Warbird Highlights From 2021

Photo by Katsuhiko Tokunaga
Aircorps Art Dec 2019


Despite the many hardships we have all endured this past year, 2021 did hold a number of positives for those of us with a passion for vintage aviation; this includes the return of major air shows, not to mention significant progress and even first flights for a number of restoration projects. We at WarbirdsNews have endeavored to keep our readers informed of as many developments as possible, with exclusive reports of major milestones in the warbird and aviation museum community. Although we couldn’t cover everything, it has been a remarkable year of growth for us. We are always looking for new leads, as well as writers/photographers who are able to provide coverage. With your help, we can have an even better 2022!

Below are some of the highlights from 2021…

JANUARY

Yankee Air Museum’s B-25 Re-Paint Project Complete

The Yankee Air Museum’s B-25D Mitchell 43-3634, long known as Yankee Warrior, received a new paint scheme transforming the airframe into the same colors she wore when emerging factory-fresh from North American Aviation’s assembly plant in Kansas City 77 years earlier. The airplane now reflects her true role in America’s history as a combat veteran flying out of Corsica in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations. Click HERE to read the article.

Yankee Air Museum’s B-25D in her new markings. (photo via YAM)

CAF Minnesota Wing Celebrating the 50th Anniversary

2021 marked the 50th anniversary for the Commemorative Air Force (CAF) Minnesota Wing, one of the most active units within the organization. The unit formed on July 3rd, 1971 at historic Fleming Field in South Saint Pau, Minnesota, becoming the very first charter unit of the CAF’s National Headquarters Wing. Originally a maintenance unit, it supported the CAF’s mission and maintained its ever-growing fleet of vintage military aircraft, vehicles, and historic artifacts. Click HERE to read the article.

Photo via Amy Lauria – CAF Minnesota Wing.

FEBRUARY

RAAF Re-Establishes No. 100 Squadron as Air Force Heritage Squadron

The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) No. 100 Squadron re-formed, becoming the organization’s Air Force Heritage Squadron. The unit operates from two locations, RAAF Base Point Cook and Temora, with the purpose of helping celebrate the RAAFs centenary as an independent air arm. Click HERE to read the article.

An F/A-18F Super Hornet from No. 6 Squadron during a demonstration for the Centenary of Military Aviation Air Show held at Point Cook. ( Image credit CPL Glen McCarthy © Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence)

CAF Dixie Wing Becomes CAF Airbase Georgia

The Commemorative Air Force (CAF) Dixie Wing announced its official recognition and transition into CAF Airbase Georgia on February 18th, 2021. The group achieved the coveted designation of ‘Airbase’ within the CAF due to its tremendous growth and award-winning accomplishments during the previous 35 years. Click HERE to read the article.

The CAF Dixie Wing hangar in Peachtree City. (Photo by Tony Granata)

MARCH

CAF Inaugurates The Henry B. Tippie National Aviation Education Center

At the end of March, the Commemorative Air Force inaugurated the Henry B. Tippie National Aviation Education Center. Named in honor of a World War II veteran, the Center is the flagship of the CAF’s American Airpower Heritage Museum. Click HERE to read the article.

Just a few of the CAF aircraft posing in front of the new Victor N. Agather Hangar at the Henry B. Tippie National Aviation Education Center at the Dallas HQ. Photo by Gary Daniels

Japan’s Phantom Phinal Pharewell

Although the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II is not technically a warbird at present, since the type still lingers in active use within a few of the world’s air arms, we at WarbirdsNews feel that almost anything related to the ‘mighty smoking Rhino’ deserves coverage. We felt sure that our readers would be interested to hear about the events at Gifu Air Base in Japan. On March 17, 2021, the three remaining F-4EJ Phantom assigned to the Japan Air Self-Defense Force’s Air Development and Test Wing made their final sortie. Click HERE to read the article.

Photo by Katsuhiko Tokunaga

APRIL

Masters Of The Air Has Finally Started Production

Masters of the Air, the third WWII-inspired television miniseries from producers Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanksofficially began filming this year, as indicated via an Instagram post from series director Cary Fukunaga. Previous installments include Band of Brothers (2001) and The Pacific (2010).   Click HERE to read the article.

