were some exceptional acts in attendance, such as the magnificent biplanes from the nearby Bealeton Flyng Circus, Art Nalls with his unique, airworthy Sea Harrier, Larry Kelley and his B-25J ‘Panchito’, former Space Shuttle pilot and F-14 test pilot Joe Edwards with his T-28B Trojan aerobatics routine, the CAF National Capitol Wing’s TBM Avenger, a pair of P-51D Mustangs, two dozen or so T-6/SNJ Texans, two additional T-28s, a T-34, Yaks and CJs, as well as numerous L-birds and several high performance aerobatic aircraft as well.Rides were on offer in several of the aircraft, including B-25J ‘Panchito’ and John Corradi’s magnificent deep red WACO YMF.
The locally-based National Capitol Wing of the Commemorative Air Force also put their recently-restored Grumman TBM-3E Avenger and L-5 Sentinel into the skies as well, while their BT-13 Valiant sat proudly on the tarmac, minus its engine, which is still in need of funding for overhaul (anyone wishing to help should click HERE). The CAF Old Dominion Squadron sent their OY-1 Sentinel as well.
Based with the growing Delaware Aviation Museum in Georgetown, Delaware, Panchito is the star exhibit. Larry Kelley has flown the Mitchell bomber on the airshow circuit continuously for well over a decade now, and she’s a regular attendee at air shows all up and down the US East Coast. She attends Oshkosh every year, and often campaigns on behalf of the Disabled American Veterans charity, an organization which helps get wounded US veterans the care they are entitled too, and a cause which Larry Kelley believes in deeply. Kelley has also worked tirelessly to support the remembrance of the Doolittle Raiders; playing a major role in organizing many of the reunion events in their name for many years. Panchito has also been offering donation rides at air shows in recent years. Flying in a B-25 bomber is an extraordinary experience. The B-25 is a powerful aircraft, with a much more spirited flight envelope than a four-engined heavy. People interested in flying aboard the aircraft should check the Delaware Aviation Museum’s website for details.
Panchito also regularly works with the US Navy’s test pilot’s school at Patuxent River.
Two dozen aircraft took to the skies close to the end of the show, with sixteen Texans forming up for a close formation flypast. Several L-birds were in the mix, as well as a pair of T-28 Trojans.
WarbirdsNews wishes to offer our thanks to all of the organizers, volunteers and performers who made the Culpeper Airfest such a spectacular success!