Geneseo Airshow 2018, The Greatest Show on Turf
I am proud to bring you my other hometown area airshow from Western New York. The proper name of it is the National Warplane Museum Airshow, the Greatest Show on Turf. I call her Genny. I first attended this airshow in 1992 and they are in their 38th year of annual airshows. I had a long layoff away at college and then relocating to Maryland, but I finally started building the airshow into my summer trips home to see my family beginning in 2009. I am a member of the Museum and haven’t missed a show since. There are a lot of Warbird Airshows but this one is uniquely special with a turf strip and favorable lighting. Only a rope line separates you from the runway and a hot ramp is only hot when an aircraft is starting up and moving. You can greet the pilots as soon as they climb out of their aircraft. It is a laid back, joyful and accessible airshow experience. In addition to those wonderful flying Warbirds, there were about 100 WWII reenactors, a classic car show, and a Saturday night hangar dance with 1940s music and period attire all around.
The town of Geneseo is approximately 40 minutes driving time from Rochester in the Finger Lakes region of New York State. The National Warplane Museum is in a valley off the road set among agricultural fields. The Museum has two significant residents. The Flagship is “Whiskey 7”, a C-47A that led the second wave of paratroopers into France on D-Day. The other is the “Movie Memphis Belle”, a B-17G, minus a chin turret to look like an F model. As her name suggests, she was the aircraft used in the 1990 movie.
The theme of this year’s show was “Showcasing the Wings of Western New York”. Bell Aircraft and Curtiss-Wright were Western New York companies producing aircraft for World War II. A P-63 King Cobra represented Bell while three Curtiss P-40 Warhawks were present. A Curtiss C-46 was expected but was not present.
I arrived in town late afternoon on Friday, so I missed most of arrival day. I took some inventory and photos of the aircraft already on the ground and enjoyed a chicken dinner in the big tent. The sun sets across the runway at airshow left so a few photographers were out trying to get those artsy sunset images.
Saturday morning was bright and sunny. I toted a rolling cooler to the front row at airshow left next to the taxiway and took some morning still photographs on my way back to the big tent. For $5 you can get two pancakes, two eggs over easy and a sausage patty. This was my morning routine and another part of the Genny experience. Flying started early as W-7 and Movie Memphis Belle gave rides to paying passengers. There were also some privately-owned arrivals including a Grumman Goose with aftermarket reciprocating engines.
The show got started with the lightweight flight. A De Havilland Tiger Moth joined a number of L-Birds, one a Vietnam era version, a North American Navion and a De Havilland Chipmunk. Next launched was a T-28 Trojan in Southeast Asia paint and a T-6 Harvard in British training colors, both of which conducted solo flying displays.
More T-6 Texans and Harvards took to the air including a Vultee Valiant and a Nanchang CJ-6. During a break in the fly around, four fighters were launched to return later.
At approximately 1200, a tribute to veterans takes place near show center. This year a fleet of vintage jeeps and trucks took part. The Canadian and American National Anthems are played followed by “Taps” for the fallen. The fighters return to execute a missing man formation overhead. The flight consisted of a P-51 Mustang, a P-63 King Cobra, a P-40 Warhawk and an FG-1 Corsair.
After the flyover, two fighters stayed airborne. Scott “Scooter” Yoak performed a solo routine with his P-51 “Quicksilver” where he exhibits the power and maneuverability of Europe’s penultimate fighter of WWII. Shortly afterward, the P-63 King Cobra dropped in for a solo display showing that these Bell’s with the mid mounted engine were pretty good down low.
The next group was the colorful Stearmans from aviation’s Golden Age. Three were in typical military training paint of yellows and blues but others were more unique. One was overall red with yellow checkerboarding and wings while another was red with maroon pinstriping.
During this time, W-7 launched with the WWII Airborne Demonstration Team who performed two jumps of about 7 each onto the turf. Winds were light, so no paratroopers ended up in the corn field. Manfred Radius followed close behind with his Salto Sailplane routine. Rick Volker performed an aerobatic routine in his Sukhoi 26 that was cut short when the Air Boss and he were not on the same page in launching aircraft.
By this time, clouds had overtaken the field so picture taking was a downer, but the flying was spectacular. The last part of the show featured the bombers and what has become known as the fighter finale. First, the Movie Memphis Belle and B-25 “Takeoff Time” flew individual passes. I did not see a watermelon drop but it did happen on Sunday. Next was the Pacific Flight. Two P-40s and two TBM Avengers were airborne. The P-40s got together from some formation flying while the Avengers were in a close trail. Afterward, Thom Richard performed a solo routine in “The Jacky C”.
All fighters stayed airborne while the Canadian Harvard Aircraft Association performed a four-ship routine in their T-6 aircraft. While still in the air, more fighters launched. Quicksilver and another P-51, “Mad Max”, and the P-63 King Cobra. The Corsair did not fly the rest of the weekend. Quicksilver and Mad Max got together in formation while the P-63 made solo flybys. There was rain in the forecast and I think everyone was trying to beat the weather as the last aircraft touched down at 2:30.
A little rain fell but cleared up in time for the hangar dance. I do not know how many airshow attendees also attend the dance but a lot of the participants I saw arrive were fresh and dressed spiffy so they were most likely not at the air show. It is interesting to see the changeover in attendees. Everyone looks great and it is fun to see them enjoy this event. I am not a participant, but I check in at times and help with cleanup.
Getting up Sunday was difficult. The Hangar Dance went until 11pm, all the walking took its toll on me and the sky was overcast. I went direct to the big tent for breakfast. Slowly, the overcast began to lift and except for some big clouds, the show was mostly sunny. I forgot to mention that every day was hot and a little sticky. Today, I set up at extreme airshow right.
W-7 and Movie Memphis Belle continued some morning flights with passengers and then the strangest of aircraft dropped in. It was a Republic Seabee. I have read about them but seeing a real one was a first for me.
Most of the flying was the same but with a few changes. In the light category, only one L Bird was the same and a different Chipmunk took to the air. The P-63 King Cobra was grounded with a brake line issue, so the missing man formation was conducted with two Mustangs and two Warhawks. In speaking with Thom Richard earlier in the morning, he promised a surprise in the Fighter Finale. If I had any thoughts of departing early, they were just tabled. After the missing man, we got a few flybys, one of which featured Mad Max and the Jacky C in a dissimilar formation.
Before and after the Airborne Team jump, W-7 performed a few photo passes. The bombers went next with a watermelon drop from “Takeoff Time” and photo passes. Rick Volker performed his full routine followed by the Canadian Harvards. In the Pacific flight, the T-6 modified to look like a Japanese Val Dive Bomber joined the TBMs and P-40s. First, though, Charles Lynch launched in his Avenger, “She’s the Boss” for a solo routine. All the planes that were in the air remained there while two Mustangs and the British marked P-40 launched. There are now 8 warbirds airborne. That was one surprise. As the passes began, two Mustangs and two P-40s joined up in a dissimilar diamond for a few passes. The best part of this is that all these pilots are at the top of their game and thought of it the night before, blessed by airshow management. With no weather to race, Sunday’s show ended at approximately 4:30.
I packed up my camp and finally rolled out for home after 6pm. Three years of this routine have taught me how to camp again. I now have some useful skills for my next stop at Oshkosh. I ran into Scooter Yoak before leaving and he said he had to break a 5-year consistent appearance at Genny next year due to a prior commitment. It won’t be the same without him, but he will be back in 2020. Until next year, the Greatest Show on Turf is in the books for this very successful edition. The hard working, all volunteer staff can catch their breath and celebrate a job well done. Thank you, Genny! See Y’All next year.