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Wings Over Gillespie

Another May has started and so too has another "Wings Over Gillespie" airshow.  I've been coming to these things for many a year now.  I'll be filling this page in with some more of the old photos I have from previous WOG airshows and most likely be rearranging the WOG content on my other pages to consolidate it here.  In the meantime, here are some of the photos I took from the latest incarnation of this annual event.

The Dragon and His Tail

The Dragon and His Tail


What a beast!  This fine machine shown above is a Consolidated B-24 Liberator bomber.  This particular one is operated by the Collings Foundation in Stowe, Massachusetts.  They restore and operate such classic aircraft as this and others which are of historic importance in the history of manned flight.  The Foundation also flew in their B-17, the "Nine O Nine," to Gillespie this year and it too was pretty damn impressive.  The decoration of their Liberator, the "All American," is new though and rather unique.
The original "Dragon" was flown by the 5th Army Air Force, 43rd Bomber Group's 64th Squadron during World War 2 in the Pacific Theater of Operations against the Japanese. 

The B-24 was well suited to these missions as it had an excellent range which came in handy when flying missions from isolated island airstrips across the huge expanses of the Pacific Ocean.

The Dragon close up

During World War 2 there was a profusion of colorfully decorated combat aircraft.  This artwork was generally placed on the nose of the plane and came to be called "nose art" even if it wasn't just on the nose of the plane per se.  Most of this artwork was pretty tame by both today's standards and the more restrictive mores of that era as well.  Most but not all.  The Dragon here is a case in point.

This paintjob was definitely not typical for the day and is actually rather amazing that it survived much longer than it took for its paint to dry.  However, one thing the US military encouraged during the war was that its troops view themselves in a somewhat roguish fashion.  Part of this was to bolster the confidence of these newly inducted servicemen when they were about to go up against the combat experienced vets of the Axis forces.  Part of it was also to sublimate the inherent sexual desires of healthy men thrown together for extended periods of time away from the loved ones at home.  So, the brass would tolerate a certain level of such obviously sexual artwork displays on their fighting men's machines.  Up to a certain level usually meant nothing so explicit as what actually was painted in this case.  Yet, here it is.

I was really pleased to see this paintjob on this aircraft.  Too many times folks will whitewash history in an attempt to make it more palatable to modern folks.  I'm glad the Collings Foundation didn't do so in this case.

Modern day airmen face a lot more restrictions in personalizing their mounts.  A lot has changed in today's military.  Here in the US we now seek to view our troops as being military professionals and no longer rogues.  There is much truth to this but by becoming so much more politically correct and "de-sexing" our troops I think we've missed something.  Recently though, some Marines have shown how creative they can be by invoking the spirits of past nose art masterpieces. This recent incarnation is pretty slick, nicely done, and I'm not sure how long it lasted on this aircraft.  It was a nice touch though.

An ultra-light It takes all types

Going from the big behemoth of the B-24 to this little ultra-light is a real culture shock.  Both of these are aircraft and both fly through the skies.  Yet that is where the similarities about end.  The engine on this little aircraft is a good illustration of this.


This little aircraft is called an ultra-light for a reason.  This general class of airplanes usually weighs in at just a couple of hundred pounds or so - if that.  Little more than some bits of fabric, plastic, aluminum, and a tiny engine, ultra-lights are so small and lightweight that when a pilot climbs on board that can actually double their total weight!
The little putt-putt that makes it go

If I am counting things correctly, then this is a rather small four cylinder engine mounted atop this aircraft. For such a small machine that is about all that it takes to drag the thing skyward and actually fly.  The contrast between this little engine and that of one of the big radials on the B-24 or from this Trojan below, could not be more striking.

The Big Engine in front of a Trojan This is a US Navy T-28B Trojan advanced trainer.  This type first flew in 1949. 

