Airshow Saturday

An airport celebrates aviation history

August 1, 2007

A Day in the Life of America's Airports

"If you fly it they will come," should have been the motto of the annual Planes of Fame Airshow 2007. Because on Saturday, May 19, thousands flocked to Chino Airport to see what turned out to be a rock 'em, sock 'em airshow.

You all should have been there. Despite ramp temperatures that topped 80 degrees Fahrenheit, the patrons — who varied all the way from a Malaysia-born university professor from London who was researching a book, to local families with babes in arms from just down the street — showed up early and stayed late.

As the day heated up, the patrons' senses were caressed by the mouth-watering smells of kettle corn, hot dogs, and hamburgers. Rock and roll music from the local radio station started fingers tapping. Farther down the line these rhythmic beats faded, only to be replaced by World War II hits such as Twilight Time and Victory Polka. Then the aircraft owners started the engines, and for an hour engine noise from the best and most powerful propeller-powered airplanes ever built throbbed over Chino.

Engine sounds ranged from the low grumble of the 600-horsepower radial engine on the Boeing P-26 Pea Shooter to the distinctive short-stack symphony of the Rolls-Royce V-12 in a Spitfire right on up to the ear-splitting knee-buckling sound hammer of an F-18 Hornet at full afterburner.

The Planes of Fame Museum celebrated its fiftieth anniversary, and the museum pulled out all the stops. Rare airplanes flew, and flew, and flew. Two Japanese Zeros, four North American B-25 Mitchells, three P-38 Lightnings, a P-63 King Cobra, as well as examples of almost every Allied propeller-powered World War II airplane swept past the crowd at low altitude. The flying started at 11:15 a.m. after the morning fog (June gloom) cleared. Then beautifully restored and maintained airplanes seemed to continually dance across the sky.

By four in the afternoon the show ended. But the memories of a spectacular show lingered. For those WWII veterans who made the trip to Chino, the sounds and sights of AirShow 2007 rekindled memories of many of the best, and a few of the worst days of their lives.

For others the events on May 19, 2007, may prove to be the tinder that ignites a spark of a dream to strive to be a part of this thing called aviation.

E-mail the author at steve.ells@aopa.org.