Story and photos by Scott Jankowski

The Waukegan National Airport covers 600 acres of land and is located approximately 40 miles to the North of Chicago, Illinois. The airport features two asphalt runways, those being runway 5/23 at 6,000 feet long and runway 14/32 at 3,751 feet long. The airport was opened in 1956, and has about 190 aircraft based, a full-service Signature Flight Support FBO, a United States Coast Guard Air Facility, and even a Unted States Customs office to provide clearance of direct international arrivals. The airport sees approximately 50,500 annual operations with more than 3,000,000 million gallons of jet fuel pumped annually. Waukegan National Airport sees a considerable amount of business jet traffic with several movements by fractional jet ownership company NetJets. Waukegan has also been home to the Northern Illinois Airshow for many years.

Waukegan is also home to the Warbird Heritage Foundation, founded by Paul Wood, and was organized for the purpose of acquiring, restoring, displaying, and demonstrating various antique aircraft of historic military significance. The foundation has a fantastic collection of vintage prop and jet warbirds and includes examples of the North American F-86F Sabre, North American P-51D Mustang, North American T-2B Buckeye, the Goodyear FG-1D Corsair, Douglas AD-1 Skyraider, and the Douglas A-4B Skyhawk among many others. The majority of the foundation’s aircraft could be seen on static display or seen flying in the afternoon airshow. We will take a closer look at some of these aircraft next.

The Foundation’s aircraft played a key part in the afternoon airshow and included performances by the following aircraft. The Foundation flew its North American F-86F Sabre, serial number 52-4986, which was manufactured in 1953. The F-86 would see extensive combat service during the Korean War, and at the time was the United States Air Force’s primary subsonic fighter. The foundations F-86 saw active-duty service with several Air Training Command units and last flew with the 3525th Combat Crew Training Wing at Williams Air Force Base AZ. The foundation would acquire this aircraft in 2005 and has flown it in airshows since.

The Foundations 1944 vintage North American P-51D-25-NA Mustang serial number 44-12473 is painted in the colors of Captain William Whisner’s “Moonbeam McSwine”. Captain Whisner flew the P-51 while he was with the 487th Fighter Squadron, 352nd Fighter Group based at Bodney England, he would go on to score a total of 15 ½ aerial kills making him a triple ace during World War II. The aircraft that the foundation flies would go on to see service with several Air National Guard units after the war and would pass through several civilian owners before the late Vlado Lenoch would acquire the aircraft in 1981. Mr. Lenoch would go on to perform in numerous airshows and became very involved in the United States Air Force Heritage Flight program. The aircraft was sold in 2012 to a French owner but would find its way back to North American in 2018. The foundation acquired the aircraft and would reregister it N51VL, in honor of Mr. Lenoch who tragically lost his life in 2017 along with the Atchinson County Kansas Airport Manger Bethany Root in a P-51 accident.

A 1957 vintage Douglas A-4B Skyhawk, bureau number 142112 as acquired in 2007 and restored to flight status in 2009. The A-4 would become the United States Navy’s primary light attack aircraft during the Vietnam War and carried out some of the first strikes of the war and may have dropped the final bombs as well. This particular A-4 served with several frontline United States Navy and United States Marine Corps units before being retired from active service in 1980. The A-4 would be used by the United State Navy’s Blue Angels from 1973 to 1986, would be used as an adversary training aircraft by the Navy Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN) and by the Kuwaiti Air Force in Operation Desert Storm in 1991.

The Foundation’s Douglas AD-1 Skyraider, named “Bad News” carriers Bureau Number 09257 and was built in 1947 for the United States Navy. The Skyraider would see service in the Korean War and would be called to service once again in the Vietnam War and would participate in the first carrier borne strikes of the war before being replaced by A-4’s and A-6’s. The Skyraider would also see extensive service during the Vietnam War with the United States Air Force to perform the role it is most famous for that of helicopter escort on search and rescue missions and earned the nickname of “Sandy”. The A-1 was perfect for this role due to its speed, weapons load, maneuverability, and durability. This particular aircraft would pass through many frontline United States Navy squadrons before joining the foundation in 2008.

