Chad Hill has an incredible talent for capturing aviation lore with his artwork. From small beginnings, he has fast gained a strong reputation for the quality of his work (not to mention his generous spirit). And now, having paid his dues over many years of effort, he has earned some remarkable opportunities and experiences… including at Oshkosh this year. We thought our readers might enjoy hearing about some of these adventures, so without further ado…
My Week At Oshkosh 2022
by Chad Hill
EAA’s AirVenture convention in Oshkosh, Wisconsin is hallowed ground for any aircraft enthusiast. It is unlike any other setting in the aviation world for meeting so many interesting, like-minded people, reuniting with old friends, and making new ones, not to mention witnessing every conceivable kind of flying machine from the earliest days of flight through the bleeding edge of modern technology. For me, the big draw is vintage aviation and primarily the old military types we all know as ‘warbirds’.
My Dad, Gary Hill (USAF 366th TFW, Da Nang) and my uncle, Bob Hill (USAF 6461st Troop Carrier Squadron, Korea) took me to my first air show when I was six years old and, as a result, I spent much of my youth drawing pictures and building models of WWII aircraft. My love of art mingled with aviation and became a profession… Fast forward to 2007 and I had my first nose art commission, conceiving and painting the “Ol’ 927″ forward fuselage panels for the Commemorative Air Force’s B-24 Liberator when she came out of a major refit. This lead to the founding of my own company, Django Studios, in 2012, with a focus on the automotive aftermarket and vintage aviation. Those small beginnings have bloomed substantially over the past decade such that I now work with some 20 warbird organizations and museums in both the USA and UK.
Because of the great relationships with my clients, many of them now close friends, I have experienced some pretty amazing things. I traveled to Duxford, England to demonstrate painting during one of their air shows, painted original nose art on restored combat veteran aircraft, and even been flying in a P-51 Mustang four-ship formation alongside my 13 year old son. But perhaps my proudest achievement is working with the legendary ‘Bud’ Anderson.
For those who may not know, Clarence E. “Bud” Anderson is the highest ranking fighter ace still alive. As a young pilot in WWII, Anderson first trained on P-39 Airacobras and then flew P-51 Mustangs in combat over Europe with the 357th Fighter Group, where he was credited with 16 1/4 victories over enemy aircraft. After the war, Anderson became a test pilot at Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio. Some of the more interesting aircraft which he evaluated included the F-82 Twin Mustang and, later, the parasite fighters designed to be launched from – and retrieved by – a Convair B-36 Peacemaker in mid-flight. He then flew F-105 Thunderchief during the Vietnam War as commander of the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing. In 1972, after 30 years of service, Anderson retired as a colonel and moved back to Edwards AFB in California to take up a civilian career at McDonnell Aircraft Company’s Flight Test Facility, a vocation he continued until his final retirement in 1998. In January 2022, ‘Bud’ Anderson reached his centenary – yet another remarkable feat for this extraordinary gentleman.
I first met Bud during the Warbirds in Review presentation at Oshkosh in 2017, a wonderful opportunity made possible by Connie Bowlin with Scott and Kyle Guyette. I was asked to design an event program highlighting the aircraft and pilots in the presentations, so when AirVenture came around, my son and I got to hang around, meeting various veterans and aircraft owners. Bud Anderson was the first WWII fighter pilot that I had ever met in person. He was very kind to both my son and me, answering all of our many questions and taking photos with us. The next year, I wanted to design an illustration highlighting Bud and his WWII Mustang, “Old Crow”; this artwork ended up on the 2018 program cover and event posters! I was excited to show it to Bud, who loved it, and he graciously signed several copies of the program and posters for me. My son did a report on him for his history class at school, and Bud gave signed a copy of his book “To Fly And Fight” with an inscription especially for him. And every year since then, highlights of my AirVenture journey always include the moments I spend with Bud Anderson.
Oshkosh this year was even more special; hanging out with Bud and his son Jim and daughter Kitty Burlington every day for a few hours. At 100 years old, time is beginning to catch up with Col. Anderson, but sometimes you would never know it. His beaming smile is infectious, and he is always generous with his signature, willing to sign items for people who ask, answering questions and retelling his experiences.
As part of his 100th birthday celebration at AirVenture, Bud received a P-51 ride mid-week. At his age, sadly, climbing into a Mustang cockpit is a challenge; it took several people to get him safely and comfortably into the back seat. When he landed, he was all smiles, having had a great time! He waited patiently for the required help so he could exit the cockpit. It was a remarkable experience… the Mustang had a big crowd around it to welcome him back from his flight.
