The Golden Age Air Museum held their annual, vintage style air show during the Labor Day Weekend. The museum’s home, a small grass strip complete with old-time hangars and outbuildings in picturesque countryside near Bethel, Pennsylvania, is a throw back to a different era, and a major part of the experience. This year’s air show theme was dubbed The Fokker Scourge! and featured four replica Fokker Dr.I Triplanes, fighter planes which were feared by all who faced them in battle during WWI.
The Four Fokker Triplane replicas in attendance included John Elliott’s example, sporting the red livery made famous by Baron Manfred Richthofen (aka The Red Baron), the Golden Age Air Museum’s own example wearing a livery commemorating the Dr.I which Lothar Von Richthofen (Manfred’s brother) flew, Fred Murrin’s Dr.I wearing Werner Voss’s colors, and of course, Chris Hill’s N23917 with its striking black and white markings. While these aircraft are replicas, each of them, barring Elliott’s, was powered by a WWI-vintage rotary engine – a remarkable occurrence given how rare these century-old engines are today.
While the main focus was clearly given to the Triplanes, several other WWI-era designs were in attendance alongside other antique aircraft. The Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome flew their rotary-powered Sopwith Pup replica down from their base in upstate New York, joining the Golden Age Air Museum’s example. Two 7/8th scale Nieuport 23’s, painted in Belgian markings, also took part (flown by Rick Bennet and Tom Martin). A 1918 Curtiss Jenny and a 1917 German Rumpler biplane, both owned by the Golden Age Air Museum also flew.
The Antique/Classic aircraft category had a large showing as well. Obviously, the Golden Age Air Museum contributed a number of these, including the following: a 1926 Winstead Special, 1928 Monocoupe, 1929 Waco GX (which was giving rides), 1930 Great Lakes, 1931 Bird CK, 1932 Pietenpol, 1932 Taylor E-2 Cub, 1970 Breezy, and a 1936 Aeronca C3. Furthermore, a Fleet 7, Neil Baughman’s 1944 TaylorCraft, a 1947 Aeronca 7BCM, a 1945 Stearman (Boeing) Kaydet, and a 1929 Waco GX (also giving rides).
A couple of aerobatic performers also attended the show. Paul Daugherty, main proprietor of the Golden Age Air Museum, flew his Christen Eagle aerobatic display – showing just how far biplane development has really come! And Mark Meredith brought his Super Chipmunk Chippie, putting on some vintage aerobatics in this beautifully restored aircraft.
Each day’s event was fantastic! Saturday turned out to be the better show day, as aircraft mechanical issues and incoming weather hindered the Sunday flying. However, each day featured Paul and Mark flying their aerobatic routines. There were subtle differences in the performances each day though, especially in the comedy routines. On Saturday, they set up a bit throughout the entire show with a “professor and his experimental machines” and a group of 1920’s era cops pitted against a gang mobsters, whose leader “Two Face Tortellini” had escaped from prison. The latter shenanigans culminated with “Two Face Tortellini” stealing the professor’s RLU-1 Breezy, which he then jumped into as it taxied off. The comedy team had tied a dummy to the Breezy’s underside, pretending (for the crowd) that it was actually the “Professor” hanging on, while Two Face Tortellini flew around (eventually dropping the Professor). Tortellini then landed and taxied into a building, which flipped its storefront sign from “Flower Shop” to “Speak Easy”. He was, of course, promptly arrested. After the arrest, four aircraft took off to for a “bomb” drop. The Stearman, Fleet, Bird CK, and Waco all dropped bags of flour onto an “illegal liquor still” in the cornfield. It was all really entertaining for the crowd!
A secondary comedy routine on Saturday involved five aircraft taking part in a “Drunken Air Race”. The 1932 Pietenpol, 1932 Taylor E-2 Cub, 1936 Aeronaca C3 and the 1944 Taylorcraft all took off after the pilots undressed and flew two circuits. However, one of the drunken pilots flew a bright pink 1947 Aeronaca 7BCM, including its fake cinder block tied to the gear, in a nice comedy routine during the “race”. Sunday’s comedy routine was similar to the beloved flying farmer routine; it featured the same bright pink 1947 Aeronaca 7BCM used in the Drunken Air Race.
Each day also featured a Dolce Dance, where the Fleet and Jenny (on Saturday) and a Fokker Dr.1 flown by John Elliot (on Sunday) first dropped rolls of toilet paper from their aircraft and then tried to cut the falling ribbon as many times as they could on its way down. Sunday also featured a balloon pop which included the 1930 Great Lakes, 1928 Monocoupe, and the 1926 Winstead Special.
The WWI re-enactments were, of course, the show’s main draw. On Saturday, the Nieuports, Pups, and all four Dr.Is were able to fly and perform some passes. On Sunday, John Elliot flew the show opener, but then headed for home due to the incoming inclement weather. Unfortunately Chris Hill and Fred Murrin had mechanical issues crop up with their aircraft, which prevented these Fokkers from flying. The Nieuports and Pups, however, all flew several passes, as did the Jenny and Rumpler. The Sopwith Pups attacked the Rumpler, which prompted Golden Age’s Fokker Triplane to take off and engage one of Sopwith Pups (also from the Golden Age Air Museum) and shoot it down. The dogfight started at altitude, but they did a great job of twisting down to low level before the Dr.I finished off the Pup.
It really was a fabulous event though. If you ever have a chance to visit this wonderful museum nestled in the Pennsylvania countryside, I highly recommend that you do!
Many thanks indeed to Aaron Haase for this air show report… we hope you have enjoyed it as much as we did!