Photo by Nick Taylor

Jim “Pee Wee” Martin’s 100th Birthday Jump Fest

World War II veteran Jim “Pee Wee” Martin celebrated his 100th birthday near his home in Xenia, Ohio, with distinguished leaders, his family, and multiple generations of his friends. Events during the festivities April 23-25 featured a jump fest with historically accurate reenactors to honor Pee Wee, the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), and the Army’s history as a whole. Click HERE to read the article.

MAY

Paul Allen’s Project Aircraft Put Up For Sale

With the untimely passing of the legendary Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen in October 2018, the historical aviation community lost a hugely significant benefactor. Numerous airframes from his collection which had been slated for restoration were put up for sale. The world’s two most prominent warbird brokers, Platinum Fighter Sales and Courtesy Aircraft Sales each have a selection on their books. Click HERE to read the article.

The Flying Heritage & Combat Armor Museum’s P-51D Mustang (image via FH&CAM)

Sixth Annual TBM Avenger Reunion Delivers Despite Bad Weather

Despite the irreverence of Mother Nature, which forced the cancellation of Saturday’s events, the Sixth Annual TBM Reunion and Salute to Veterans was largely successful. Activities on Thursday, May 13th, provided many opportunities for patient observers to capture images of warbird arrivals, followed by a Friday full of flying, food, and friends. Click HERE to read the article.


JUNE

English Electric Canberra TT.18 WJ680 Flies

After a significant effort over a number of years, the Temora Aviation Museum successfully performed a test flight with their English Electric Canberra TT.18 WJ680 on June 27th, 2021. One of 11 aircraft in the RAAF’s No.100 Squadron Temora Historic Flight collection, the aircraft had last flown on June 5th, 2010. The flight took place at the museum’s home airport in Temora, New South Wales, just 150 miles or so north west of Australia’s capital city, Canberra. Click HERE to read the article.

The Canberra made a glorious sight in the air. This TT.18 is the only active example in Australia, and one of just four of the breed currently airworthy anywhere in the world. (photo by Matieu Macey)

Military Aviation Museum’s Virginia Warbird Weekend

“Welcome to the South Pacific!” – standing in a sweat-soaked flight suit in the midst of our encampment with its 48 star garrison flag snapping proudly in the stiff breeze above our heads, this was our greeting to visitors during the Military Aviation Museum’s first “Virginia Warbird Weekend” held on the 19th and 20th of June, 2021. Click HERE to read the article.

JULY

Southampton City Council Backs Plans For Spitfire Monument

After a Southampton City Council meeting, councilors offered their strategic support for a project to create a monument honoring the Supermarine Spitfire, the legendary fighter aircraft which took flight for the first time at the city’s airport. Based in Mayflower Park, the project has been the subject of conversations for years after first receiving planning permission back in 2014. The monument will recognize those who designed, built, and flew the Spitfire in World War II and should heighten the significance of aSouthampton’s heritage, both nationally and internationally. Click HERE to read the article.

Super Sabre Magic, Dean Cutshall’s F-100 Returns

On Tuesday, July 2oth, our own James Church, aka “The Hun Hunter”, had the opportunity to witness Dean “Cutter” Cutshall flying his North American F-100F Super Sabre, 56-3948 (N2011V); the following is his report. Click HERE to read the article.


AUGUST

Thunder Over Michigan 2021 Air Show Report

The Yankee Air Museum’s Thunder Over Michigan air show took place in Ypsilanti, Michigan over the weekend of August 7th/8th 2021. Infrastructure construction along the airport’s east side coupled with the USAF Thunderbirds staging from Selfridge forced this year’s event into a hybrid drive-in format for visitors, who could watch the show from their vehicles, but also walk around a static ramp area to meet aircrew and view some of the aircraft up close. The air show itself was spectacular. Click HERE to read the article.

Macchi MB-326K Pilots Receive Type Rating

Renzo Catellani has much to celebrate, as he and his team at Volafenice bring a new shape and sound to civilian warbird operations in Italian skies. We wish them much success in spreading their wings and encouraging the growth of vintage aviation flights in Italy and elsewhere! Click HERE to read the article.

