Warbirds and Airshows
By David D Jackson

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  2017 Airshows
Brunswick, GA   B-25s at Urbana, OH   B-25 Fly-Over the National Museum of the USAF   SC National Guard Air and Ground Expo   Dayton, OH   Goshen, IN   Tarkio, MO   Westfield, MA   Wings over Waukegan, IL   Colorado Springs, CO

Pikes Peak Regional Airshow Warbird Photo Review
Warbirds at Colorado Springs Airport - September 23-24, 2017 - Photos taken Saturday September 23, 2017.

My first picture of the day at 8:35 AM.  The summit of Pikes Peak is in the clouds at 14,115 feet.  The Colorado Springs airport has an elevation of 6,187.  I have driven the 19 mile road to the summit of Pikes Peak four times, and taken the cog railway once.  For this trip I did not get back up the mountain.

The sun on the mountain with the blue sky is deceptive.  In the foreground it can be noted that it is cloudy at the airport.  This was one of three times during the day I would be able to photograph with a blue sky and sunlight.  None of the three times lasted very long.

I had been planning to attend the Pikes Peak Airshow ever since it came up on the 2017 Thunderbird schedule. It was not the Thunderbirds that attracted me, but the large selection of warbirds that were involved, many from the new National Museum of WWII Aviation (NMWWIIA) located at the airport.  When I was last in Colorado Springs in 2010, the museum was not there.  It arrived in 2012, and had its first and only airshow previous to this one in 2014.  It should be noted that the NMWWIIA is one corporate entity, while the warbirds in the museum are owned by persons who have done well in life financially.  These warbirds are in other corporations.

Two of the warbirds located at the NMWWIIA are these Grumman Tigercats.  Both were scheduled to fly in the show with Steve Hinton doing an aerobatic demonstration.  Note the numbers on the nacelles.  These represent Grumman sequential serial numbers 80374 and 80375 that theses two Tigercats have.  Other warbirds from the museum at the show were a P-38, SBD, AD-5, (2)TBMS, P-47, B-25, PBY, HU-16, and F3F.  There are other warbirds under restoration at Westpac, which also moved to Colorado Springs in 2012, and is responsible for the restorations that are displayed at the museum..

The Location:  The show site was in the southeast end of the airport south of runway 17L which is 13,500 feet in length.  Airshow center was south of the end of the runway.  Luckily the wind was from the south during the show which allowed the spectators to watch the aircraft go by after take-off.  If the wind had been from the north, the aircraft would have taken off away from the crowd.  A docent at one of the local aviation museums I visited earlier in the week told me that the ramp where the crowd and aircraft were located was big enough to hold five C-5s at one time.  I did not understand the significance of this until I was at the show and took the photo below.

The words between the US flags say:  "Welcome to Fort Carson" which is nine miles to the southwest.  There are matching overhead doors on the west side of the building allowing for the processing of military vehicles on arrival or departure.  I was in the building to purchase my ticket for the show, and it is set up for processing troops that are coming or going.  While this location allows for lots of vehicle parking and has the large ramp, I wonder what happens if the 4th Infantry Division has to deploy during an airshow.

There was a long line waiting outside the facility waiting for the gates to open at 8:00 AM resulting in a big surge of spectators trying to get good seats along the crowd line.  This photo was taken at 9:53 AM and the surge is over.  The persons on the right are walking towards the show.  Several on the left of the photo are leaving already.

The Weather:  I had been checking the weather on a daily basis before I made the trip out to Colorado Springs.  The morning I left the forecast showed some clouds and the upper 60s for a temperature.  Monday evening upon my arrival at Colorado Springs I looked at the weather, and wondered where the rain forecast for Saturday and Sunday had come from.  The days I was in the area previous to the show all had great weather with temperatures sometimes reaching 90 degrees F, and abundant sunshine.  That all started to change Friday afternoon as clouds started to move in during the practice show.  Saturday didn't start too bad, and as the previous photos indicate there was some blues skies around.  While the forecast rain never developed on Saturday while I was there, the temperature started down, the wind picked up, and the ceiling started coming down, finally ending the flying portion of the show right after 2 PM.  Some persons showed up shorts, sandals and t-shirts.  They didn't last long and had to leave.  The beer and lemonade stands had a dismal business, if any at all.  Meanwhile the concessions having sweatshirts were selling them as fast as the operators could put them on the table.

The Show:

This Grumman HU-16 is part of the National Museum of WWII Aviation that was strictly static for the weekend. 

