The 2004 Chino Airshow

Mitsubishi Zero fighter with original engine

The Chino airshow in southern California is far and away one of the best airshows in America, especially for the warbirds enthusiast.   Visitors from overseas who want to attend an American show and whose main interest is 1940s and 1950s warbirds should definitely have this show near the top of the list, certainly in preference to the more internationally known Oshkosh airshow, which is strongly tilted towards home builders and other private aircraft owners.

Like Oshkosh, the organizers of the Chino airshow have a museum with many different aircraft types, but here they actually fly some of the aircraft during the show.   The Planes of Fame Air Museum at Chino, near Los Angeles, was founded in 1957 and is said to be the oldest permanent air museum West of the Rocky Mountains.   About 30 of the 150 aircraft at the museum still fly, and several of these are sole survivors of their types, such as this Mitsubishi A6M5 Zero (Allied code name "Zeke"), which is the only one in the world which still has the original Japanese engine.   They also have an Aichi "Val" dive bomber in flying condition, together with other authentic Japanese world war two aircraft on static display in the museum such as a Mitsubishi "Betty" bomber, a Mitsubishi Raiden fighter, a Yokosuka Ohka rocket-powered kamikaze flying bomb and a Mitsubishi J8M1 Shushi, the Japanese version of the Me163 Komett rocket-powered fighter.

Northrop N9M flying wing from the 1940s

It's very unusual to see so many Japanese military aircraft at a museum, and it makes up for the comparative lack of German and British aircraft (though they do have a Spitfire and Hurricane which can be seen flying in formation during the show); however, the collection of historic American warplanes is really superb, with such oddities as this Northrop N9M flying wing, a one-third scale proof of concept aircraft which led to the development of Northrop's giant flying wing bombers of the late 1940s, as well as a YP-59A Airacomet which is being put back into flying condition, a static P-39 Airacobra, and a static Douglas Skyrocket.

Along with the Japanese aircraft, Chino also has an outstanding collection of American naval aircraft, including the Grumman "cats" - an F4F Wildcat, F6F Hellcat, F7F Tigercat, an F8F Bearcat, and even a more recent F-14 Tomcat, which is only now in the process of being retired.   There's also a Grumman F3F "flying barrel", the biplane predecessor of the Wildcat, along with a Grumman Duck floatplane and an Avenger torpedo bomber.   The Douglas corporation is also represented in this area with a couple of flyable aircraft - a Dauntless dive bomber and a Skyraider, the only American propeller-driven aircraft certified to carry nuclear weapons.

The organizers certainly put an impressive array of aircraft into the air during the 2004 airshow:  along with the flying wing and the Zero (together with another authentic Zero, but powered by an American Pratt and Whitney engine), there was the Spitfire and Hurricane, a Mark XIX Spitfire with contra-rotating propellers which is of somewhat dubious authenticity but is very welcome nevertheless, and a couple of British naval fighters -  the trainer version of the Sea Fury, and the world's only airworthy Fairey Firefly.   Naturally most of the American naval aircraft I've mentioned flew - the Dauntless, Avenger and Corsair going through their paces together with a pair of Wildcats (which were later jumped by the Zeros, which were in turn "shot down" by a P-38 Lightning), and all of the other propeller-driven "cats" - the Hellcat, a pair of Tigercats which flew formation, and the Bearcat.   Air Force planes included the Lightning, a P-40 Warhawk, the only surviving "razorback" P-47 Thunderbolt and a pair of P-51D Mustangs, again in formation, along with bombers represented by the classic B-17 Flying Fortress and a B-25 Mitchell.   The Skyraider did a brilliant show, aided by the layout of the airfield, which allowed many of the aircraft to do very nice banking photo passes for the crowd.   An F-86 Sabre and a MiG 15 did a simulated dogfight, and I'll leave it to you to guess who won that!   There were even some modern aircraft on display, with an F-16 Falcon doing an air force "Heritage Flight" with the Mustangs, and an F-18 Super Hornet doing the equivalent navy "Legacy Flight" with an F4U Corsair.

You can see a small selection of these displays on the highlights page, together with a German Fieseler Storch which wasn't part of the show proper, but flew circuits immediately afterwards.

See Highlights of the Chino airshow in 2006 and 2008.