Since The Henry Ford is a museum founded by a Ford, it is no surprise that they have some significant Ford vehicles on display. This includes the number one Mustang. It looks quite different from what followed it, an example of which is not far away on the display. It seems quite light and small compared to what followed and definitely compared to the current incarnation (like the pun?). It’s is always cool to see something that is historic, irrespective of what the subject may be. This one definitely led to an iconic brand.
The Society of Aviation History visit to Airmotive Specialties in Salinas gave us a great opportunity to look around the restoration facility. One of the Mustangs was not being worked on though. It was due to be picked up by its owner that afternoon. As a result, having had a break for lunch, we headed back to the ramp to await the departure.
The aircraft was run up on the ramp outside the hangar and then taxied to the opposite end of the runway for takeoff. We anticipated the takeoff and then a further pass before he left. I figured the first time I might go with a slow shutter speed for fun. The second one I would be a bit more conservative in order to make sure I actually got a sharp shot.
The Society of Aviation History organized a visit to Salinas to the facility of Airmotive Specialties. Owned and run by Dave Teeters, Aviation Specialties provides a number of services but the thing that brings them most attention is the restoration of warbirds with a strong focus on P-51 Mustangs. During our visit, there were seven Mustangs in the hangar in various states of restoration. There were some other types too as well as some more commonplace types undergoing maintenance.
Dave has spent his life in this business having started working for his Dad before setting up on his own. He supplies parts to his Dad’s business and vice versa as they both operate in the same field. Dave has really committed to the processes and capabilities needed to restore these vintage aircraft. His team is one that he has trained and many of his staff have been with him for years. He has also invested in technology. So many parts for these aircraft are hand crafted but Dave has acquired numerically controlled machines to assist in producing a large number of components. These machines are also capable of digitizing the outline of existing components to allow him to reproduce them as needed.
The investment in these machines is substantial but the pay off comes in how quickly he can produce replacement parts once the process is done. Hand crafting these parts is an intensive business and, when sufficient are needed, the business case is straightforward. Even so, there are still many pieces that require the hand skills that are in short supply and are becoming rarer. Dave maintains capabilities with many old tools and techniques in order to make sure that they can always provide what the customers need.
The hangar was full of interesting projects in various states. Some were disassembled completely with rework on fuselages and wings plus various subassemblies. Others were fully complete and were just in for ongoing maintenance. A great looking Beech 18 was at the front of the hangar along with a P-51 due to be picked up by its owner. A couple of Robinson R44s were also parked in with a JetRanger – one of the R44s flew off later in the day.
Dave provided great access to our visit and was exceedingly generous with his time. He explained exactly how they work and answered any questions the group had for him. The hangar has some nice facilities for customers but, while they were very comfortable, the contents of the working area were of most interest to us and Dave gave us freedom to wander as we wished. It was a great time. Many thanks Dave.
The annual visit of the Collings Foundation to Livermore with their vintage warbirds is a popular event with many people turning out to look at the planes and, in some cases, fly in them. This year I didn’t plan on spending a lot of time there but I did head down for a while to check out how things were progressing. It was a hot day so the heat haze was playing havoc with shots as usual but there was still enough to see.
I had pondered what other spots might be useful for getting a shot or two and tried wandering down the street. However, the area is not pedestrian friendly so that idea didn’t progress too far. I did wrap up the day by driving to the public golf course at the end of the field to see whether I could get a different perspective on the departures. It wasn’t a bad spot but not somewhere I shall try again unless there is a good reason. You get a brief view and have to grab your shots before the planes are behind the trees.
Half Moon Bay might not have been an air show in the strict sense but it did bring in a nice mix of warbirds. A good selection of P-51 Mustangs launched together to carry out some flypasts. We ended up being well placed for them taxiing out. Having a group of Mustangs rumbling past you is pretty cool. Having them lined up on the taxiway for their power checks before taking off was even better. What a great looking group of aircraft.
The Collins Foundation carry out a tour throughout the country with their vintage aircraft showing them off to many communities, sharing a message about what people did in the Second World War and providing an opportunity to ride in some historic machinery. I have seen them in the past while we lived in Chicago. Their tour this year brought them through the Bay Area with stops at Moffett Field and Livermore. Since the latter is close to home, I went along to see them.
The part of the collection that they bring on tour includes a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, a Consolidated B-24 Liberator and a North American P-51 Mustang. I headed over to Livermore ahead of their planned arrival time and plenty of people had already gathered to see them come in. We all waited for a while and then the B-17 appeared over the hills. It made its approach and landed a short while before the B-24 showed up and followed suit. The P-51 was last of the three making a nice pass before landing. What I hadn’t anticipated was a B-25 Mitchell was also following them in. A quick turnaround and the three main players were soon launching off for flights with expectant passengers.
At this point I headed off as I had other things to do. Later in the day I came back and managed to catch an evening launch of the B-17. The following evening I had more free time so came back again. Another evening launch and recovery as the light got better and better. Then, as everyone packed up, the Collings team was kind enough to let me take some shots around the ramp. A local P-51 was parked up while the Collings P-51 had disappeared somewhere. As the sun set, I shot around the various aircraft and included a cracking 1937 Oldsmobile that one of the volunteers had brought along. With the light fading, the ramp lights came on which gave me a whole new bunch of opportunities to get some shots. I shot a lot until it was pretty late. At that point I headed home. The following day they also departed moving on to the next stop on their tour. If they come your way, make the effort to get out and see them. If you have the money, take a ride and support the continued operation of these great aircraft.