Lockheed P-38F Lighting "White 33" Serial Number 42-12652:  Within five minutes of visiting the Peterson AFB Air and Space Museum at the north end of the Colorado Springs airport, the docent was telling me about P-38 "White 33" that was going to be at the show.  Others I talked to during the week about the show would ask if I knew about this P-38.

The 39th Fighter Squadron, 35th Fighter Group of the Fifth Air Force was the first fighter squadron in the 5th AF to receive the P-38 during WWII.  The squadron had previously been flying the Bell P-39 Aircobra.  Among those new P-38s was "White 33."  Commanding the 39th at the time of transition was Colonel Frank Royal.  For the next year Col. Royal stayed with the squadron before being rotated back to the United States.  "White 33" was finally written off after the nose gear collapsed on landing.  It was left in the jungle of Papua, New Guinea until it was retrieved with several other P-38s and a razorback P-47.

During the restoration of the aircraft at Westpac, it became known that Col. Royal was still alive.  The restoration took top priority among the work being done, and when complete Col. Royal was able to visit and sit in the cockpit of the P-38.  He was then placed in a chase plane which flew in formation with "White 33."   Frank Royal passed away a short time later.

The restoration is immaculate and accurate as to what "White 33" looked like while in New Guinea. 

At Westpac the docent explained that the white dots were part of the authenticity of the restoration. 


Unfortunately Lt. Sparks did not survive the war.

Lots of warbirds filled the hot ramp!

What a comparison in the rapid pace of aviation technology!  The Grumman F3F first flew in March 1935.  Eight and a half years later the sleek F7F flew for the first time in November 1943. 

All of the aircraft in the bomber row;  PBY, B-25 AD-5, SBD, and (2) TBMS are part of the National Museum of WWII Aviation

Neil Melton flew six hours from his museum in Sevierville, TN to be the second P-47 at the show.  The last time I had seen and talked with Neil was at the 2012 Indianapolis Airshow. 

Just as we were finishing up our conversation, these five young ladies asked Neil if they could use his P-47 as a backdrop for taking photos with spectators.  At this point in the morning, it had warmed up some, and the women are sleeveless in several cases.  Later in the day I imagine they found something to cover their arms.

At noon there was still enough ceiling for the flag jump by the "Wings of Blue" from the nearby US Air Force Academy.  However, one of the team did end up coming down through a "wispy" cloud.  The ceiling was starting to come down.

The bombers and the P-40 are doing their run-ups at the end of runway 17L.  The P-40, along with the Spitfire that was at the show were from the Texas Flying Legends Museum.  The P-40 did an low level aerobatic routine after the bombers flew.

The first warbirds to fly during the show were the Trojan Phlyers Aerobatic Team from Texas.

The PBY was the first bomber in the air.  I expected the rest of the bombers to take off right after it, and all of them do multiple fly-bys in trail.  This was not the case as the Catalina did two passes and landed.  I then assumed the PBY was flying by itself because it was so much slower than the rest of the bomber group.

It turns out that each of the bombers, and later the fighters would fly in singly, or in twos.  While this is one of the largest and best line-up of warbirds I witnessed in 2017, the show was using the limited number of warbirds in the air at one time to fill the time until the USAF Thunderbirds were to fly at 2:45.  This made for a lot of dead time in front of the crowd.  For the warbird enthusiast the wait was bearable.  For the normal airshow spectator this made for a slow and somewhat boring show.  Warbirds should not be boring!  If there is a future event, the show needs to re-think how to showcase the warbirds in a more exciting manner.

The Heritage Flight.

I really wanted to get a photo of the Heritage Flight with Pikes Peak in the background.  This did not work out.  I did get this photo of Colorado Springs' other famous mountain in the background, Cheyenne Mountain.  The antennas are just visible on top of it.  These are radio and TV transmitting antennas, and have nothing to do with the NORAD complex inside the mountain.

Kyle Franklin in Dracula woke up the semi-comatose and cold crowd in a hurry!  People stopped texting on their cell phones, stood up and watched the excitement of his act.  One person was reading a book between the extended time the warbirds came by.  It was at this point I realized that the crowd was finding the warbird flying slow and not very exciting.

After Kyle came the fighters.

Warren Pietch provided several low passes, which is his normal, in the Spitfire Mk IX.

