By Terry Stephens
The Olympic Flight Museum’s 2008 Gathering of Warbirds air show will feature a powerful F-18 Hornet performance by the tactical demonstration team from California’s Naval Air Station Lemoore. A three-hour flying show will highlight both days of the event on Father’s Day weekend, June 14-15.
“The F-18 show is new this year, but we’ll also have our regular participants, including performer Bud Granley in our American Beauty P-51 and helicopter demonstrations by our AH-1 Cobra, UH-1 Huey and OH-6 Cayuse aircraft,” said Teri Thorning, executive director of the museum.
Acrobatic pilot Bill Shepard will be flying his Russian Yak 11, and a variety of the planes owned by the museum will take to the air for flying demonstrations, including a TBM Avenger, AD5 Skyraider, BAC-167 Strikemaster and an L-39 Albatross, a Czechoslovakian light-attack warbird and trainer.
“There also will be an operational Vietnam landing zone display with six helicopters, authentic uniforms and field gear,” Thorning said. “Plus, we’ll have plenty of food booths, snacks and drinks. Toward the end of Saturday’s program, the band will arrive with a military escort for our USO show from 4 to 9 p.m.”
The gates open at 9:30 a.m. and close at 5 p.m. both days, with air show performances from 1 to 4 p.m. Tickets are $10 per person, with no charge for children under 6. The museum is in a large hangar at Olympia Regional Airport (OLM), with aircraft parking available near Gower Flying Service for visitors arriving by air.
A small but fascinating venue, the Olympic Flight Museum has emphasized vintage warbirds in its collection. Most of them are in flying condition and many participate in the annual air show, which continues to draw record crowds.
“We opened the museum in July 1998 with only three aircraft,” Thorning said. “As the event grew, we decided in 2002 to invite the public to a fly-in of warbirds with just static displays. We were overwhelmed when 3,000 people showed up. It was a huge success.”
In 2003, the museum added a short one-hour air show along with the ground displays, and 10,000 people packed the museum grounds. In 2004, Thorning said 11,000 people bought tickets to enjoy an expanded three-hour aerobatic show, along with a tour of the museum. This year, weather permitting, she expects 15,000 to 20,000 people to attend the sixth anniversary aerial display.
“The museum was founded by three local warbird owners who wanted to share their historic, museum-quality planes with the community, rather than keep them locked up in the hangar,” Thorning said. “It started in its present hangar, a very compact museum with just the planes at first, and then we added artwork and aviation artifacts.”
Brian Reynolds, president and a co-founder of the Olympic Flight Museum, owns Northwest Helicopters at the airfield, the state’s largest commercial helicopter operation. He also owns most of the museum’s warbirds.
The museum’s aircraft collection includes a P-51D Mustang, FG-1D Corsair, TBM Avenger, AD5 Skyraider, F4F Wildcat, N3N biplane, F-84 Thunderstreak, F-86 Sabre, F-104A Starfighter, T-37 Tweety Bird, A-37B Dragonfly, T-55 Electric Lightning, BAC-167 Strikemaster, T-75 Hawker Hunter, L-39 Albatross, Sikorsky S-51, AH-1 Cobra, HH-1K Huey, UH-1H Huey and the OH-6 Cayuse, acquired last January.
Painted as a replica of a Japanese A6M2 Zero, the museum’s T-6 Texan has had flying roles in two Hollywood films, “Midway” and “Tora, Tora, Tora.”
Other displays at the museum include artifacts and memorabilia from World War II, piston and jet engine displays, flight suits, artwork depicting combat scenes in Europe and the Pacific, weapons systems from various periods and more than 300 scale-model aircraft. The museum’s gift shop stocks a variety of aviation books, magazines, toys, pins and aviation patches.
For more information, visit [http://www.olympicflightmuseum.com].