Highlights of the 2004 Chino Airshow

As you might expect of an American airshow, Chino puts a few P-51D Mustangs in the air during the show.   Most shows, however, can't do it quite as nicely as this!   The aircraft at the back was built in 1944 and served for a time with the Bolivian air force, it's now owned by Chuck Hall, a former airline pilot who takes it to many shows in southern California.

P-51D Mustangs

There are far fewer P-38 Lightnings still flying than Mustangs, but Porky II went through its paces.   The Lightning is one of only two turbo supercharged fighter aircraft which flew in world war two, the other being the radial engined P-47 Thunderbolt.   You can see the superchargers below, on the tops of the twin booms where they meet the wings.   Since this was pretty fancy technology at the time, the United States had a ban on exporting the superchargers, so the UK returned the first 143 P-38s they received without this essential piece of equipment.   The Lightning was the fastest aircraft in the USAAF inventory when it was first delivered near the end of 1941, but it achieved more success in the Pacific theater than in Europe.   Richard Bong scored 40 air-to-air victories in the Pacific in this type of aircraft, and so became the highest scoring American ace during the war.   Its other great claim to fame was the successful downing of Japanese Admiral Yamamoto's aircraft during a long-range strike by several P-38s.

P-38 Lightning

Here's that other turbo supercharged fighter, the P-47 Thunderbolt.   It used the same massive Pratt and Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp radial engine used by many other American aircraft like the F4U Corsair, F6F Hellcat, F7F Tigercat, F8F Bearcat as well as transport planes like the DC-6 and C-46 Commando.   The Thunderbolt was the largest fighter of world war two, but the 2300 horsepower engine could pull it along at a very creditable 433 mph (697 km/h), and a prototype P-47J became the fastest piston-engined fighter of the war by flying at 507mph (816 km/h).   It was a very good fighter and also a very good ground attack and strafing aircraft, accounting for over 7000 enemy aircraft destroyed in Europe.   The version shown here is a very early model, in fact it's the only surviving "razorback" P-47G, with the original high fuselage directly behind the canopy, rather than the "teardrop" style canopy developed by the British for the Spitfire, which was used on the Mustangs above, as well as a number of other allied aircraft.

razorback P-47 Thunderbolt  (click here to open a new window with this photo in computer wallpaper format)

Here's one of my favorite American world war two aircraft, a Douglas Dauntless dive bomber, only three of which are still flying.   At the Battle of Midway the Dauntlesses sank several Japanese aircraft carriers soon after a flight of six Grumman Avenger torpedo bombers had been shot to pieces on that type's first combat mission (you can see the single surviving Avenger, plus a photo of the first President Bush sitting in his Avenger, on the Wanaka Warbirds airshow page).   The Dauntless was designed by the legendary Ed Heinemann, who also did the A-1 Skyraider, shown later on this page.

Douglas Dauntless naval dive bomber (click here to open a new window with this Dauntless photo in computer wallpaper format)

The Chino show had a superlative collection of American world war two naval aircraft on display; the Dauntless was joined by a pair of FM-2 Wildcats (which served as the initial "victims" of the dogfight with a pair of Zeroes and the Lightning), an F4U Corsair, F6F Hellcat, the two rare F7F Tigercats shown in formation below, and two Grumman Avengers (one in British Royal Navy colors).   You can see a whole page about the F7F Tigercat which flew at the Duxford airshow in 2002.    The Tigercat arrived too late for service in world war two, so only 350 were ever built, but it's a very graceful and innovative aircraft.

F7F Tigercats

The pilot of this A-1 Skyraider put on a really excellent display, throwing his large aircraft around in front of the crowd, giving them an excellent view of this large naval attack aircraft.   The Skyraider could carry phenomenal amounts of ordnance, as shown by the bombs and rockets on this example, and in fact a single-engined Skyraider with a one-man crew could carry a heavier bombload than a four-engined B-17 Flying Fortress with a ten-man crew.   The Skyraider also has the distinction of being the only American propeller aircraft with nuclear capability, which is pretty impressive for a plane which first flew while world war two was still underway.   Performance like this allowed it to continue in service during both the Korean and Vietnam wars, where its heavy payload and long "loiter" time made it especially suitable for supporting helicopter rescues of downed airmen.