This was my last photo at 2:07pm.  On the scanner I heard air boss broadcast that the airport had just gone IFR.  He started to land the P-47s and Warren Pietch in the Spitfire, who was waiting to the south of the airport for his time slot for an aerobatic routine.  The Mustangs and Tigercats at the end of the runway were called back to the ramp, and were taxiing in when I left.  There was no reason to stay.  If anybody was going to fly, it was going to be the Thunderbirds, and I had seen them in practice the day before.  As I was leaving I heard the announcer telling everyone to stay, as the low ceiling was temporary, and there would be more flying.  As I got to my vehicle, a light rain started.  It had held off until then.

Epilogue: When I returned home I checked to see what information was available on the show.

For Saturday's show I found this headline from a the Colorado Springs Gazette: "Thunderbird air show is cancelled due to low cloud ceiling."

For Sunday's show I found this from the NBC affiliate in Denver:  "2017 Pikes Peak Air Show awes hundreds of spectators in Colorado Springs."

"Hundreds of spectators?"  Airshows are supposed to have thousands, and tens of thousands of spectators.  Photos of Sunday showed a wet ramp and the same dreary conditions that prevailed on Saturday.  The show went on, but the weather took its toll on the crowd for both days.

The show was really well organized.  I could tell the airshow committee had done its research, and much planning and thought had gone into it.  It will be interesting to see whether another attempt is made in the future.  With the same warbird line-up, I would go again.  I still have places to visit en-route to, and in Colorado.  I can always find places to visit that make it worth my while for the long trek involved.

Side Trips
The total trip was eight days covering 3,200 miles that included not only the airshow, but 18 museums, forts, and historic locations. Below are four of the stops.

The Peterson Air and Space Museum
 Peterson AFB, Colorado Springs, CO

All aviation museums are the same, as they all have aircraft and aviation items on display.  Yet they are all different, as each one has something that makes it stand out from the others.  In the case of the Peterson Air and Space Museum one of those items is this building, which is the main entrance to the museum complex.  This is the original air terminal building for the Colorado Springs airport.  Today it is in the middle of Peterson AFB.

Other museums have EC-121s on display, but at the Peterson Air and Space Museum a visitor, with a docent escort, can tour the inside of the aircraft.

Everything is left just as it was on its last mission.

The National Museum of WWII Aviation
 Colorado Springs Airport, CO

Unique to this museum is this P-47 Razorback, which came back from New Guinea with "White 33."  Like the P-38, it is a combat veteran.  When restored, it will be the only flying razorback P-47 that has a war record.

The turbo supercharger can be seen through the hole in the sheet metal. 

Even more unique is this display of the turbo supercharger system in the P-47. 

Fourth Infantry Division and Fort Carson Museum
 Fort Carson, Colorado Springs, CO

The M1A1 and AH-1 are on display at the at the street entrance to the main gate to Fort Carson.

There is more armor on display by the parking lot for the fort's visitor center.  The museum is located next to the visitor center, outside the main gate.

Fort Lupton Recreation
Fort Lupton, CO

This is a creation of an adobe trader's fort.  The original was built by Lancaster Lupton in 1836 to trade with the native Americans in the area. 

The South Platte Valley Historical Society raised $250,000 for this excellent recreation of the original.  Volunteers did all of the work.

Bent's Old Fort
La Junta, CO

This fort was rebuilt by the National Park Service on the original foundation.  The trees to the south of the fort indicate the location of the Arkansas River.  When the fort was built in 1834, the river divided the United States and Mexico.  The fort was the main stop on the 800 mile Santa Fe Trail that passed by the fort.

In the center of the fort is a buffalo press.  It would compress ten buffalo hides for shipment to St. Louis. 



Home  Indiana Museums    Indiana Tanks on Outside Display   The Beginning    Revisions   First Flight of P-38F Glacier Girl  
USS Theodore Roosevelt    WWII Aircraft Manufacturing Sites    Gateguards
 2007 Airshows   2008 Airshows  22009 Airshows   2010 Airshows    2011 Airshows    2012 Airshows   2013 Airshows   2014 Airshows    2015 Airshows  2016 Airshows    2017 Airshows 
Aviation Museums of the Pacific Northwest
   Display Helicopter Locations   CAL FIRE   PV-2 Harpoon Photos     F6F Hellcat Photos
   Warbird Sightings   WWII US Air-Air Victories   Guest Photos    Indiana Warbirds   Featured Photos  Other Items   Links

Historic Sites   Historic Forts   Historic Texas Independence Sites   Pre-Historic Sites   Historic Manhattan Project Sites   GM Heritage Center

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