Culpeper Air Fest 2018
I attended the 2018 Culpeper Air Fest on October 13th for the first time. Although I had known about this show, I never made arrangements to attend as it is just over 100 miles from my home and a long travel day. I agree with their tagline that it is “The best little airshow in the east”. It is only held one day and reserves Sunday for a rain date. From their website, “The Culpeper Air Fest is funded by Culpeper Air Fest Foundation- A 501 c(3) non-profit charitable organization chartered to promote aviation education, awareness and support in Culpeper, VA.” This annual event is the biggest in the community.
Unfortunately, during a Friday night show for a limited audience, Redline Airshows had an accident for unknown reasons and pilot, Jon Thocker perished in his Vans RV-8 aircraft. The decision was unanimous that the Saturday show should go on as planned.
There was some overnight rain and the clouds were slow to move off. Winds were gusty and variable throughout the day. Culpeper Airport has a single 5,000 foot Runway 04/22. The late season sun rises in front and to airshow right and sets behind you, remaining on the right. Pictures to the North were good all day.
As a media member, I was allowed to walk the hot ramp and ended up in a spot in front of the Air Boss, who just happens to be a personal friend of mine, Anthony Svihlik. Prior to the show, there was a mandatory meeting. I had set up a chair next to an Art Nalls chalet tent. When the sun was out, it had gotten warm. When the clouds and wind came back, it was chilly. I had a zip up hooded sweatshirt in my chair bag waiting for me but as the show was starting, my chair was nowhere to be found. The two areas of Art Nalls had been roped off to become one and my chair was moved, and then disappeared along with my sweatshirt. This is a new experience for me. I do not miss the chair but someone is wearing my Airport Snow Team 2018 sweatshirt and I really miss that.
Most of the static aircraft were performers except for one Stearman in Coast Guard colors. There was a car show out front with some American Muscle, old trucks (my personal favorites) and even a Bumblebee sighting. Flying started around noon. It was still cloudy but the Flying Circus, a 4 ship of Stearmans, was already airborne. A parachutist dropped with the flag from a helicopter and the Stearmans flew circuits.
One Stearman stayed aloft and performed a wingwalking act. Art Nalls performed his first demonstration in an L-39 Albatross, followed by the launch of former NASA Astronaut, Joe Edwards in his blue T-28 Trojan who would return later. A lightweight flight launched to fly the circuit which included a Cessna Skymaster, a Percival Provost, a Focke Wulf 149, and a Fuji LM-1. Manfred Radius performed in his Salto Sailplane at a slightly lower altitude due to winds.
Joe Edwards returned to perform his demonstration and then the Potomac Flight departed for a flight over Washington D.C. Nine T-6 Texans, Two C-47s and a Beech 18 composed the flight. They would return later for a few fly bys. The Warrior Flight team performed in two black L-39s and Scott Francis performed his high energy routine in his MXS aircraft. There was a helicopter demonstration that I missed completely seeking lunch.
The Military Aviation Museum brought three beautiful warbirds including a Spitfire, a Hurricane and a Yak 3 in polar white paint. They elected not to fly them due to gusty winds but did taxi them in front of the crowd. Prior to this, Art Nalls performed his second demonstration with his privately-owned Sea Harrier, or the SHAR. Finally, the Potomac Flight returned and landed after a few passes. I remained at the show into the late afternoon and captured some departures including the Coast Guard Stearman.
Although weather was a factor for the flying, this was an enjoyable airshow with thoughts of Jon Thocker and his loved ones. The small band of organizers and volunteers are commended for their efforts and their kindness to put on the greatest little airshow in the east. I look forward to next years edition.