The two B-25s that live on Paine Field are regular performers. When they both went up at Skyfair, I have to admit that I was not so excited. However, I was not anticipating a series of flypasts that were significantly better than I had seen from them before. They brought them in with a tight formation and some angles that allowed some great topside shots as they curved around on to the runway alignment.
Watching them line up, you could see that they weren’t going to come so close and ruin the photo opportunities. Instead, we got lots of banking and pulling with far better shots than I had achieved previously. I was not alone in appreciating the effort. Everyone around me was most impressed by the performance.
Grumpy got airborne using the Doolittle technique I posted about here. During the takeoff, there were some puffs of smoke from one of the engines. Initially I thought this might just be some oil blowing through but, as they climbed out, the output from the engine was clearly not as it should be and the one engine was clearly not healthy. They cut short the flight (although not as short as it could have been) and brought the plane back down. I saw Grumpy fly a few weeks later so I guess they dealt with whatever the issue was.
Paine Field held an open day which included some flying from the local aircraft. The Heritage Flight Museum had a number of the aircraft taking part including their B-25, Grumpy. On one of the takeoffs, they used a technique that was reminiscent of the Doolittle Raid. They applied power and full back controls to lift the nosewheel from the ground and roll down the runway in a wheelie. It was quite an interesting thing to see.
The field trip during the ISAP Symposium was held at Paine Field in Everett. We were hosted by the Heritage Flight Foundation and its owner John Sessions and they were excellent hosts. (I visited once before and you can see that post here.) Aside from the selection of aircraft still in the hangar where we were set up, they had arranged some photo sorties with some of their aircraft. The B-25, Grumpy, was the camera ship for a few photographers and the P-51 Mustang was the target. A T-6 also went up as a second camera ship. Each photo position was a paying ride with the T-6 obviously being the premium slot.
I had decided not to take the ride. It was not cheap although certainly not bad value for money. As the weather was not looking great, I wondered whether I had chosen wisely. As it was, the people who did go up did get some great images. The area certainly can provide some nice backdrops and the light, while flat, did not hurt things. However, even as someone on the ground, the flights seemed over very fast so I imagine for those on board, it was gone all to quickly.
For those of us on the ground, we got treated to the departure and arrivals of the aircraft plus a few passes of the P-51 and T-6 which were a lot of fun. Gloomy skies made it all a little flat looking but still a great sight. Being able to be close to the aircraft during the start up, taxi out and return was certainly worthwhile. The following day they were having a public event and I hope the weather improved for the large numbers they were expecting.
A short drive north of Chicago is Milwaukee. The main airport at Milwaukee is General Mitchell International and, aside from the commercial services that operate there, the Wisconsin Air National Guard also has a unit based on the field. It has a fleet of KC-135 tankers operated by the 128 Aerial Refueling Wing. Periodically, they have an open house and I went up to the recent event.
This is not an air show. The field remains open and normal flight operations continue. However, the ANG unit takes the chance to show off what they do to the local community and let them know what is going on with their tax dollars. They also invite others to bring aircraft in to give the visitors a variety of things to see. These visitors include aircraft from other Air Force units, a helicopter from the army and a variety of vintage aircraft, many from the local area.
The event took place over two days of the weekend. The Sunday looked better from a weather perspective so that is the day I went for. It proved to be a good choice with plenty of sun but temperatures staying very comfortable. What I didn’t appreciate was the additional benefit of it being Mother’s Day. I got their early for the better light but most people were spending time showing their mothers that they love them. Since I am 4,000 miles from my mum, a personal visit was a little impractical! It did make for a quiet ramp for quite a while though.
As the day progressed, plenty more people showed up and they probably achieved their goals for sharing with the local community. I got to chat with a number of interesting people and, since it was quiet, was able to have more than a passing conversation. I also met a few people who might be interested in some follow up work for the magazine so the trip was productive as well as fun.
I got a few shots of airliners as well as the aircraft on the ramp. We were also lucky that one of the based KC-135s launched on a mission while I was there so a shot of that flying helped out a lot. Since it isn’t an air show, that was a nice extra! I hope to get back up to the unit in due course and find out more about them and maybe put together a more detailed piece on their history and operations.