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Warbird Showcase in Culpeper to start Capital Wing's 2020 airshow season
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Warbird Showcase in Culpeper to start Capital Wing's 2020 airshow season

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Across the country, the coronavirus pandemic has scrubbed or delayed most of this summer’s airshows, including those in which the Culpeper-based Capital Wing of the Commemorative Air Force usually takes part.

But the all-volunteer wing, whose pilots made an impressive Victory in Europe anniversary flyover of Culpeper recently, will stage a Warbird Showcase at Culpeper Regional Airport on Saturday and Aug. 15. The showcase, featuring a wide mix of vintage aircraft, will welcome the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on those Saturdays.

“Our members are just as tired of being in the house as everyone else,” said Pete Ballard, the Capital Wing’s assistant adjutant. “To mark the beginning of the much-delayed 2020 airshow season, we have put together a family-oriented event with something for everyone.”

For the first time anywhere, the Commemorative Air Force will bring together two iconic aircraft that the U.S. Coast Guard deployed during World War II—a Fairchild UC-61 Forwarder and a Boeing PT-17 Stearman biplane—and fly them over Culpeper. At midday, the Stearman and the Forwarder will fly a low-level pass down the runway.

Attendees will get a rare opportunity to see those two Coast Guard planes as well as other WWII aircraft, and to fly in them.

To learn more about the showcase or to buy Warbird Ride tickets, email Warbird Rides are available at a range of prices, starting at $69.

The showcase will heed the coronavirus pandemic guidelines of the federal Centers for Disease Control, commonwealth of Virginia and local health authorities.

Parking and attendance are free, although the nonprofit Capital Wing would appreciate a small donation as visitors enter the area near its hangar beside the airport’s terminal.

Vintage aircraft will be displayed outside and inside the wing’s hangar, and plenty of airplanes will be in the sky over the airport during the Warbird Showcase.

Attractions for everyone in the family will include STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) activities for children, a World War II museum and a 50-caliber machine-gun turret. A food truck will provide lunch and refreshments.

Throughout the day, five WWII aircraft will be available for warbird rides:

  • a Stinson L-5 Sentinel forward air control plane.
  • a high-wing Fairchild UC-61 Forwarder, which was built in Hagerstown, Md., in 1946 and flew anti-submarine patrols off the East Coast.
  • a Boeing PT-17 Stearman biplane built in 1942. Stearmans were used as a primary flight trainer by all the U.S. armed services throughout WWII.
  • a North American SNJ fighter trainer flown by the Navy; and
  • a General Motors TBM Avenger, the largest single-engine bomber of WWII. George H.W. Bush, one of the Navy’s youngest aviators and later the 41st U.S. president, flew such a torpedo bomber on dozens of combat missions in the war’s Pacific theater.

Active-duty or retired U.S. Coast Guard personnel will receive $20 discounts on rides in the Fairchild Forwarder or the Boeing Stearman.

The Commemorative Air Force began six decades ago in Texas when a few World War II pilots bought, restored and started flying a P-51 Mustang.

Today, the CAF has a complete collection of combat aircraft flown by all U.S. military services, with 165 airplanes distributed across the nation to 76 units, including the Capital Wing, that operate and care for them.

The CAF’s mission is honor those who have served, educate the public and inspire the next generation of aviators.

Clint Schemmer: 540/825-0773

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