AD-4 Skyraider

The F-86 Sabre was developed after the Skyraider but had a far shorter, but still very successful, life.   It's most famous for its battles during the Korean War against MiG 15s, and at the show they even performed a simulated dogfight between this F-86 and its MiG opponent for the benefit of the crowd.   The Sabre was the first American jet to exceed the speed of sound, a feat achieved during a shallow dive only a short time after Chuck Yeager had become the first person to break the sound barrier in the rocket powered X-1.   Sabres were produced in many variants, including the FJ Fury naval version, and were also used by a number of America's allies.

F-86 Sabre

Here's a USAF aircraft you might not have seen before - an original Northrop N9M flying wing.   This was a one third scale proof-of-concept aircraft to demonstrate the feasability of a flying wing bomber.   From this prototype, Northrop went on to develop the full size B-35 bomber which first flew in 1946 and was developed into the B-49 jet bomber.   Although these aircraft never entered service, the technology they pioneered eventually became the basis of the B-2 "stealth bomber".   You can see photos of a modern day B-2, as well as a B-35 and a B-49, on my Frederick Airshow 2000 page.   Although they might look weird, the first test pilot of a B-35 said that if you didn't look back then you wouldn't know you weren't in a conventional aircraft.   The B-49 did have one serious accident, which killed the USAF test pilot Glenn Edwards at Muroc Air Force Base, which was later renamed Edwards Air Force Base in his memory.

Northrop N9MB flying wing

Here's a sight which is almost equally rare at an American airshow - two British fighters side by side, a Supermarine Spitfire at the back and a Hawker Hurricane at the front.   Although the Spitfire was the best and most glamorous British fighter of the war, the Hurricane was just as important during the early years of the war.   The Hurricane was the Royal Air Force's first monoplane fighter when it entered service at the end of 1937, so it was a huge advance for its time.   Both the Hurricane and the Spitfire (which entered service in the middle of 1938) were very heavily armed for their day, with eight machine guns each, but it was the Hurricane which was responsible for destroying more enemy aircraft during the Battle of Britain than all other means combined.

Spitfire and Hurricane   (click here to open a new window with this photo in computer wallpaper format)

Ah, but here's something that even British airshow fans would salivate over - a Mark XIX Spitfire fitted with a late-model Griffon engine from a Shackleton maritime patrol aircraft, complete with the Shackleton's contra-rotating propellers!   As far as I've been able to work out, no production Spitfires were ever fitted with contra-rotating propellers, although many did have Griffon engines (you can recognize the Griffon engined Spitfires by the long bulges above the exhaust pipes).   However, the naval variant of the Spitfire, called the Seafire, did fly with contra-rotating propellers, so this isn't an entirely fanciful arrangement.   This aircraft was put together some years ago as part of an attempt on a time-to-altitude record.

Mk XIX Spitfire with contra-rotating propellers (click here to open a new window with this photo in computer wallpaper format)

Here's another British aircraft which even a Brit would be excited to see flying, a Fairey Firefly carrier fighter, which uses a Griffon engine like the Mk XIX Spitfire.   Although not especially fast, the Firefly packed a heavy punch with its four cannons, and it was extremely maneuverable.   Sadly, a Firefly like this one crashed at the Duxford Airshow in the UK in 2003 and both crewmen died, leaving this other aircraft as the only airworthy example in the world.

Fairey Firefly

You don't have to be a British aircraft enthusiast to be excited by this - it's the world's only flyable Mitsubishi Zero with its original Sakae engine.   There were a couple of other Zeroes at this show, but powered by American Pratt and Whitney engines.   There was also a group of veteran Japanese Zero pilots at the show, I went over and said "konichi wa" to them after the show, they asked me something in Japanese which I assumed was something like, "Do you speak Japanese", so I said "no", in Japanese.   I don't know how they felt earlier in the show when there was a mock dogfight between a couple of Grumman Wildcats, a pair of Zeroes and a P-38; as usual at American airshows, the American aircraft came off best, with the Zeroes in mock flames.

Mitsubishi Zero fighter

As you might expect, not many aircraft survive from the defeated air forces, so it was very nice to see both the Zeroes and this German Fieseler Storch at the show.   Technically, the Storch wasn't at the show, it was doing touch-and-go landings and takeoffs immediately after the end of the show.   These were a brilliant illustration of the Storch's absolutely remarkable short takeoff and landing capabilities, which allowed one to rescue Mussolini from his mountaintop prison where he'd been kept after a coup during the war.   Although there was no airfield on the mountain, the Germans managed to get a Storch in and back out, and then they restored Mussolini to power in northern Italy.

Fieseler Storch (click here to open a new window with this photo in computer wallpaper format)
See Highlights of the Chino airshow in 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2011.