World War II Weekend is Back
Written by Shawn Byers, photos by Shawn Byers and Don Linn, where noted.
After a one year hiatus for 2020, The Mid-Atlantic Air Museum’s World War II Weekend celebrated a 30 year anniversary, June 4-6 at Reading Regional Airport.
I did not know what to expect as this was going to be my first event of 2021 with the restrictions of COVID-19 still a factor. Much to my surprise, everything felt perfectly normal. I have no idea if the crowd numbers were down but a large crowd was present, as were re-enactors, flea market sellers, airplanes and The Veterans, although not as many, which was not surprising due to the vulnerability of that age group. There was no drive-in format, no social distancing rules and no masks required.
I arrived in town on Friday afternoon and since the airspace was quiet and the sky cloudy, I did something I have never done before…entering the grounds on Friday. After walking around a few minutes, a thunderstorm approached so I recalled my wife from the flea market and we rode it out in the truck. I mention her because this is the only show she attends with me and we enjoy it for mostly different reasons. World War II Weekend is more than an airshow and it has something for everyone. After the storm, we resumed the walk around before ending up near the runway during late afternoon operations. The sun had reached the western sky, lighting aircraft nicely as they approached Runway 31. I have never been on this side at that time of day in my 10 years attending.
On Saturday, I went to the runway first for the morning operations in favorable light. Paying customer rides were being conducted by the open cockpit PT-19, the SBD Dauntless, TBM Avenger “Doris Mae”, P-51 Mustang “Red Nose”, C-47 “Hairless Joe”, B-25 “Panchito”, B-17 “Yankee Lady and B-29 “Fifi”. A surprise addition arrived in a three-ship formation with the A6M2 Zero, P-51 “Tiger’s Revenge” and FG-1 Corsair “Godspeed”. P-51 “Kwitcherbitchin” also arrived earlier making three Mustangs on the field and scheduled to fly in the airshow. Later that morning, B-25 “Panchito” landed with an engine out and a very exciting approach. She did not return to flying status the rest of the weekend. After some time with the re-enactors, vendors and food, we moved to “The Hill” on the other side for the airshow.
The show began with the L-Bird flight followed by the launch of the C-46 “The Tinker Belle” with paratroopers aboard. Primary trainers performed next prior to the return of the C-46 dropping the paratroopers. The T-6 Texans flew next with a 4-ship routine named “The Jersey Jerks” before Kevin Russo performed a solo display with his “Pensacola” Texan.
A solo routine from the Corsair led into the Pacific theatre performance by two Corsairs in top cover, the Dauntless and the Avenger in a western orbit while the Zero, Kate and Val were in an Eastern orbit, separated by the runway. Aircraft were passing from the right and the left simultaneously but de-conflicted. Mark Murphy stayed aloft and performed a solo routine in the Zero.
The Bomber Flight launched next featuring the B-17 “Yankee Lady”, B-25s “Takeoff Time” and “Rosie’s Reply”. “Panchito”, as mentioned earlier, was grounded with engine trouble. C-47 “Hairless Joe” also flew while “Luck of the Irish” was grounded with engine trouble. “Rosie’s Reply” was formerly “Yankee Warrior” in polished metal but now has a green scheme overall with classic Rosie and her power drill on the pilot’s side.
B-29 “Fifi” performs in a solo slot. Although we see her taking off, landing and turning to final throughout the day, the solo performance is high energy and high throttle featuring sweeping topside passes.
The final acts represented the fighters of the European Theatre. Representing Buffalo, New York, the Bell P-63 King Cobra performed a solo routine followed by P-51 “Red Nose”. After both aircraft went into a hold, the other P-51s and a Corsair launched for the Fighter Flight. After multiple passes, two Mustangs, the Corsair and the King Cobra joined up for the Missing Man formation. The Corsair trails smoke, pulls up and out of the number three position, concluding the show.
For the folks on the other side, there is no reason to leave. The “working” planes will continue to fly with paying passengers and preparations begin for the Hangar Dance later that evening.
I returned to the Museum for a prearranged night shoot with three aircraft. The shoot was open to anyone with professional equipment and a nominal donation to the museum. This was the first photo shoot of it’s kind at Reading and the brainchild of Media Coordinators, David and Christina Brown. Our subjects were B-25 “Rosie’s Reply”, the SBD Dauntless and P-51 “Red Nose”. Unfortunately, “Rosie’s Reply” suffered a hydraulic leak and could not be run. The Dauntless and Mustang did not disappoint with engine runs that lasted approximately 10 minutes. Lighting was provided by Pete Lerro and the Fire Department assisted with wetting down the ramp.
I did not return for Sunday’s show, as has been my routine all these years, but I understand it was even hotter and more humid than Saturday. Except for the thunderstorm delay on Friday, the weather was as close to ideal with blue skies and westerly winds. It felt great to be back in the saddle and the sense of normalcy returning to airshows and life in general.
I wish to thank Pete Lerro along with his lighting team and Dave and Christina Brown for their media coordination. I look forward to what next year will bring.