Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Greatest Show on Turf, 2014

For this year's airshow, Mark flew up from New Jersey to meet me. Despite his living in New Jersey, Mark and I have a lot in common. We both grew up in metropolitan Detroit, have similar educational backgrounds (one of Mark's publications is actually cited in my dissertation), and were motivated to start flying by our common mentor, Dave. Mark now owns the Citabria that was my introduction to light aircraft flying. It was great to spend the day with a kindred spirit!

The National Warplane Museum's airshow at Geneseo remains a fantastic gathering of rare and antique aircraft with a grassroots feel. Here are some images from this year's event.

Starting with the most important airplane first: the very airplane that was my entrance to this entire aviation-obsessed rabbit hole.

The Westland Lysander is an interesting-looking odd duck of a liaison airplane known for its short field performance.

Though it has capacity for only a single pilot and a single passenger, the airplane is massive compared to US-designed liaison craft (like the L-4 grasshopper). In this photo, the automatic leading edge slats are visibly deployed.

For anyone who thinks that the bulky wheel pants Piper implemented in the late 1970s for Cherokees are large, each one of these is about the size of a Prius (dislaimer: all dimensions may be subjectively hyperbolic). These wheel pants also incorporate landing lights.

Another view of the Lysander as it taxies to the flight line.

In flight, the unusual shape of the wing becomes very evident.

One of the show's featured airplanes this year: Kelly Johnson's Fork-Tailed Devil, the Lockheed P-38 Lightning. This is perhaps one of the most unusual aircraft designs on active duty during World War II.

These are rare aircraft. I could find record of only eight airworthy examples in the United States, one of which is Glacier Girl, the only other P-38 I have seen in person. This one, Ruff Stuff, is based at the Fagen Fighters WWII Museum in Granite Falls, MN.

At first, it seemed that she would not fly that day because of a brake problem. Fortunately, parts arrived while Mark and I were photographing the airplane and the maintenance team from the National Warplane Museum made the repairs in time for Ruff Stuff to make her appearance.

I have to wonder what the folks at Lockheed thought when first presented with the plans for this airplane.

This Corsair, Skyboss, from the American Air Power Museum has been a regular visitor to Geneseo over the years.

Quick Silver, a gorgeous North American P-51D, is built from the parts of 200 other Mustangs. Its owners tout it as "The Resurrected Veteran".

Never Miss has never missed a year at Geneseo since her debut appearance in 2010.

A TBM Avenger, She's the Boss, owned by Charlie Lynch.

Pictured here is the boss, Charlie's wife Elizabeth. Buying the Avenger was her idea. It's literally the "family truckster" and comfortably seats the whole family in the aft bowels of the bulky airplane. Mark and I talked with Elizabeth for a while as she cleaned the gear leg and I was amused to hear her talk about travelling in the Avenger the way Kristy would talk about travelling in the Warrior!

So many rivets on the T6! And shiny. So shiny...

The other major guest star at this year's Greatest Show on Turf was the De Havilland Mosquito from Virginia Beach's Fighter Factory. Known as the "wooden wonder", this twin-Rolls Royce Merlin powered light bomber is constructed almost entirely of wood. The lack of rivets on a World War II aircraft is striking.

Mark and I got to take a peek in the cockpit.

This is the only airworthy Mosquito or "Mossie" in the United States. As far as I can tell, there are only two airworthy examples in the world, with the other one based in Vancouver. Several others are under restoration.

As the airshow announcer said, "what sounds better than one Merlin engine going by? Two Merlin engines!"

I had wavered in my intent to go to Geneseo this year, but when a photo of this rare airplane sitting on the field appeared on the National Warplane Museum's Facebook page, I knew I had to go.

This A-26 Invader was on static display only.

This Trichamp, a rare Aeronca-built tricycle gear variant of their timeless Champ design, is very important to me. She and her owner, Ed from Le Roy, were my saviors two years ago when I needed to retrieve Warrior 481 from southeast New York after the carburetor fire incident. It was one of the best airplane rides I ever received. Thanks, Ed!

Ed flies his Trichamp at Geneseo every year during the flight of L-birds. He loves every minute of it.

Upon seeing this ponderous biplane, the Antonov AN-2 Colt, Mark and I reminisced on how our mentor Dave had a huge soft spot for this beyond-beefy biplane. When I pointed out the massive strut supporting the horizontal stabilizer, Mark noted that it looked like the wing strut on a Cessna. And he was right.

And, believe it or not folks, it actually flies!

Whiskey Seven, The National Warplane Museum's C-47, back home in New York after a hop across the Atlantic to Normandy in celebration of the 70th anniversary of D-Day. Whiskey Seven is herself a D-Day veteran.

Stearmans! I miss the days of flying in the Stearman out of South Haven.

Tom Duffy's B-25 bomber, Take-Off Time.

