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Unique Warbird Experiences at AirVenture 2017
By Frederick A. Johnsen
July 22, 2017 - Some call EAA AirVenture 2017 the “Year of the Bomber.” And with good reason: You can expect to see the world’s only flying World War II B-29 Superfortresses — both of them — at Oshkosh this year. There’s a scarce Douglas A-20 Havoc attack bomber on the field now, and a squadron of B-25s will soon descend on Wittman Regional Airport to honor the 75th anniversary of the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo. And, the mighty U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress is here for only its second visit ever, parked on Boeing Plaza.
Fighter fans will not be disappointed, either, as four rare Bell P-63 Kingcobras may convene at Oshkosh, and fly in a formation not seen since World War II.
The warbird experience at Oshkosh is about more than just the machines. It’s a visceral, emotional glimpse into the heroics of previous generations. Warbird parking crew members have devised a way to park 14 to 16 twin-engine B-25 Mitchell bombers in the same, tightly nested way they crowded the deck of the USS Hornet aircraft carrier in April 1942 before launching the first strike over Japan. The spectacle of so many bombers packed together will be a quiet testimony to the dangers the Doolittle Raiders faced on their mission.
New to the Warbirds area this year is a Quonset hut beside the Warbirds in Review ramp. The gift of Ron and Diane Fagen of the Fagen Fighters WWII Museum, the tin building’s exterior is a dead-ringer for a World War II briefing building with period signage and landscaping, down to a line of white, painted rocks that GIs would have been tasked to keep bright.
Inside, the building is a modern air-conditioned oasis where warbird presenters can prepare for their Warbirds in Review sessions. Connie Bowlin, EAA Warbirds of America president, says the structure enhances the Warbirds in Review productions by housing a state-of-the-art audiovisual suite used to produce livestream video of the Warbirds in Review sessions. That’s when historic warbirds and their crews are highlighted in an interview with moderator David Hartmann, whose familiarity with aviation and aviators, coupled with his easygoing presentation style, makes the audience feel like they are informally chatting with great flyers of military aircraft.
There’s another treat in the Warbirds area this year, where a brand-new warbird flight simulator will get a daily workout. Whether your tastes lean toward flying the simulator, simply listening to the amazing stories of warbird flyers, or walking among rows of famous and rare military aircraft from the past, the Warbirds area at EAA AirVenture 2017 is filled with sights and sounds that should not be missed.