Remembering Ed Maloney’s Legacy at Chino, 2017

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Legacy. Everyone leaves one and every person has a choice in how theirs will be defined. By a person’s actions, they determine how they are to be remembered. While everyone experiences some degree of success in this endeavor, some accomplish this in spectacular fashion. One of those people, the late Ed Maloney created a lasting tradition of excellence within the warbird community that is simply unrivaled. Now, 60 years later, that tradition once again manifested itself in a magnificent airshow in Chino, California.

In the mid 1950’s Ed began acquiring some of the aircraft being rapidly cast off by an equally rapidly advancing United States Military. Unable to simply let these aircraft be discarded and scrapped, Ed opened the first museum with 10 aircraft in 1957. In those early days, many of the aircraft were less than 20 years old, some less than a decade and could be acquired for very reasonable prices. Many were stripped of essential equipment and others in nearly perfect condition. Yet, regardless of the condition and the relatively young age, to Ed, these aircraft must be preserved. One could hardly call anything 20 years old in modern society worth preserving. However, with a vision and incredible forethought, Ed realized these aircraft will grow in value, eventually become priceless, and, most importantly, provide a valuable link to the history of the pilots who flew them. He also understood that to be fully appreciated, the aircraft, whenever possible, must fly. At times it wasn’t easy, and even six decades later there have been challenges to the fate of the museum and the annual airshow. Thankfully, the museum, spirit and passion for aircraft Ed fostered have remained to grow and resulted in a legacy illustrated in a museum of the finest vintage aircraft preservation the aviation world has ever known and a can-do spirit to “keep them flying”. Unfortunately, Mr. Ed Maloney, a gentleman, giant of the warbird restoration movement, and the man who is easily responsible for that movement took his final flight in 2016.

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Yet despite his absence, the legacy of Ed Maloney lives on in the world renowned Planes of Fame museum and annual airshow. Easily the finest airshow on the west coast, and one of the finest in the world, this is the place to see vintage aircraft fly. The 2017 version was nothing short of awesome and a fitting tribute to Mr. Maloney.

For more than a half century an annual pilgrimage has brought anyone and everyone from all over the world to witness the immaculately restored aircraft from Planes of Fame along with other aircraft of equal levels of preservation take to the air in sweeping aerobatics and thundering passes. Despite the challenging weather this year, the skies parted enough for the collection of highly experienced pilots to thrill thousands with the power of their machines.

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Each year the variety of aircraft featured and provided by Planes of Fame as well as other museums from around the country allows the organizers to create several flying displays with the aircraft grouped into historically significant flights. The epic result is unique to airshows and allows for attendees to witness aircraft which were often mortal enemies of each other rumbling through the sky wingtip to wingtip. Some of the more unique and poignant formations included the Northrop N9M flying wing and the Boeing P-26 Peashooter. The Northrop flying wing, a precursor to the YB-35 and YB-49, both of those precursors to the B-2 spirit, was originally constructed as a test airframe to help validate the concept. This is the only remaining N9MB in the world.

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The Boeing P-26, originally introduced into U.S. Army Air Corps service before World War 2, is one of only two left and the only flyable example of this nearly century old design in the world. It flies in stark contrast to aircraft like the P-51 Mustang, less than 30 years it’s junior, as an example of the progress made in aviation less than a century ago. Adding to the rarity, a Seversky climbed into the overcast sky.

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Continuing the themed flights, a history of American and foreign airpower followed with a selection of aircraft ranging from the first days of World War II, through the European and Pacific Theaters of Operation, and advancing to the Korean era. Present in these historic and magnificent demonstrations included P-51’s, Corsairs, a Wildcat, Hellcat, Tigercat, F-86, MiG 15, B-25, C-47, Spitfire and more. Each aircraft and formation of aircraft arced through the sky in a precisely choreographed aerial ballet. Wildcats chased Zeros, Zeros chased Wildcats. Hellcats and Corsairs chased Zeros. The F-86 and MiG chased each other. A Skyraider came in low just as it did in the Korean and Vietnam wars. A rare Consolidated Privateer provided some four-engine thunder. A pair of B-25 Mitchell medium bombers roared off the runway to an excellent performance of the aircraft made famous by the Doolittle raid. Enhancing the experience for the spectators, the arrangement of the airshow and viewing areas allows for a viewing experience unique to the Planes of Fame airshow. With the crowd on the inside and the aircraft circling around them, the tops and sides of the aircraft are visible as well as allowing the flight path of the aircraft to be closer. The precisely choreographed displays create a sky filled with aircraft and never a dull moment. Blink and you will miss something.

