Planes of Fame 2019


One of my absolute favorite shows of the year, and the best vintage show in the Western United States, is the Planes of Fame Airshow held in Chino, California. This year’s show commemorated the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

Kicking off the flying portion of the show were a couple formation flights in memory of those we have lost. First, a flight of four P-47s performed the missing man in remembrance of those lost serving our country. Sunday was three P-47s and a P-38).

Following that was a formation that really tugged on the heart strings. Three one of a kind aircraft, an AT-12 Guardman, a P-26 Peashooter, and a P-51A Mustang flew by in tight formation until they were mid-field. At mid-field, the P-51A slid left to open up a ‘vacant’ position within the formation. This vacant position was in memory of recently passed David Vopat, who tragically lost his life a little over a week earlier while on a test flight in the one of a kind N9MB Flying Wing in preparation for the show. David’s passing is yet another reminder of the risk and sacrifice these pilots take on doing their best to keep history alive. And to repeat the announcer during the tribute flight in his honor, “We will miss you David Vopat, we will ALWAYS remember you.”

After the very touching tribute, and as David would’ve wanted it, the show went on.

Entertaining the audience with aerobatic routines were Rob Harrison in the ‘Tumbling Bear’, John Collver in his AT-6 ‘War Dog’, Eric Tucker in his Piper Cub, Dennis Sanders in his Sea Fury, Stew Dawson in his Tigercat, and Greg ‘Wired’ Colyer in his new T-33 ‘Ace Maker III’. Another treat for the fans in attendance was an air race demonstration with the P-51s ‘Goldfinger’, ‘Boise Bee’, ‘Strega’, and ‘Voodoo’, as well as the Sea Fury (and 2019 reigning Reno Air Race Champion) ‘Dreadnought’.

A multitude of warbirds filled the skies each day and were broken into different categories: the Golden Age, Army aircraft, Korean War, Navy aircraft, and a re-enactment of the D-Day invasion involving several paratroopers. Making several laps around the airfield, this vast number of warbirds (some of which are incredibly rare) are the biggest draw for me personally. Nothing can beat the sound of these amazing machines. Some of the flying warbirds included: 10x P-51s, 4x C-47s, 4x P-47s, 3x P-40s, 2x F-7Fs, 2x B-25s, 2x P-38s, an AD-4, F-4U, A-26, FM2, F6F, PB4Y, A6M, FW-190, P-2, P-26, AT-12, AT-6, BT-13, Yak-3, TBM Avenger, SBD Dauntless, Spitfire, 3 T-33s, and a Mig-15…..just to name a few.

The United States Air Force F-16 Viper Demonstration Team took the skies and Major John ‘Rain’ Waters put the mighty Viper through its paces in a very aggressive display of modern air power. He concluded his demonstration by forming up with several warbirds each day for the always impressive Heritage Flight. This was Major Waters final display with the Viper West Demonstration Team. We wish him the best in his next adventure.

Chino is one of the can’t miss airshows every year. There is always a different theme, and enough different participants to keep it fresh each and every year. I’m looking forward to next year’s commemoration and am already counting down to May in 2020.

Steve Lewis

Steve is a Southern California based photographer living in the Los Angeles area.

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