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Yankee Air Museum Airshow 2005 Highlights

One major highlight of the show was an appearance by a Messerschmitt Bf109 fighter owned by a Canadian collector, the first Daimler powered Bf109 I've seen since the Warbirds Over Wanaka airshow in New Zealand.   This is a fairly early Bf109E "Emil" model rather than the later and slightly more common Bf109G "Gustav".   The black cross on this plane's fuselage signifies that it participated in the Spanish civil war in the German Kondor Legion.   The Emil has struts on the tailplane like its Me108 forebear and a 1350 horsepower engine rather than the Gustav's 1850 horsepower, giving a top speed of 560 kph (348 mph) rather than the Gustav's 685 kph (426 mph).

Messerschmitt Bf109E 'Emil'   (click here to open a new window with this photo in computer wallpaper format)

The Emil's first takeoff at the show started to come unstuck almost immediately, and it lurched from side to side several times before the pilot could lift the tail and straighten up.   The instability caused by the Bf109's narrow undercarriage was a major failing, and some people claim that more were lost in takeoff and landing accidents than were lost in combat.

A trio of P-47 Thunderbolts put on a great display during the show, whether chasing the Messerschmitt or doing simulated ground attacks during the battle reenactment, which I don't remember seeing in previous years.   The P-47s also did a dazzling formation flyby, which apparently was also done last year.

three P-47 Thunderbolts in formation   (click here to open a new window with this photo in computer wallpaper format)

Rounding out the list of world war two propeller-driven fighters, no fewer than five P-51 Mustangs flew, as well as this far less common P-40 Warhawk.

P-40 Warhawk and P-51D Mustang in formation

When I was a boy I made a plastic model of a world war two Grumman Duck floatplane, so this particular aircraft type has more than the usual amount of emotional significance for me.  I didn't know that any were still flying, so it was a pleasant surprise to learn that one was due at this show.  I caught it arriving on Saturday but it didn't get much opportunity to display, apart from a single pass when it departed during the Sunday show.   The pilot might well regret making this pass, since he misjudged his approach badly and flew straight over the top of the crowd and the static display area.   This is a serious safety violation at American airshows, so it could well be that he had lots of explaining to do afterwards to the Federal Aviation Authority.   It's certainly an easy mistake to make in the Duck, because its huge nose, the float and the bottom wing all conspire to block the pilot's forward vision.   This situation wouldn't have happened if a banked approach around the corner had been done, which would allow the pilot to see where the crowd is and would also give a much better view for photographers.

Grumman Duck floatplane   (click here to open a new window with this photo in computer wallpaper format)

Dr Rich Sugden brought his FJ-4B Fury to the show, the only flying example of this early American naval jet fighter.   I'd seen it flying only once before, at Oshkosh in 2003, but the layout of the Willow Run airport provides much more opportunity to bank, so I was able to get much better photos this year.   Nevertheless many people were disappointed by the display, since he was often too high up and too far from the crowdline to provide a good view.   In fact this is one of the few airshows where a pilot has been heard to resist an air traffic controller's suggestion that he should fly lower!

FJ4B Fury

The Fury was a naval version of the classic American F-86 Sabre jet fighter, though as you can see the Fury was modified so extensively that it was virtually a totally different aircraft.   There are about 15 Sabres still flying, including this beautiful example, whose pilot had no hesitation about flinging his aircraft around.

F-86 Sabre   (click here to open a new window with this photo in computer wallpaper format)

The only nod to the fraternity of modern military enthusiasts was a solo display by an A-10 Thunderbolt II.   This was done much closer to the crowdline than is customary, adding to the excitement and providing some nearly head-on views as it made its initial run into the airshow "box".   A touch of vapor and those fluffy clouds and blue skies made for a perfect scene.

A-10 Thunderbolt II and F-86 Sabre 'Historic Flight'

The warthog's solo display was immediately followed by an Air Force "Historic Flight" which paired the Thunderbolt with the Sabre.   On the Friday arrivals and practice day they did two passes, one with the Sabre nearest the crowd and one with the Thunderbolt on the inside.   Apparently they decided that it was best to have the A-10 closest because that's how they flew on Saturday and Sunday.   This was probably sensible but it did detract slightly from the formation to have the rare and small F-86 obscured by the common and large A-10.

The Sabre was complemented by a Russian designed MiG 17 "Fresco", successor to the MiG 15 "Fagot" which duelled with the Sabre during the Korean war.   The MiG 17 had an afterburner to improve its performance, and the pilot switched it on several times during his routine, adding an extra dimension to the display as it loudly cut in and left a long stream of flame in the aircraft's wake.

