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August 2015 - Leading up to Oshkosh this year was simply the most amazing time, and the very nature of the event is now something that all warbirders must attend. AirVenture has morphed from a big event to a gathering of all stakeholders in the warbird world, from Jennys to jets, and where policy discussions help on a national level to determine the future shape of our operation of these amazing machines.
This year, the two big policy discussions were on medical reform and the Living History Flight Experience moratorium, and it was a roller coaster of a week. Dealing with Washington is always a delicate and painstaking affair, especially when letters from other groups are carelessly written! In any case, hats off to EAA Vice President of Advocacy and Safety Sean Elliott and the rest of the team working so hard on our behalf. The LHFE moratorium being lifted is great news, and now post-AirVenture we have the actual text in our hands. Remember folks, the fight ain’t over! In any case, great news for some of the big issues we have been waiting on.
The warbird ramp was spectacular and had a huge variety of great restorations, with new stuff that simply boggled the mind. It was the greatest warbird show in the country this year, bar none. Aloft above AirVenture there was a B-29, B-17, Lancaster, Mosquito, B-25, and an amazing assortment of fighters throughout the day. To see the Mossie and the Lanc flying together was Merlin magic, with six of the engines filling the show line with a Merlin song that was different and perhaps a bit more warlike than the melodious sounds of a Mustang. The very difficult job of the judges was made so much harder this year by entrants of unparalleled complexity pitted against entrants pushing the boundaries of restoration of more well-known types. It was a knock-down drag-out fight of a decision because all of the aircraft judged contain so much effort, but what a field this year!
From the first visit of a Consolidated PB4Y-2 Privateer, N2871G, to the amazing lineup of P-51 Mustangs, it was a thrilling field of planes—the best year for warbirds ever, in my opinion. On the ground the static types were busy all week with admirers, and more so this year than any other across the whole field was a dedicated desire for all EAAers to make time to go see the warbirds. Riding on the trams several times during the week, it was so interesting to hear what people were saying as they rode over, in that the viewers are learning so much more about the warbirds as essential parts of the organization. Our biggest and most interesting ambassadors.
I suppose I can close by picking a favorite, and while there were a large number of planes I marveled at, truly the most impressive warbird for me was the Dean Cutshall F-100F Super Sabre. To see this stunning restoration of a Cold War-era jet go into hard afterburner during its passes was thrilling! The drag chute on landing made a perfect capstone on a dedicated effort to bring a very special warbird to AirVenture. For this plane to operate and display is a big deal, and while it may not be an expression of the restorers art the way the Mosquito was, its operation is complex beyond understanding. Its presentation and availability to the spectators was to me a highlight. Thank you all!