by Tom Pawlesh
The National Warplane Museum held its annual air show over the weekend of July 11th/12th at Geneseo in upstate New York. Weather for “The Greatest Show on Turf” was absolutely perfect: 85F and sunny each day.
Geneseo is more than just an air show. There is something for everyone: from aircraft displays to re-enactors, to antique cars and fire trucks, to food vendors. There was even a USAF MQ-9 Reaper drone simulator offering a little stick time. Kids activities included a climbing wall, bounce house, Kiddie-Commando Obstacle Course and a chance to build their very own DC-3 from Lego bricks. There is more than enough offered at Geneseo to entertain the whole family.
The entire airfield is open to spectators so there is a lot of interaction between the pilots and the crowd. Spectators are allowed to wander into the hangar and watch the performers prepare their aircraft for the day. I found Rob Holland sitting on the hangar floor making repairs to his landing gear and casually talking with spectators. No other air show has this kind of intimacy! When aircraft must fly, a crew of dedicated volunteers and Civil Air Patrol cadets direct the crowd to a safe distance, but still give spectators close up views as the pilots start and taxi to the runway.
This year’s show featured warbirds, aerobatics and jet demonstrations. Rob Holland flew aerobatic performances in his MXS-RH; Kent Pietsch in his Interstate Cadet ‘Jelly Belly‘ and Jerry ‘Jive’ Kerby in his RV-8A. Mark Murphy, Andrew McKenna and Scott Yoak thrilled the crowd with aerobatic displays in their P-51 Mustangs, Greg Shelton in the F4F Wildcat and John “Skipper’ Hyle in his Harvard Mk 4.
Mark ‘Crunchy’ Burgess raced over the corn fields in the Warrior Aviation L-39C Albatross and Art Nalls performed his unique routine in the only privately owned, airworthy Sea Harrier. Although the L-39 operated out of Rochester airport, Art Nalls flew his ‘SHAR’ from the grass strip at Geneseo and made some impressive take offs and landings with the downward-pointing exhaust nozzles on his jet fighter tossing dust and grass every which way. Art Nalls in his Sea Harrier with Greg Shelton in the Wildcat also teamed up for a Marine Corps Heritage Flight as well.
Other aircraft entertaining the audience at Geneseo included B-25’s ‘Miss Hap‘, ‘Take-off Time‘ and ‘Panchito‘. Numerous T-6 Texans and Stearman biplanes, BT-13 Valiants and other trainers and liaison aircraft did fly-bys. TBM Avenger ‘She’s the Boss‘ with Charlie Lynch at the helm simulated the war in the Pacific alongside Ken Laird in a Japanese Val replica and B-25’s… accompanied of course by suitably fierce pyrotechnic explosions on the ground! The National Warplane Museum’s D-Day veteran Douglas C-47 ‘Whiskey 7‘, flown by Chris Polhemus and John Lindsay, was also on hand making parachute drops, fly-bys and offering rides after the show. Incredibly, the DC-3 ‘Flabob Express’ flew all the way from California for the show. Many other vintage civil and military aircraft were also on static display.
A Salute to Veterans of all services from the United States and Canada occurred during the air show. The announcer invited all veterans to stand at show center for proper recognition by the crowd. While the American and Canadian National Anthems echoed over the Genesee Valley, three P-51 Mustangs performed a Missing Man formation overhead to salute those servicemen who did not return.
The All Veteran Group made parachute jumps with Mike Elliott, a decorated veteran. Elliott has jumped three times with 41st President George Bush Sr. Last June, on the 70th Anniversary of D-Day in Normandy, Elliott also jumped with Helen Patton, granddaughter of General George Patton.
In past years there has been a hangar dance with a big band on Saturday evening. This year there was an excellent fund raising buffet to benefit First Responders such as the local Fire Department, Emergency Medical Services and Law Enforcement. A marvelous twilight air show followed the buffet, complete with fireworks and pyro-musical display.
I cannot say enough about spending the entire weekend in Geneseo during the air show. Friday the field is open to the public for aircraft arrival and performer practice day. Arrivals day is far more laid back than the formal air show days on the weekend, and being a week day, there’s also a smaller crowd. Occurring locally over the same weekend as the air show is the Geneseo Summer Festival. This fun family event includes music, food and crafts and evening concerts with fireworks. All in all, the National Warplane Museum and the town of Geneseo have a lot to offer and would make for a great summer weekend destination.
Special thanks to Charlie Lynch, Craig Wadsworth and John Ricciotti for their help with the air-to-air photography. Many thanks also to Austin and Naomi Wadsworth, Graham Cassano, Mike Raftus and all the volunteers for making this years air show so memorable for me.
WarbirdsNews wishes to thank Tom Pawlesh for his words and superb photographs, and we feel sure the rest of you will feel the same way!