Built in 1945 with Bureau Number 92050 is the foundations Goodyear Aircraft Corporation FG-1D Corsair. The Corsair was built as a fighter bomber and would see service in both World War II and again during the Korean War and was the longest produced piston engine fighter in U.S. History. A total of 12,571 aircraft in 16 variants would be built during its production run from 1942 to 1953. The Corsair would be featured in the 1970’s T.V. show Black Sheep Squadron which followed the exploits of VMF-214 during World War II commanded by United States Marines Corp Major Greg “Pappy “Boyington. The Corsair would also star in the 2022 movie “Devotion” which tells the real-life story of Ensign Jesse Brown and Lieutenant Junior Grade Tomas Hudner’s journey with VF-32 during the Korean War. The foundation would take possession of this specific aircraft in 2012 and began an extensive restoration process which would be completed in 2021.

Also present and flying in the afternoon airshow was a 1968 built North American Rockwell T-2B Buckeye, Bureau Number 155235. The T-2 first flew in 1956 and was used as a basic and advanced air combat and carrier training aircraft. The foundations T-2 was built in 1968 and was flown by numerous United States Navy training units at bases around the country before retirement from active service in 1976. The foundation would acquire this aircraft in 2004 after flying a total of 3,305 hours and 1,060 landings while in active-duty service.

Several other warbirds were also present either on static display or flying in the afternoon airshow. Several noteworthy props and jets were present and included another Douglas AD-4NA Skyraider, this example was built in 1952 with Bureau Number 126959. This A-1 is owned and operated by East Iowa Air INC. and carries “Naked Fanny” artwork on the nose. This particular A-1 would see extensive service with the French Air Force and would end up in civilian hands come 1995. The A-1 is a single seat attack aircraft that was used by the United States Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy, and is nicknamed the “Spad” after the French World War I aircraft.

Another noteworthy participant is no stronger to the skies over the Midwest, that being a 1966 built Aero Vodochody L-29 Delfin, a 2-seat jet trainer which is assigned the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) codename “Maya”. This particular L-29 with construction number 691942 was flown by the Bulgarian Air Force before ending up in civilian hands and is currently owned and operated by Mr. James Nikodemo. Another very familiar jet warbird in the Midwestern skies is a 1956 built Canadair CT-133 Silver Star, which is a Canadian license-built version of the Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star. This particular jet trainer aircraft did serve with the Royal Canadian Air Force for many years before being acquired by Whirlpool Services and is currently based at the Kenosha Wisconsin Airport.

Several other propeller driven Warbirds were also present and included trainers and liaison aircraft. There were several examples of the North American T-6 Texan, Beechcraft T-34 Mentor, and the Cessna L-19 Bird Dog on display and in the airshow. The Wisconsin Wing of the Commemorative Air Force had their 1953 vintage Beechcraft T-34A BH Mentor on static display. This primary trainer which served with the United States Air Force as serial number 53-4175, was donated to the wing in 2017, and spent several years being restored and flew once again in 2021. Several examples of the Russian built Yakolev YAK-52, and Chinese built Nanchang CJ-6A were also part of the afternoon airshow. Both of these single engine prop driven aircraft were used as primary trainers.

Headlining these year’s airshow was a pair of single ship demo teams, The United States Navy EA-18G Growler Demo Team and the United States Air Force A-10C Thunderbolt II Demo Team. The Growler Demo Team is part of VAQ-129 (Electronic Attack) also known as the “Vikings” and is the United States Navy’s FRS (Fleet Replacement Squadron) based at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island Washington. The Vikings have flown the EA-18G, a two-seat carrier based electronic warfare aircraft, since 2008. The EA-18G has a crew of two, is powered by a pair of General Electric F414-GE400 engines with afterburners giving the Growler a top speed of Mach 1.8. The EA-18G carriers a mix of ALQ-99 Jammer pods, Raytheon AGM-88 HARM missiles (High Speed Anti-Radiation Missile), and AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles (Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile) for self-defense.

In addition to a spirited and expertly flown demo, the pair of Growlers also joined the Warbird Heritage Foundations, Douglas A-4B Skyhawk and Goodyer FG-1D Corsair in flying a Legacy Flight. Legacy Flights are flown at airshows every year to highlight and showcase over 75 years of Naval Aviation spanning several generations.

