The quiet skies of West Texas exploded Oct. 7-8, 2006, as FINA-CAF AIRSHO 2006 “Through Hostile Skies” paid tribute to the men and women who have flown in defense of our nation. Held annually at Midland International Airport (MAF) between Midland and Odessa, Texas, the Commemorative Air Force’s annual AIRSHO is commonly recognized as one of the premier air shows in the United States for classic military warbirds, and this year was no exception.
During the two-day event, visitors and local residents were treated to the rare sight of airplanes, such as B-17s, B-24s, Corsairs and P-51s (just to name a few), that flew in from all over the United States to participate in the air show. In addition, the show featured modern aircraft, such as the F-15 demonstration team and the Heritage and Legacy flights, where vintage aircraft fly in formation with modern jets. All World War II veterans were invited to attend AIRSHO as special guests of the CAF, with free admission and a special tent provided.
The Red Baron Squadron, this year’s feature act, thrilled crowds with a return to the barnstorming era, although only three of the four authentic, restored Stearman biplanes took to the skies. The fourth was grounded due to engine problems. Charlie Jrik, piloting the FINA Extra 300L, lived up to his reputation as a crowd pleaser, and Julie Clark’s Mopar T-34 dazzled the crowd with a patriotic, choreographed aerobatic ballet, complete with fireworks finale.
The CAF’s airpower demonstration is a hallmark of AIRSHO, reenacting the most famous aviation battles of World War II, and nobody does it better than the CAF. From the Tora pilots who recreated the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, to the crews who skillfully exhibited the capabilities of their bombers, to aerobatic maneuvers flown by pilots in World War II fighters, AIRSHO brought history to life. A more complete aerial reenactment of World War II isn’t offered anywhere else in the world.
New to the CAF’s demonstration this year was AIRWAR VIETNAM, a Vietnam-era reenactment of the rescue of a downed pilot. Featured were the L-19 and O-2A forward air controller planes searching for the pilot, while an A-1 Skyraider, T-28 and A-26 made enemy suppression passes. An AC-47 “Spooky” gunship orbited, while awaiting the actual rescue by an AH-1 Cobra and a UH-1D Huey.
Although history is the hallmark of AIRSHO, the show wouldn’t be complete without today’s finest modern military aircraft. Joining the historic warbirds of the CAF were the F-15, F-18 and F-16 demo teams and an F-117 flyby.
In conjunction with AIRSHO, the CAF also honored the legacy of those who have served this nation by inducting seven individuals the American Combat Airman Hall of Fame. Inducted this year were Lt. Robert A. “Bob” Hoover (Air Force), Col. George E. “Bud” Day (Air Force), Rear Adm. James D. Ramage (Navy), Col. Virgal E. “Sandy” Sansing (Air Force), Cdr. Dean S. “Diz” Laird (Navy), Petty Officer 1st Class LeRoy R. “Lee” Engberg (Navy) and Brig. Gen. Robert F. McDermott (Air Force), who was honored posthumously. The CAF also honored VMF-214 (the famed “Black Sheep” squadron) and the crew of the B-29 Goin’ Jessie.
The Commemorative Air Force (originally known as the Confederate Air Force) is a patriotic, educational, nonprofit organization that began in 1957, when five pilots pooled their money to buy a P-51 Mustang. After purchasing two more aircraft in 1958, the group began to search seriously for other World War II aircraft. In 1961, the CAF was chartered as a nonprofit Texas corporation, to preserve, restore and fly World War II era aircraft. What started out as a hobby for the group became an urgent mission to preserve history. The CAF currently ranks as one of the largest air forces in the world, with more than 140 World War II aircraft, including fighters, bombers and transports. Membership in the CAF also has grown to more than 9,000 members and more than 70 wings, squadrons and detachments, in 29 states and four foreign countries.
For more information on AIRSHO and related events, visit [http://www.airsho.org], call 432-563-1000 or write to Commemorative Air Force, P.O. Box 62000, Midland, TX 79711.