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Warbirds Tram and Reviews Open to All AV Visitors
By Frederick A. Johnsen
July 24, 2016 - Part of the joy of owning a warbird is sharing its rich heritage with others. Throughout EAA Air Venture Oshkosh 2016, visitors may take a tram ride around the huge, grassy Warbird campus, while experts point out significant airplanes that changed world history.
Vic Krause ramrods the Warbirds tram. Scheduled to depart on the hour and half hour from a tent just west of Warbird Alley, the 30-minute ride is designed to let visitors view a maximum number of warbirds with a minimum effort, something sore feet will appreciate. Each tram has 32 seats. Riders are encouraged to arrive at the tent 30 minutes early for a briefing that Krause says is both entertaining and informative. “We’re going to have a lot of fun,” Krause said with a smile that was spontaneous and irrepressible. “We’ve got great narrators that have a depth of knowledge,” he added.
And those narrators are part of the effort to share the world of warbirds with visitors who might not realize that EAA Warbirds of America is for anyone–not just warbird owners. One of the items tram passengers receive is a new aircraft recognition card, with silhouettes of aircraft likely to be encountered on the ride. Krause says the recognition sheet is a perfect place to gather autographs to personalize the keepsake.
Officially scheduled to operate between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., with down time during air shows when the Warbird ramp is off-limits, tram operators may look into expanded morning and evening hours to meet demand, Krause said.
Nearby, the Warbirds in Review bleachers are employed twice daily during AirVenture as warbird owners and current pilots meet with military veterans of those aircraft, sharing stories of these vaunted machines from a firsthand perspective. Audiences always show their appreciation and respect to the veterans in the programs. The setting is intimate enough that a bond forms between visitor and veteran, with spontaneous emotions ranging from cheers to tears punctuating the events.
Connie Bowlin, of the Warbirds of America Board of Directors, leads the Warbirds in Review effort, tending to details to ensure smooth, engaging performances. She arranges to have a significant warbird parked in front of the bleachers. The effect is compelling. For up to an hour before the 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. sessions, Bowlin said reenactors in vintage uniforms and live music of the era are presented to warm up the crowd and gently transport them back in time.
“This is the only place this can happen; the veteran paired with the airplane they flew,” she said. This year the sessions have scheduled everything from an airplane that survived contact with the Japanese attackers at Pearl Harbor to veteran pilot Bob Hoover recounting his experience with aircraft, including the A-20 Havoc attack bomber of World War II.
Bowlin, who founded Warbirds in Review with her late husband Ed, said she has watched it grow over 15 years from an impromptu speech with a portable karaoke speaker to a full-up audio-visual program.
A complete list of this year’s Warbirds in Review sessions may be found online at www.EAA.org/warbirdsinformation.