The second demo team present was Air Combat Command’s A-10C Thunderbolt II Demo Team based at Davis Monthan Air Force Base Arizona. The ten-member team is currently commanded by Captain Lindsey “Mad” Johnson and is part of the 355th Fighter Wing and flies a pair of Republic A-10C Thunderbolt II aircraft better known as “The Warthog”. The A-10 is a single seat close air support, airborne forward air control, and combat search and rescue aircraft. The A-10 is powered by a pair of General Electric TF34-GE-100A Turbofan engines giving the aircraft a top speed of 439 miles per hour and a combat range of 288 miles. The A-10 can carry up to 16,000 #’s of ordinance on 8 underwing and 3 under fuselage hardpoints, but its main offensive weapon is its GAU-8 /A Avenger rotary barrel cannon. The A-10’s GAU-8/A carries up to 1,174 rounds of armor piercing ammunition with 80% of the rounds fired at 4,000 feet hitting within a 40-foot diameter circle. This year’s demo aircraft is painted in a heritage paint scheme paying homage to the original Memphis Belle B-17 of World War II, and Memphis Belle II a Republic F-105 Thunderchief flown by the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing during the Vietnam War. This year’s Demo Aircraft is painted in a Vietnam era Southeast Asia camouflage scheme and carries the names of the Airmen from the 355th that either lost their lives or were taken prisoner during the Vietnam War along with the POW/MIA Flag.

The A-10 flew a fantastic demo showcasing the A-10’s agility and maneuverability, but also flew a Heritage Flight as well. The A-10 flew alongside a World War II era North American P-51D Mustang named “Happy Jack’s Go Buggy flown by Mr. Bruce “Doc” Winter. This P-51D has been meticulously restored in the colors of World War II Ace Jack IIfrey who was credited with shooting down seven and a half enemy aircraft and evaded capture twice. He was part of the 94th Aero Squadron, 1st Fighter Group and would go on to command the 79th Fighter Squadron, 20th Fighter Group. Also joining the A-10 and P-51 was the Korean/Vietnam War era, Warbird Heritage Foundation, Douglas AD-1 Skyraider named” Bad News” and flown by Mr. Stuart Milson. The United States Air Force Heritage Flight is similar to the United States Navy Legacy Flight, which showcases warbirds from different era’s celebrating over 75 years of Air Force Airpower.

The weather could not have been better for this very affordable one-day airshow, with plenty to see in the air and on the ground. Photography is great through the majority of the show with the flightline set up with the sun at your back for most of the airshow. This is an extremely well laid out, planned, and affordable airshow for anyone in the Midwest region, you will not be disappointed by attending. Until next time, “Blue Skies To All!”.

Scott Jankowski

Scott Jankowski - Franklin, Wisconsin Like so many others my love of aviation started when I was young, very young. I was only three years old when my Parents took me to my first air show here in Milwaukee, the rest you could say is “history”. I would read aviation magazines instead of Comic Books. I would prefer my Dad take me to the airport to watch airplanes instead of throwing a Football around. I grew up watching Convair 580’s, DC9’s and 727’s from the terminal here in Milwaukee, no Stage Three noise compliance back then! I started to seriously take pictures in the Mid 1980’s , for my birthday that year I finally had my first decent camera. I would head down to the airport with my pockets full of Kodak Film and take pictures of anything and everything. It did not matter if it was a Air Wisconsin Dash-7 or a 128TH ARW KC-135E if it had an engine I took a picture of it. I would drop those rolls off to be developed and three days later tear into the envelopes to see the results, which to be honest were not that good but there were a few keepers every once and a while. Fast forwarding to today with much better equipment and skills I spend as much time as I can at both General Mitchell International and Chicago O’Hare which are my Hometown Airports. While times and aircraft have changed the excitement is still as great as it was back all of those years ago. It makes no difference if it is 737, P-51, F-16, or Lear 35 I will not pass on any photo opportunity as you may not get that chance again. Even though my primary focus is on Commercial Aviation I still frequent as many Air shows as I can in the short Summer Season. I am fortunate enough to have EAA Air Venture in my backyard only being only an Hour and Half from my home. I routinely attend Air shows here in Milwaukee, Rockford, Chicago, Ypsilanti and the Quad Cities. I am very fortunate to be part of the Photorecon.Net and PHX Spotters Team and am looking forward to bringing everyone some Air show and Airliner action from the Midwest Region!

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