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AirVenture Forecast: The Year of Heavy Warbirds

June 2015 - While a lot of interesting warbirds are headed to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015 – that perfect Corsair, the thundering F-100F, and a host of others – this year could turn out to be the most amazing year in recent memory. Why? Because by chance or divine intervention, nearly all of the heavy types known are going to be represented at show central, Boeing Plaza.

Perhaps the plane pictured in Webster’s dictionary under “warbird,” the ultimate (non-civilian) warbird, will be there with all eight engines shrieking; the B-52H, while not a civilian warbird, is the last of the illustrious line of Boeing bombers, and some can say still the backbone of our strategic bomber force.

Sure, a B-2 or Bone (B-1) can race in and hit and run with some impunity, but when it’s time for a real shellacking with air superiority and SAM suppression in full effect, a formation of these has never been equaled by any other power. The B-52 is truly magnificent on its own.

We have our famous B-17 Aluminum Overcast as well as the Commemorative Air Force’s B-29 Fifi slated, and with the 52 in attendance, that’s almost enough. But wait – there’s more! Also scheduled is a rare Consolidated PB4Y-2 Privateer, the U.S. Navy’s stretched and more gunned-up B-24 derivative.

The PB4Y-2 was a large, single-tail, four-engine patrol bomber that on several missions opportunistically engaged Japanese four-engined H6K Mavis and H8K Emily flying boats in almost Spanish Armada style – four motors versus four motors gun battles over the trackless Pacific! This is truly a historic aircraft and the only one flying of her type! Further, the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum is planning to bring its Avro Lancaster bomber, powered by four glorious Rolls-Royce Merlins and one of only two flying examples left in the world! Wait till you hear that! With other possibilities coming and the addition of many medium bombers, attack planes, and fighters, this event is becoming a very big deal.

For warbird viewing, AirVenture 2015 will be magnificent, and simply watching all of this heavy iron get parked is going to be wild. It’s also important to note that very few nations maintain heavy, or strategic, bombers in this day and age, or ever. They were designed to destroy large production centers, and somehow due to the evolution of warfare, became the destroyers of cities and population centers. The large aircraft were once the only delivery system for atomic weapons.

As better aiming systems and precision munitions were developed, the planes became focused on more mundane activities as large weapons factories and centers of production became virtually impossible to bomb without causing collateral damage. While the nuclear mission still remains, the heavy warbirds are machines that have seen their time. Currently the Pentagon and U.S. Air Force are dealing with the huge cost of developing the long-range strategic bomber in a financially hostile environment, and with a huge disconnect between what the plane can do, the political will, and what the battlefield requires.

Perhaps the real question remains, will the B-52 outlast them all?

Wanted: B-25 Crew

Switching gears, we received an interesting request for help that I felt warranted special notice here and may provide an unusual opportunity for U.S. warbird enthusiasts, specifically B-25 crew members, at KidVenture in Oshkosh. If you haven’t visited the place, the changes in attitude and latitude from Warbird Alley is truly striking.

The Young Aviators, part of EAA Chapter 43 in Broomfield, Colorado, is bringing its full-scale B-25 mock-up cockpit simulator to KidVenture. They’re offering B-25 crew members who are planning to be in Oshkosh an opportunity to participate in the exhibit by offering some inside tips and information about the airplane. Those interested should contact Scott McEwen, EAA 704799, via e-mail.



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