This beautiful white WACO biplane was breathtaking. It appeared to be a legacy model rather than a newly-constructed ship from Battle Creek, MI.

As usual, Rob Holland was nearly impossible for me to photograph with my lame point and shoot camera as he flung his custom built MXS/RH aerobatic airplane around the sky with violent precision. I have seen Rob perform every year at Geneseo and have always been amazed. He is also a terrific guy to chat with.

Mark and I found the MXS-RH parked in Geneseo's main hangar. Both of us cringed as we watched the general public smear their greasy paws all over Rob's gorgeous airplane. Folks, please, look but don't touch.

Take-Off Time streaked low over the field and dropped watermellons. I don't know what was in those watermellons, but the preset charges that exploded on the turf runway suggested that they were napalm watermellons. This led the announcer to comment, "that's what happens to me when I eat too much watermellon, too!" Maybe he should have stuck to his script!

Unfortunately, the ground crew was a bit lackadaisical about quelling the fires burning on the dry turf. The situation was getting out of hand when the Geneseo fire department interceded and decisively extinguished the blaze. Still, Take-Off Time and Skyboss were hidden by residual smoke upon landing.

Mark and I retired to camp chairs under the wing of his Citabria to watch the transport aircraft fly near the end of the day.

Paratroopers leapt from Whiskey Seven just as they did over Normandy, France both earlier this year and 70 years ago, plummeting to earth under their round, World War II style canopies.

The sound of two Merlins, this time on separate aircraft, roared over Geneseo.

The show ended with a terrific formation flight between the P-38 and the Mosquito, but my camera battery died before that occurred. As the show wound down, I said farewell to Mark and started for home. After seven and a half hours in the sun at near 90°F temperatures (my car claimed 88° in Geneseo), I was ready for some air conditioning!

It was a great show, as always, and my hat is off to the National Warplane Museum and its volunteers that make The Greatest Show on Turf a reality every year!


  1. Replies
    1. It's always nice to have something cool like this show up in your back yard every so often, isn't it?

  2. I was supposed to be there this weekend but a family event was on this weekend. My Teammates from the All Veteran Parachute Team are there this weekend. I had the honor of jumping from W7 in France in June for the DDay Anniversary. Great post, so many amazing airplanes. I am so jealous of you and my teammates right now.. Thanks for posting this.

    1. Wow, Dave, it must have been amazing to participate in the event! The rest of us simply had to live vicariously through the photos posted on Facebook by the National Warplane Museum.

      Geneseo is not the biggest or best airshow out there, but there are usually some cool things to see. The airplanes brought me in, but the community and grass-roots feel of the place are what always bring me back.

      Thanks for commenting!

  3. It was truly amazing! I still get goosebumbs everytime I talk about it. My teammates have been sending me pics of the Geneseo show. Rubbing it in that they are there. They jumped the Antonov AN-2 Colt today. BTW, nice looking Warrior, love mine.. check my site

    1. The 1979 Warrior has treated me well for the last 10 years. Your new paint job is beautiful! Thanks for sharing your site.

      They jumped out of the Antonov today? That thing is a beast! I'm glad they got to do something today. I live a 45 minute drive north of there and it absolutely poured at my house all morning.

    2. Yea they sure did.. Sorry didn't get back to this sooner. I am hoping next year we will be invited back and I will definitely make it this time!..

  4. Love it. Very few things beat a bunch of warbirds and the sound of Merlins. As a fellow frequenter of a field with many vintage aircraft, I certainly appreciate that kind of show.

    If you're ever free on a Labor Day Weekend, you guys should head down this direction for Stewart's annual airshow!

  5. Always fun to see and hear the warbirds in action. Great shots, thanks for sharing! I haven't seen Tom Duffy's "Take Off Time" in ages, I am working outside one of his hangars at KMIV on a new ramp.

    1. Thanks, Gary. There always seem to be one or more B-25s at Geneseo, but "Take Off Time" is the only one that has been a consistent participant every year.

  6. Nice collection of aircraft. I really enjoy seeing photos of those old airplanes which interest me a lot more than today's jets!

    Glad to see you are wearing a pair of aviator sunglasses to protect your eyes!

  7. Thanks for posting the pics of my Wilga. It is now N923MW and all the commercial logos are off.

  8. The Lysander, Fieseler Storch, and Wilga are the only three dedicated STOL production aircraft that will get airborne in 2-3 lengths. The Lysander actually carried a third pass behind #2 prone on the floor facing aft to operate "bomb doors" through which bomblets could be dropped or,more often, a camera could be operated. On early variants, one wheel pant housed a .303 cal gun. If I could find one I'd sell the Wilga in a heartbeat.See you in Batavia.

    1. Yours was the first Wilga I ever set eyes on. It struck me as a cool, unusual aircraft and I have no doubt it's good at what it does. Would love to see it in action sometime. Thanks for the extra info on the Lysander!