Saturday, July 18, 2015
Arsenal of Democracy May 8, 2015
Culpeper Regional Airport near Brandy Station, VA was host to some of the Arsenal of Democracy World War II Victory Capitol Flyover aircraft. Manassas Regional Airport would be host to the larger aircraft; B-29, B-24 and B-17. The event was held to honor the heroes who fought in WWII and those on the home front who produced the tanks, ships and aircraft that enabled the United States and its allies to achieve Victory in WWII. It would be one of the most diverse and largest gatherings of WWII aircraft ever assembled to fly over Washington D. C. in recent memory. This was to be a monumental event….over 50 old WWII vintage airplanes would be flying in arguably the most restricted air space in the USA. Who got the clearance to do this? Someone must have been doing some serious arm twisting….but it WAS going to happen on May the 8, 2015. May 8, 2015 was also an important date for me personally….my bride and I would be celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary on the 8th. My wife, Linda, knew how much I wanted to see this event so instead of leaving on the 8th for our 50th anniversary, around the USA trip, like we planned for about 5 months….we….WE decided to leave on Sunday the 10th so I could immerse myself in this once in a lifetime aviation adventure then have a day to recoup before launching on our over 7000 mile odyssey. A little give & take….that’s probably why we were celebrating 50 years together!
I knew the airport would be very busy and crowded with the event preparations leading up to the 8th….and that on the 8th it would probably be shoulder to shoulder standing room only. AND they were in the middle of construction a new tower and office complex for the airport! Linda & I visited the airport May 4th to see if there was an alternate location to capture some video on the 8th. I knew the “normal” places would be jammed with people on the 8th so we explored the opposite side of the airport where the industrial park is. We located what looked like a good location and secured permission from the property owners, Hardwood Artisans, to come back later in the week to take pictures from their property. They gave us a hearty YES and I knew this was going to be fun!
May 6, 2015….My aviation minded friend, Lou, and I visited the airport to check out what was going on. It was raining a little when we arrived but it soon stopped while we queued up to take a ride around the ramp in a multi seat golf cart. The airport didn’t want people aimlessly roaming around the airplanes and there were other security issues that needed to be considered. Also some of the airplanes were running their engines and taxiing around the ramp. When our turn came up go in the cart, we shared it with a WWII Veteran, a 506th FG Veteran. He flew the VLR, Very long Range mission from Iwo Jima to Japan in a P-51. He had his wife and a friend accompany him….he was a hoot. We toured all the airplanes on the ramp and when 4 Mustangs were taking off our driver asked the Veteran if he wanted to get closer to the runway to watch them….a very emphatic YES was heard from the front of the cart! After the take off we were going back to the gate and the driver asked the Veteran if he wanted to take his picture next to a P-51….another loud YES and we stopped by the nearest Mustang for a photo op. After that we said our goodbyes and planned for the next day. This is the video for the day; https://www.youtube.com/user/502SizeMatters/videos The stills are here; https://www.flickr.com/photos/53063560@N05/sets/72157650078769014
May 7, 2015…. I did some camera set up and testing while the airplanes took off and landed. They were rehearsing for the big push the next day. There were all kinds of airplanes in the sky, on the ramp….taking off and landing. It was a very busy couple of hours for me. The heavies from Manassas joined up and did some formation practice in the airspace around the airport. It was just intense. The only way I could capture the activity was to video everything. So you need to check out my YouTube video of the day at; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GUxGhpCbk10 I was satisfied that the location I had picked out would be the best vantage point….especially for the 8th launch time, the sun would be to our back and the airplanes would be lit up just right till they all landed after the event.
May 8, 2015…. Lou & I met up at the Southern States gas station on Rt. 29 and drove to our reserved spot near the Hardwood Artisans back lot. We set up our chairs and waited for the historic event to unfold. The weather was perfect….this was going to be fun. We heard the low rumble of open exhausts coming across the runway….the engines were warming up….the event was underway. The rendezvous point was around Leesburg, VA (about 50 air miles away) so the slower airplanes would be taking off first. A JSDF T-34 was the first airplane to leave followed by three Piper L-4’s (civilian J-3) then six Stearman biplanes…..this was going to be big! Every manner of Warbird was leaping into the sky and pointing their trusty steeds N-NE to form up the historic fly over of DC. It was nonstop for about an hour….the only way to appreciate it is to watch the video I took.
The route from Leesburg was to follow the Potomac River into Washington DC, about 35 miles. Then South out of the city then return to the airports that they left an hour ago. Some would leave DC and return to their home airports, like PA, OH, MD and other parts of our Country. But some would return to Culpeper. After the last group launched we waited for them to return….in about ½ hour the first two came low over the fence….two P-40’s…..followed by two flights of 4 T-6/SNJ’s in echelon formation and did a fighter break to land….just too cool. It was a very busy few hours that I wouldn’t have traded for anything. That my Dad was involved in WWII as a Fighter Pilot flying a P-51 just added to the experience for me. It’s a day I won’t soon forget. Video; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vs2ssvcVj_o
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