Another fascinating moment happened after the Warbirds In Review presentation featuring Bruce Winters’ combat veteran Messerschmitt Bf 109, recently restored by Midwest Aero Restorations. Bud wanted to walk around and inspect the aircraft, his former foe from the skies over Europe during WWII. Bruce Winters led him around the aircraft while they discussed the 109’s strengths and weaknesses and Bud’s experiences dogfighting with them. Being able to overhear a WWII veteran talking about their experiences is a remarkable privilege; Bruce and the whole Midwest Aero team were grateful to have such an opportunity with Bud in the presence of their prized aircraft. The crowds were especially slow to depart, wanting to witness a WWII veteran reconnecting with his past.
Bud had appointments all week during AirVenture, taking part in signings and giving talks. His Warbirds in Review Presentation was beyond packed, literally overflowing with people… so many, indeed, that it was hard to even get close enough to see anything but the Jumbotron! Among those present in the forum were Jack Roush and his P-51B painted to represent Bud Anderson’s Old Crow, Jim Hagedorn and his P-51D, also marked as Old Crow and the Commemorative Air Force’s John Cryier with the organization’s recently repainted P-39Q, wearing the markings of… you guessed it…Old Crow. The P-39 was Bud Anderson’s first aircraft type to bear that now famous name. Bud flew a P-39 with the 329th Fighter Squadron of the 328th Fighter Group at Hamilton Field (and then at Oakland Municipal Airport) from September 1942 until March 1943, and the CAF’s aircraft now represents his named aircraft from that period – Oshkosh being the airframe’s debut in this new livery. Bud was really appreciative of the P-39 repaint to honor his early flight career and told stories about his training in the type, then transitioning to the Mustang, and flying combat missions in Europe. He also explained to the crowd how he got a quarter kill – it happened late in his tour, by which point Anderson was a highly experienced and capable flight leader. Anderson had spotted a lone Heinkel He 111 bomber during one of his missions, a sitting duck for a man of Anderson’s accuracy, which a lesser man would have swooped in to claim full credit for. But rather than make short work of the bomber to boost his own tally, he saw an opportunity for his men to learn and gain confidence in their own fighting skills. So Anderson lead his Mustang four-ship in gunnery formations against the Heinkel, each of P-51 pilot taking turns to aim and fire at the ill-fated bomber, and each of them receiving a quarter share of the credit for the resulting victory. That is the kind of action which defines Bud Anderson, both as a man and a leader.
One of the great things about my job is that I have the ability to share history with others and make sure that the Greatest Generation and their accomplishments are remembered. I was proud to be able to work with Classic Racing Spirit in the UK for the design of two of their commemorative Bud Anderson-themed gin bottles, one of which is a limited edition and features labels which Bud signed. Another project which I created this year to help celebrate Bud’s 100th birthday involved a 46” wide, laser-cut aluminum P-51 Mustang profile marked as Old Crow, which Bud signed at AirVenture 2022. They were not easy to autograph because of the aluminum’s texture, but he signed 27 examples over the course of the week. We took photos together with piece #1, and this time it was me who signed it for Bud – thanking him for his inspiration, leadership and his friendship. Bud was so gracious and really effusive with his enthusiasm for the piece; that was the highlight of the week for me.
By now you must surely have figured out that I hold Bud Anderson in extremely high regard. He represents the greatest of the Greatest Generation for me. He was someone that I only read about as a kid while devouring every detail that I could find about WWII aviation history. Often overshadowed by his friend and fellow 357th Fighter Group member, the late Chuck Yeager, his accomplishments were no less significant. Over the years, after reading countless books by and about WWII aviators, I have noticed a common theme, that these fine men felt that they were not heroes, that they were just doing their job – Bud Anderson is no exception to that sentiment. His willingness to share his stories and experiences with younger generations, without any sense of ego coming across, is so typical of the man and so important. It was wonderful for me to witness his interactions with my own young son, in particular, as I try to share the wonders of aviation and the history of WWII with him. It has been one of my greatest joys to have had the good fortune to work with Bud on various projects, and to have become friends with him and his family in the process – that is priceless to me! All I can say is thank you!
For those interested in learning more about Col. Bud Anderson, his personal website HERE is a marvelous treasure-trove of details, and an absolute must for anyone with an interest in aviation history!
Many thanks to Chad Hill for this wonderful account of his time at Oshkosh this year. Chad is a remarkably talented artist – and we are incredibly grateful to him for creating our new Vintage Aviation News logo as well! To see more of his work, please click HERE!