Story and Photos by Frank Lorey III
The seventh annual "Wing Over Gillespie" airshow was held May 4th-6th at Gillespie Field in El Cajon, CA. While the show is billed as a "static" airshow, there is plenty of flying going on each day.
The airshow starts each year with a warbird flight that covers much of the western San Diego County region. The flight, which usually has 12-15 vintage aircraft, only had nine participants this year, perhaps due to the extremely high fuel prices.
The flight included B-17G Flying Fortress "Sentimental Journey"; C-46 Commando "China Doll"; DC-3 "Rose"; a Martin 4-0-4 airliner; F8F Bearcat; FM-2 Wildcat, Russian Yak-9; SNJ Texan; and a Chinese CJ-6 trainer. With the wide variety of aircraft, some had trouble keeping up in the formation flight.
The airshow featured many of the planes performing daily fly-bys, including the Northrop Flying Wing, three T-34 Mentors, several Texans, the Yak-9, F8F Bearcat, F4F Wildcat, and several Stearman biplanes. Rides were also available in the B-17, DC-3, and a Ford Trimotor. About 50 other aircraft were on static display.
There were also nineteen flying aces present, as well as six of the
Flying Tigers, three original members of the Tuskegee Airmen, and four
Navajo Code Talkers. Many participated in panel discussions of their activities
in World War II. A Friday night dinner-dance was scheduled as a "Salute
To The Aces."
Tours were available of the interior of the newly painted vintage Constellation airliner known as "Camarillo Connie."The plane now sports a "Presidential" look.
B-25 "In The Mood" drew a lot of looks arriving late to the airshow, and decided to skip the warbird flight this year. A few B-25 veterans were able to get a look into the aircraft they had been so familiar with during World War II.
Two P-47 Thunderbolts were on display, partly in conjunction with the national P-47 Pilots Association reunion that was being held in San Diego at the same time as the airshow.
Also popular was a TBM Avenger torpedo bomber. The plane became famous in the Battle of Midway, and was also known as the type of aircraft that former President George H.W. Bush flew during the war.
Rare C-46 Commando "China Doll", owned by the Confederate Air Force, was also open for tours. China Doll has become the unofficial "press plane" for photography during the airshow.
One of the more recent additions to the show is a new-construction Russian Yak-9 fighter. During World War II, it was claimed that the Yak-9 could outperform the P-51 Mustang.
Gary Barber of the Confederate Air Force shows off the F8F Bearcat each year. The Bearcat arrived too late in the war to see combat, but the high-performance fighter was used by other nations, and as a racing plane.
The Confederate Air Force also sends a FM-2 Wildcat to Gillespie every year. Many of the aces present at the airshow flew the Wildcat in the war, and enjoy seeing the demonstration flights during the show.
B-17G Flying Fortress "Sentimental Journey" has been a staple of the show for several years, flying in from Mesa, Arizona. Usual flying companion B-24 Liberator "Diamond Lil" was a late scratch this year due to mechanical problems.
With the large number of display aircraft, and the equally impressive gathering of World War II veterans that are invited guests of the airshow, it is well worth making the drive to El Cajon next year if you have missed the previous shows.