The Aermacchi MB-326K on take of from Reggio Emilia airport. Photo by Andrea Torelli via Volafenice

SEPTEMBER

North Queensland Warbirds’ F4U-1D Corsair – Ready to Fly!

As regular readers will know, we have been following the airworthy rebuild of combat-veteran Vought F4U-1D Corsair BuNo.82460 at Mareeba, near the city of Cairns in northern Queensland, Australia for some years now. By mid-September, Mike Spaulding’s team had completed the aircraft’s restoration. At the time, they were only awaiting a thaw in Australia’s pandemic-related travel restrictions for the selected test pilot to arrive and perform the aircraft’s first flight… Click HERE to read the article.

An engine test underway on Mike Spaulding’s rare, combat-veteran F4U-1D Corsair in Mareeba during the afternoon of September 7th, 2021. (photo by Jonathan Williams)

More Little Lambs – Baa Baa Black Sheep Revisited

Back in 2013, Warbird Digest (Issue#49) published an article by Stephen Chapis entitled Poor Little Lambs which detailed the airframe history for each of the eight Corsairs which appeared in the television series Baa Baa Black Sheep. The article also included never-before-published anecdotes from four of the pilots who flew those wonderful Bent-Wing Birds across our television screens during the course of 36 episodes between September 1976 and April 1978. Click HERE to read the article.

Baa Baa Black Sheep set, FG-1D on final, circa 1976- Photo James H. Farmer

Paris-Villaroche Air Legend – Air Show Report

The Paris-Villaroche Air Legend air show has been running since 2018, and the third iteration of this superb event took place over the weekend of September 11th/12th, 2021 at the historic Melun Villaroche Aerodrome near the town of Melun, just southeast of Paris, France. Click HERE to read the article.

The Patrouille de France flying above Red Bull’s magnificent P-38L Lightning. (photo by Nigel Hitchman)


OCTOBER

Obie O’Brien Heritage Flight

On October 24, 2021, personnel schedules, weather, and aircraft readiness combined perfectly in Virginia Beach, Virginia to allow Korean War Corsair pilot, Obie O’Brien, to reunite with his actual wartime mount. When Obie and his daughter Erin arrived at the Military Aviation Museum (MAM), where Obie was (and still is) known as The Corsair Guy, “his” F4U-4 (BuNo. 97359) sat at ramp center right next to FG-1D (BuNo. 92508), the museum’s own Corsair in which Obie logged over 100 hours during his 14 years of flying for the MAM. Click HERE to read the article.

Air Zoo to Celebrate Completion of SBD-2P Dauntless Restoration

Volunteers at the Air Zoo Aerospace and Science Museum in Kalamazoo, Michigan poured roughly 40,000 hours of labor into the restoration of Douglas SBD-2P Dauntless (BuNo.2173) over the five years since the aircraft’s arrival at the museum. With justification, they celebrated their efforts with the public at free Open House events between October 15th and 17th, 2021. They completed the reconnaissance dive bomber’s restoration in time for its December delivery to the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum in Honolulu, Hawaii; here the Dauntless was to take part in the 80th Anniversary Remembrance Ceremonies commemorating the attack on Pearl Harbor. Click HERE to read the article.

SBD-2P BuNo.2173 sits in the Air Zoo’s restoration hangar, complete except for its wheels, after a massive 40,000-hour refurbishment effort. (photo via Air Zoo)

NOVEMBER

Combat Veteran P-40E Makes Her First Flight in New Zealand!

In Ardmore, New Zealand, Frank Parker took Claudio Coltri’s freshly-restored Curtiss P-40E Warhawk (41-13570) aloft for the first time – at the 11th hour, on the 11th day of the 11th month – in honor of Remembrance Day. It was truly marvelous to see this aircraft back in the skies, and we wish to congratulate everyone at Pioneer Aero Ltd. for a job well done! All that remained was for the P-40 to accumulate the appropriate flight test hours to achieve her formal sign-off requirements, and then the fighter would make her way – by sea – to her new home in Europe. Click HERE to read the article.

