|Historic heaven at Oshkosh|
|Tuesday, 11 September 2012 00:00|
The Experimental Aircraft Association’s AirVenture 2012 attracted a quality attendance of 907 vintage aeroplanes, 336 warbirds and a footfall of 508,000 visitors to Wittman Regional Airport at Oshkosh, Wisconsin, USA, from July 23-29.
The Grand Champion World War II Warbird award went to North American A-36A, 42-83738/N4607V, owned by the Collings Foundation at Stow, Massachusetts, and restored over the past eight years by American Aero Services at New Smyrna Beach, Florida. One of only three survivors of about 500 examples of this ground attack version of the P-51A Mustang that were built, the machine had made its post restoration flight on June 13.
The A-36 was the first Mustang variant to see service with the USAAF, joining the 27th Fighter Bomber Group at Rasel Ma in French Morocco during April 1943. The type served in the Mediterranean, North Africa, Italy and the China-Burma India theatre, but the Collings aeroplane was never sent overseas, seeing use as a trainer in the USA. It is painted as Baby Carmen of the 526th Fighter Bomber Squadron, 86th Fighter Bomber Group, based at Marcianise airfield about 20 miles north-north-west of Naples from April 30-June 12, 1944. The AllisonV-1710 powered Baby Carmen gained the distinction of flying 200 combat sorties, without ever undergoing an engine change.
The Reserve World War II Grand Champion went to Curtiss P-40C Tomahawk, AK295/N295RL, restored by Avspecs Ltd at Auckland, New Zealand, for Rod Lewis at San Antonio, Texas, which made its first flight in April 2011 (see News, August 2012 Aeroplane).
Antique Grand Champion award went to 1937 Lockheed 12A, s/n 1222/CF-LKD, owned by Peter Ramm, at St Catharine’s, Ontario. It was imported to Canada in early 2007, having previously been N18125 with the Colgate Darden collection in South Carolina. This Lockheed has particular significance in Canada, having served with the Royal Canadian Air Force during the war as RCAF 7837, based at Rockliffe, Ontario. Following a thorough restoration, including extensive reskinning in Ramm’s hangar, it flew again during the summer of 2011.
Antique Reserve Grand Champion was awarded to Walter Bowe of Livermore, California, for his Laird LC-RW300, N4442. Acquired in September 2011 from Jimmy Rollison at Yolo County Airport, California, Bowe completed the restoration during May. It was the last of three LC-RW300s built, the stock market crash of 1929 seeing the demise of the Laird company. Priced at $15,000, N4442 didn’t sell, and was stored, unassembled, until finally finding a buyer in 1940. The Rollison family owned the Laird for 50 years, but it was used sparingly, and grounded in the late 1990s. After the flight to Oshkosh, it still only had a total of 120hr of flight time. Walter has installed a Pratt & Whitney 450 h.p. powerplant in place of the 300 h.p. engine standard on the RW300 Speedwing, and says: “With its ground-adjustable, 108in Hamilton Standard propeller, it climbs at more than 1,000ft per minute, and cruises at about 150 m.p.h. At altitude with a constant speed prop, I think it could easily get into the 170s. But 150 m.p.h. in an open cockpit is fast enough!”
Among the themes this year was the 75th anniversary of the first flight of the Piper Cub, which saw more than 200 Cubs converging on Oshkosh from all over the USA. The EAA’s Salute to the “Greatest Generation in the Air” included a “first and last over Japan” series of flypasts, consisting of Larry Kelly’s Georgetown, Delaware-based North American B-25, N9079Z Panchito, and the Commemorative Air Force’s Boeing B-29 Fifi. Aboard the B-25 was Richard Cole, Jimmy Doolittle’s co-pilot on the legendary raid on Tokyo in April 1942, and riding in the B-29 was Theodore “Dutch” Van Kirk the navigator of the B-29 Enola Gay, who is now the only surviving crew member of the August 6, 1945 attack on Hiroshima.