Sept. 3, 2015: An air show this weekend at which about 60 aircraft will be on display, many taking part in flying, will begin Friday at Paine Field, Everett (WA), the home to Boeing’s wide-body production plants.
The Historic Flight Foundation (HFF) sponsors the event, which kicks off Friday evening with a dinner and dancing from the Big Band era of World War II.
Aircraft pre-dating the War will be flown at 10am Saturday. WW II era trainers fly at 11am. War Birds fly at 1pm and a Douglas DC-3 in Pan American World Airways colors flies at 5pm. Rides may be purchased on many of the airplanes on Saturday and Sunday.
WW II veteran fliers will be present to answer questions and talk about the vintage warbirds that will be on display. The DC-3 flew with the China National Aviation Corp. over the Hump, supplying troops in China from bases in India.
One of the veterans who will be present is Johnny Oberto, 93, who was a test pilot for the Navy throughout the war.
Oberto was stationed at Floyd Bennett Field, just off Brooklyn (NY), flight testing fighters built by Chance Vought, Grumman and General Motors, which ceased automobile production during the war to built fighters under license to the designers. These companies were located in nearby Connecticut, on Long Island and in New Jersey, making Floyd Bennett Field a central location for flight testing.
“I used to take off, climb and grab a lot of altitude,” Oberto told reporters yesterday during a preview of the show at the HFF Museum on the West side of Paine Field. “you didn’t know what you’ll find with the airplane.”
Oberto said test pilots always had a spot in mind to land in case of emergency. Once he took a plane up for first flight, only to find that the control stick had about eight inches in play. He immediately landed, to find that a part had been incorrectly installed, leading to control problems.
Oberto came close to bailing out only once. During a ferry flight from New York to San Diego, the engine began to fail after take-off from El Paso (TX). The plane was over the desert and Oberto ordered his passenger to bail out; he was going to follow. But Oberto didn’t see a parachute, nor could he communicate with his passenger, so he nursed the airplane back to El Paso for an emergency landing. The engine quit just as the wheels touched down.
Oberto found his passenger cowering in the aft compartment, afraid to make the jump–“it was a long way down,” Oberto quoted the young serviceman as saying. Oberto could have put the man on report, but let the infraction slide. The man took the train the rest of the way to San Diego.
Appearing at the HFF Air Show will be the only flying replica of the Boeing 40A, one of Boeing’s first airplanes; the Douglas World Cruiser, an early bi-plane; the famous P-51 Mustang; and the HFF’s B-25D Mitchell bomber, “Grumpy.” This B-25D is virtually identical to the B-25s used in the famed Doolittle Raid on Tokyo in April 1942, just five months after Pearl Harbor and America’s first offensive attack in WW II. HFF’s B-25 is one of the oldest B-25s in existence and airworthy.