Frank Parker aloft in Claudio Coltri’s Curtiss P-40E on November 11th, marking the aircraft’s first flight since her WWII crash-landing in the Soviet Union. (image via Pioneer Aero Ltd.)

First Engine Runs For The ‘Swiblosee’ Messerschmitt Bf 109!

On Tuesday, November 16th, Messerschmitt Bf 109G-6 Wr. Nr. 410077 passed a major milestone in its decade-long restoration at Michael Vadeboncoeur’s Midwest Aero Restorations Ltd. in Danville, Illinois. The fighter’s newly-rebuilt Daimler Benz DB 605 roared into life for the first time since the aircraft’s forced landing in 1944! With these engine tests now underway, the momentous occasion of the aircraft’s first flight is sure to follow sometime soon. And when the ‘109 does fly, it will become arguably the most original and authentic airworthy example of its breed, such was the effort expanded. Click HERE to read the article.

Photo via Midwest Aero Restorations Ltd

Supermarine Seafire F.Mk.XVII SX336 Takes to the Skies Again

Supermarine Seafire F.Mk.XVII SX336 made her first flight for several years on November 18th, 2021, following a period of extensive maintenance at Old Warden in Bedfordshire, England. The aircraft, a navalized variant of Supermarine’s legendary Spitfire, is one of just a handful of the breed extant. Click HERE to read the article.

Airborne! (photo by George Land)


DECEMBER

Supermarine Spitfire Mk.IX MH603 – First Post Restoration Flight

Supermarine Spitfire Mk.IX MH603 made her first post-restoration flights on Saturday, December 11th, 2021. Veteran warbird pilot, Stephen Death was at the controls for the initial 20 minute hop, joined in the air by Paul Bennet who flew chase duties in Ross Pay’s CAC-built Mustang Mk.21 A68-107. Click HERE to read the article.

MH603 looking resplendent in the skies over Scone, NSW following the conclusion of an extensive restoration program at Vintage Fighter Restorations. The aircraft made her first flight in more than six decades on December 11th, 2021. (photo by Darren Mottram via Aviation Spotters Online)

C-53 Skytrooper ‘Beach City Baby’ Performs First Taxi Trials

As regular readers will know, we have been following the remarkable efforts of Jason Capra and Vintage Wings Inc. over the past five years as they successfully pursued the resurrection of combat-veteran Douglas C-53 Skytrooper 41-20095. The restoration team has progressed so far that they were able to conduct Beach City Baby’s first taxi trials on Sunday, December 12th. Click HERE to read the article.

Beach City Baby outside prior to engine start. The aircraft completed her first taxi test on December 12th, 2021! (photo via Vintage Wings Inc.)

Year-Long Restoration Reporting Endeavors

In other restoration highlights, we have had monthly installments from Chuck Cravens covering the team at AirCorps Aviation in Bemidji, Minnesota and their restoration of the Dakota Territory Air Museum’s combat-veteran Republic P-47D Thunderbolt 42-27609. Click HERE to see the 2021 highlights for that project.

Restoration of the Dakota Territory Air Museum’s combat-veteran Republic P-47D Thunderbolt 42-27609 is progressing well at AirCorps Aviation in Bemidji, Minnesota. (image via AirCorps Aviation)

We have also been following Andrew Panton’s reports from England regarding the restoration of Avro Lancaster B.Mk.VII NX611 Just Jane at the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre in East Kirkby, Lincolnshire. Click HERE for this year’s reporting (and more!).

Avro Lancaster B.Mk.VII NX611 has been undergoing a long-term restoration to flight at the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre in England. Collaborating with several other Lancaster projects, the effort is taking place in stages so that Just Jane can continue to operate in revenue-generating ground-running displays during the summer air show season. (image via Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre)

Warbird Digest Magazine

Here are the issues which our sister publication, Warbird Digest, printed in 2021… each of them is filled with fabulous, well-researched, and written articles describing the restoration and operation of some of the finest vintage military aircraft flying anywhere in the world.

 



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