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One of the most entertaining displays in the country involves a classic aircraft, a truck, and pieces falling off the wing. The excellence of the airshow attracted this incredible team once again and they never disappoint. The Jelly Belly Airplane expertly flown by Kent Pietsch begins the performance with an aileron literally falling off the airplane… in flight. Combined with some clever announcing everyone is doing a double take and a few gasps. However, it is quickly apparent it is part of the show as Kent, using his other remaining aileron, loops and rolls his Interstate Cadet in a low level show of incredible skill and fun. Kent proves with his jelly bean- covered airplane that huge horsepower is not required to perform all manner of loops, rolls, dives and climbs. The truck part of things involves Kent landing his Cadet on top of a platform mounted above a pickup truck as it attempts to match his speed driving down the runway. Right… they’re going to land a plane… on a truck… as it drives down the runway. Given the breezy conditions this year, seeing an Kent sitting in his aircraft successfully perched on top of a truck is all the more impressive. If that wasn’t enough, after taking off again, Kent proceeded to shut down the engine and perform several aerobatic maneuvers before touching down and rolling right up to an assistant and placing the spinner in her hand, all deadstick. Failure is not an option since there is no starter motor on the aircraft and windmilling the engine back to life is not possible.

As the show advances through the program the impeccable Sea Fury 924 provided by none other than the Sanders crew performed a fantastic routine which features a pair of smoke generators on each wingtip. It’s not much of a stretch to consider the people at Sanders Aeronautics have forgotten more about a Sea Fury than anyone else knows. Such an accolade was driven home once again in the air over the Chino airport. As 924 loops and slices through the sky the smoke mixes with the vortexes created by the wingtips resulting in a set of swirling smoke rings, trails and helices. The aerobatics range from high loops and rolls to screaming low passes. It is very interesting from an aerodynamics perspective to have the phenomenon of wake turbulence so vividly illustrated. However, smoke and science aside, the factory Bristol Centaurus engine sounds incredible as it hauls the British aircraft through the sky. Also brought by the Sanders experts, the famous Reno air racer Dreadnaught thundered through the overcast sky. The only Sea Fury in the world powered by the huge R-4360 engine, it looked to be in racing form as it flew its part of the show. To see this aircraft really perform will have to wait until the Reno Air Races in September when the full 3,000+ horsepower of the American radial is unleashed around the pylons.

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Completing out the flights of the day, Luke Air Force Base in Peoria, Arizona sent a pair of F-35’s to remind everyone what the latest in aerial electronic wizardry looks like. This aircraft is the most advanced multi-mission stealth aircraft to enter service and is expected to form the backbone of Air Force, Navy and Marine airpower for the next several decades. As part of their flight demonstration, the F-35 performed several ear splitting afterburner passes as well as joined up with two other vintage P-51’s one day and a P-38 and F-86 another day for the Heritage Flight. Quite possibly the most patriotic part of any airshow, the Heritage Flight combines vintage and modern military aircraft into one formation, offering a tribute to those who have come before and a link from the past to the present. The majesty of the Heritage Flight causes more than one misty eye for anyone who experiences it.

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As the skies closed in just as the last airshow aircraft concluded their programs, the spectators filed out, the aircraft were towed to the hangers, and a million lasting memories accompanied everyone lucky enough to have enjoyed the performances or see the static displays up close to their next destination. In the coming weeks, planning for the 2018 airshow will begin and anticipation will be high. While the challenges to the airshow will remain, the most recent completely laughable, it is a foregone conclusion the support for this one-of-a-kind airshow will be stronger than ever. This incredible experience is the manifestation of the legacy of a single man, nit carried on by the hard work, dedication and sacrifice inspired in so many. It is without question the impact left by one man has created an event, museum and movement which has benefited more people than he ever could have imagined. Such is the legacy of a visionary.

Thanks Ed Maloney.

Photorecon, the Author and Photographers wish to deeply thank the Planes of Fame and staff, the pilots, volunteers, Luke Air Force Base, Commemorative Air Force and everyone else who worked tirelessly and offered support to ensure the 60th anniversary Planes of Fame Airshow was once again a flying success.

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