MiG 17

This Dassault-Dornier Alpha jet in a German air force color scheme was another unexpected treat, arriving and departing on Saturday.   It's owned and flown by Bob Lutz, who was a US Marine Corps aviator and is now a vice chairman at General Motors.   He showed that not only does he have enough good taste to buy an interesting aircraft, but he can fly the thing too!   He did a number of fast banking passes and left a very good impression on the crowd, some of whom were under the mistaken impression that they'd just seen a Tornado fighter/bomber!

Dornier Alpha Jet trainer

The Alpha jet is an advanced trainer which was also converted to light attack duties.   There was quite a fleet of world war two training aircraft at the show, including the ubiquitous world war two AT-6 Texan advanced trainer.   This is an entry level warbird for those without million dollar budgets, as is the PT-17 Stearman Kaydet biplane.   I've seen enough Texans and Stearmans to make my ears bleed, but the two Stearmans at this show put on such a spirited display that I had to take notice.   The sharp banking and good shooting conditions made this the best photographic opportunity I've had with this aircraft type.

Vultee BT-13 Valiant   (click here to open a new window with this photo in computer wallpaper format)

The Stearmen were good but my eyes were glued on a single Vultee BT-13 Valiant basic trainer which flew amongst some T-6s and a Yak 52 Soviet trainer of much later vintage.   The Vultee looks very similar to a Texan but its tail is different and it also has a fixed undercarriage, which no doubt saved many a trainee pilot from the embarassment of an unintended belly landing.   The Vultee's performance was also far inferior to the Texan and earned it the nickname "Vibrator".   After the war a number of them were converted into replicas of Japanese Val dive bombers or Kate torpedo bombers, just as some Texans were converted into replicas of Zero fighters.

Two American Avenger torpedo bombers flew at the show, this one in a North Atlantic paint scheme and another one in a rather unusual and anachronistic pre-war training color scheme.


An excellent collection of world war two bombers was put into the air following the fighters.   It was a real disappointment that "Fifi", the sole flying B-29 Superfortress was unable to make the show after serious corrosion was found in its wing, however there was a nice group of three B-25 Mitchell medium bombers, a reminder of the 2002 show which had six of this type.   As usual the Mitchell pilots threw their aircraft around very expertly.

B-25 Mitchell 'Yankee Warrior'   (click here to open a new window with this photo in computer wallpaper format)

As well as bringing eight B-17s together, airshow organizer Tom Walsh and his colleagues achieved a somewhat similar, but probably easier logistical feat by having the only two remaining flyable B-24 Liberator variants at the show.   The Collings Foundation B-24, which previously flew at this show in the guise of a world war two plane called The Dragon and its Tail, made its appearance in the color scheme of a plane called Witchcraft.   It made numerous flights during the show with paying customers who were willing to fork out $400, but perhaps because of these passengers it flew only flat passes.   Previously the whole left side of this plane was covered with sponsors' names, but now the right hand side is festooned in this way; however there were plenty of opportunities to photograph the unmutilated side, both while taxying and flying.

B-24 Liberator 'Witchcraft'

The other Liberator at the show is actually an LB-30 cargo variant which lacks gun turrets.   It didn't fly on Saturday and it seemed as if it might stay on static display for the entire show.   However on Sunday it sneaked into the air on a distant runway and made a single glorious banking pass before departing back to its home base.   One of those fluffy white clouds was hiding the sun as it made its run in, but a gap provided a brief opportunity to get at least one well lit photo.

LB-30 Liberator 'Diamond Lil'   (click here to open a new window with this photo in computer wallpaper format)

The stars of the show, of course, were the eight B-17 Flying Fortresses which had been brought together, the only American one which wasn't in attendance was Miss Angela of the Palm Springs Air Museum in southern California.   The one at the bottom of this photo, "Yankee Lady" is owned by the Yankee Air Museum and like the B-24 it flew many times with paying customers.   At the end of each day's show all of the B-17s were put into the air, flying in a wide circuit before forming up together to fly above the audience in a single stream.   Half of them then returned in a "finger four" formation with one of them pulling up in a "missing man" salute to fallen comrades.   I somehow lost almost all of the photos of the Flying Fortresses parked on the ramp, but I'll soon put a separate page of all eight of the Flying Fortresses in the air.

B-17 Flying Fortress 'Yankee Lady' and B-17 Flying Fortress 'Nine O Nine' in formation
Check out the Yankee Air Museum "Thunder Over Michigan" Airshow in 2003, 2006 and 2007.
www.richard-seaman.com / Aircraft / Airshows / Thunder Over Michigan 2005 / Highlights