This years FHC Skyfair was another great one. This was the third annual air and ground show put on by the Flying Heritage Collection at Paine Field in Everett, Washington (my second attendance having gone to the first in 2014). This years theme was to commemorate the upcoming 75 years since the beginning of the Pacific War in December 1941.
The aircraft on the flying roster included US and Japanese aircraft from not only the FHC but also the Historic Flight Foundation (Paine Field), Commemorative Air Force – Southern Californian Wing and the Erickson Aircraft Collection (Madras, Oregon). Plus tanks and military vehicles from the FHC and other local groups!
The flying lineup was something else! It was a rare opportunity to see many of these aircraft representing the US Navy, USAAF, Imperial Japanese Army and Imperial Japanese Navy flying together in pairs, massed formations and on solo displays.
Flying Heritage Collection
The FHC flying component for the day was a beautiful sight as always. They flew their USAAF Curtiss P-40C Tomahawk (Flying Tigers), North American B-25J Mitchell and Republic P-47D Thunderbolt alongside their US Navy Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat and Imperial Japanese Navy Mitsubishi A6M3-22 Reisen “Zero” fighter (fitted with a modified Pratt & Whitney R1830 engine though compared to the original Sakai engine – this one was recovered in New Guinea for restoration and rebuild in Russia in the 1990’s. The cockpit is slightly longer as a second seat is installed behind the pilot).
Erickson Aircraft Collection
Erickson provided a couple of US Navy aircraft – a General Motors FM-2 Wildcat (the most spirited low flying display of the day!), a Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bomber (the brief dive with the brake flaps down was something special). On the Japanese side they flew their Imperial Japanese Army Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa (Peregrine Falcon) “Oscar” (the first time I have seen one fly – it is fitted with a 1,200 hp Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp 14-cylinder radial engine). We were lucky to see the Ki-43 fly as it had a problem with its undercarriage the night before upon arrival to Paine Field which had the emergency services crews scuttling apparently but they got it down and fixed the problem before the flying displays began!
Commemorative Air Force – Southern Californian Wing
CAF SoCal had a couple of good looking aircraft fly at the Skyfair. They brought up their US Navy Grumman F6F Hellcat and Imperial Japanese Navy Mitsubishi A6M3 Zero (partially rebuilt using parts from multiple Zero airframes recovered in New Guinea and restored in Russia in the 1990’s with the FHC Zero. It too flies with a modified Pratt & Whitney R1830 engine to fit into the nose cowling of the Zero).
Historic Flight Foundation
HFF conducted a very spirited flying display in their Douglas DC-3 1930’s era airliner. The sharp turns were very un-airliner like and something to behold!
In addition to the World War Two aircraft, the flying display included a Vietnam War era Bell UH-1 Iroquois and a Hughes OH-6 Cayuse observation helicopter from a private collection in Battleground, WA. There is always something special about that thumping noise from the rotors of a “Huey”! Cue Ride of the Valkyries!
The vehicle show was cool too and included the firing of a German 88mm Flak gun (loud!) and various driving demonstrations and battles with military re-enactors on the FHC purpose-built display track (yes don’t worry the Germans lost – they always do!). The days events had a German Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer tank destroyer and included a number of US Army vehicles such as an M4A1 Sherman medium tank, M3 Half-track (that was also carrying the NFL Seahawks cheerleaders the Sea Gals around for a bit), M3A1 Scout Car dubbed “Rat Turd” (that had a little dog onboard enjoying the ride!) and a couple of Willy MB Jeep’s driving about the track. The Hetzer and Sherman fired off a round or two of blank shells for dramatic effect too!
The finale of the show was multiple wave formation passes. This was great to see and mostly flew right over the top of where I was standing but made it a little tricky to get photos!
The only “disappointment” of what really was a great day was a missed opportunity to fly the Ki-43 Oscar in formation with the two Zero fighters or even the Wildcat leading the Hellcats to show the progression in Grumman fighter aircraft (they all flew as part of the group formations but were generally with their owners stablemates rather than grouped by nation or designer). That could have been a great moment and a very rare sight indeed but alas history slipped through their fingers! Oh well, another time perhaps but we did get to see two Zero fighters fly side by side though plus the Hellcats, so that was something special to see!