That big honkin radial engine hanging on the front of this bird weighs in at over a ton and produces well over a thousand horsepower.  The horsepower generated by a single cylinder on that Wright radial is far greater than the horsepower produced by all of the ultra-light's.


Other birds out in the sun

As is usual for this airshow, there were a lot of interesting planes on display.  This year there was this fine example of a P-40 Warhawk.  This one had been modified to sit two folks as opposed to its original single seat.  The P-40 was a pretty hot ship for its day, 1938/ 39, and made itself the stuff of legend over the skies of China.

A little further down the flight line was this beast, the Douglas Skyraider.  This bird first flew right after W.W.II and could carry more payload than an entire B-17 heavy bomber.  Yet it did all this on a single engine and with a single pilot to fly it.  A real advancement in airpower and a real beast of a plane.  This machine lasted well into the jet age and was so good at its job that no jet could touch it until the US fielded the A-10. Skyraider
With the fall of the Soviet Union, a number of vintage Russian aircraft began to come into the classic aircraft market.  Among them is this one.  It is a Soviet World War 2 era Mig 9.  Very sleek and very deadly for its days over the Russian steppes.  These days though, this high performance piston engined fighter makes a great sport plane.  And it certainly looks unique sitting next to all that Western iron. The Russians are here!
There were a number of Grumman products on the flight line that day and not all of them were military ones.  This Super Widgeon was one of the later.  This little twin engined aircraft was designed to be able to operate from both land and water.  It was a great niche to fill as there is a whole lot more water on this planet than there is landmass. More from the Grumman Iron Works
Of late there have been more and more helicopters showing up for the airshow.  Traditionally very underrepresented, such machines have an equally long and distinguished history as their fixed wing brethren.  This Sikorsky H-19 is notable in that it was the first Sikorsky helicopter design to carry a useful load and do do in an economic fashion.  The is thing made a name for itself in the history of rotary flight.  On a personal note, it was from a model kit of this that I used one of the pontoons from its Navy version to form the hull of my Space Cruiser model. The Sikorsky H-19
CDF Tracker CDF

The California Department
of Forestry is responsible for dealing with forest fires.  Many of these fires take place in areas that are very difficult to reach on the ground.  Getting to them by air though, was a good way around the problem.

So, the CDF soon found itself operating its own air force.

Mostly composed of surplussed military bombers, the CDF modified these bombers to carry loads of flame retardant borate and water instead of their previous high explosives and incendiaries.  One of their longest serving aircraft in this mission is the Grumman S-2T Tracker.  Originally made in the 1950's to hunt subs from US carriers, the S-2 has proven very useful for dropping its fire extinguishing payloads on forest fires throughout the US.  The business end and the pink gloop.

The chemical mix is non-toxic and very effective.  It is also very colorful too.  I had originally thought that these particular aircraft had just flown in to Gillespie to be part of that year's show.  On closer examination it turned out that they were there while on the job.

The working set up.

In this view above you can see a big water tank behind the aircraft and the yellow water hoses running to each bird.  The CDF also had large rubber bladder tanks which carry the borate fire retardant mixture.  It was rather interesting to see all this stuff set up and ready to go.  The S-2's have been flying for about half a century now and have been refitted with shiny new turbo-prop engines in place of their old radial ones.  This has most likely boosted their available power and greatly lessened the maintenance time and expense in running them.

This will about do it for my Wings Over Gillespie section for now.  As time avails itself I'll be loading up more stuff here so check back in a bit to see what's what.


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In the meantime, I hope you have enjoyed your "stay" at this site.  Check back again to see what new images I have added.  Until then, stay well, play hard, play safe, and have fun!


This page was last updated on: 5 February 2004  

Unless otherwise noted, all photographs and images on this page are copyright protected property of Madoc Pope.  If you would like to use any of my images you must contact me first before you do so.



In the meantime, I hope you have enjoyed your "stay" at this site.  Check back again to see what new images I have added.  Until then, stay well, play hard, play safe, and have fun!