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.
As mentioned in the previous post, the Collings Foundation were at Waukegan with their B-17, B-24 and P-51. Pete and I had headed up there to take a look at what was going on. This was the last day of the tour at Waukegan before they moved on to Palwauckee. They were supposed to be flying during the day and then departing in the early afternoon. Things were looking promising with the B-24 taking off while we were over at the Warbird Heritage Foundation hangar.
The P-51 was apparently being a little troublesome but was also scheduled to take someone on a ride while we were there. A friend of mine, Chris, volunteers for Collings and he was working with them that day so i took the chance to catch up with him. I give him regular abuse as he got a ride in P-51 Baby Duck once before when I was shooting it. I must be a lucky omen for him!
We needed to head back to Chicago for Pete to be ready for the return flight but the warbirds hadn’t yet departed. We decided to give them a few extra minutes. The B-17 had headed out first but the B-24 was obviously waiting to make sure the P-51 was away. Unfortunately, the engine was not looking too willing when it came to starting. Fortunately, a bit of ground power did the trick and they were away. As it turned out, Chris had made it in to the back of the P-51 so I got him in another one. I hope he recognizes my role in all of this!
Some days things are just looking like they will be good. The Warbird Heritage Foundation have their newly restored P-51 Mustang, Baby Duck, ready for flight. Before they can do too much with it, they need to get some hours on the engine. Consequently, they have had Vlado Lenoch coming across to fly the aircraft when possible to build the hours.
I knew that they had intentions to fly in the week before Christmas but I didn’t know exactly when. However, the weather was crap for the majority of the week. When I saw a good forecast for Friday and I had some free time, I decided to take a chance and head on up to see if anything was happening. If not, it was still a nice day to be out and about!
As it was, not only did the guess prove to be accurate, I got a bit luckier than even I had expected. Baby Duck was out on the ramp when I arrived which was a good sign. Indeed she would be flying and Vlado was coming to fly her. What is the easiest way for Vlado to get there? In his P-51 of course. Paul also was planning on flying one of the other aircraft that day as well. Bonus!
Vlado showed up and got ready to fly the Duck. I scooted across the field to be in a position for good light and angles and it wasn’t long before Vlado was taxiing out. A few other aircraft movements kept me amused while he headed out to the departure end. Before I had left the hangar, I had foolishly suggested to Vlado that he keep it low on departure. That was a pretty redundant thing to say. Vlado certainly kept the aircraft in a good position for me as he came past and he built up speed before turning it into height.
I headed back since we didn’t know how long they would be out. They actually landed away so were gone for quite a while. Chris Doud had been in the right place to bag the back seat so he was having a great time.
When they got back, Paul had a chat with Vlado about how the flight had gone and then got ready to take the T-2 up for a run. Vlado was also heading home in Moonbeam McSwine so I made a second run across the field to get the departures again. They ended up heading out close together. Both provided sporty departures so I was considering the day a very productive one.
I headed back to the hangar to await the return of the T-2. They broke back into the pattern and landed so some taxi in shots and then a few pictures of a very happy back seat passenger made for the end of the day. Time to head back to Chicago and enjoy all the traffic could offer on the last day before Christmas!
My friends at the Warbird Heritage Foundation in Waukegan have been working for a long time on adding another aircraft to their already excellent collection. The newest aircraft is a P-51 Mustang called Baby Duck. It is many years since Baby Duck last flew and she has gone through an extensive restoration since being recovered from a storage location near Philadelphia.
The work has been undertaken at Tap-Air in East Troy WI. They have been putting her back together after a thorough restoration of the whole airframe and engine and the whole process has been coming to a climax with the approach of the first flight post restoration.
After some engine runs and taxiing tests, the date for the first flight was set. Paul Wood, the owner of the foundation, kindly invited me up to see the flight and I headed up to East Troy on a gorgeous day. Pilot for the first flight was Vlado Lenoch. Vlado is a highly experienced pilot of Mustangs. He has his own aircraft, Moonbeam McSwine which he displays all around the country. However, he has flown many other aircraft. I think he said that this was his 25th!
After some final checks on the airframe, Vlado fired her up and taxied off for departure. I headed to a spot up the field to be ready for the first wheels up moment. While it was a lovely day, it was warm and sunny so heat haze was a big deal. However, you don’t get to choose when these things are happening so you go with it and get what you can.
The first flight went very well. Vlado took her up to altitude, cycled the systems, undertook some handling checks and basically made sure things were good. Then he brought her back for a flyby – a good sign that he was pleased with the aircraft. There then followed a debrief about e issues that he had found. The Tap-Air guys then took the opportunity to try and fix a few of the issues that could be dealt with immediately while we had a bite to eat before Vlado took her up again.
This time he had a longer sortie and pushed her a little harder with some basic aeros. All went well and again he showed his comfort with everything with another flyby. After landing, another debrief with the guys and a list of tasks to be worked on. There is still some work to do but, hopefully she should be making her way to her new home pretty soon. Probably not soon enough to make it to Oshkosh this year but there is always another year!