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Thunder Over Ypsilanti - Part I

By Kevin Moore, Contributing Editor & Photographer
Watford, Ontario, Canada

Making some rumble in the sky was the Commemorative Air Force Boeing B-29 Super Fortress, "FiFi," one of the four engine bombers attending the 2015 Thunder Over Michigan Airshow at Willow Run Airport, Ypsilanti, Michigan.

Mother Nature often provides us with a sound and light show that dazzles and sometimes mesmerizes people. Well, the Yankee Air Museum and the Thunder Over Michigan Airshow is as mesmerising and dazzling as any show Mother Nature has to offer.

Making thunderous noise in the skies over Ypsilanti were the US Navy Blue Angels flying their F/A-18 Hornets, left. The Yankee Air Museum B-17, Yankee Lady, taxies for the static line, right.

The 2015 Thunder Over Michigan Airshow offered spectators ground shaking thunder, loud and proud, high in the sky entertainment that can't be beat. From the US Navy Blue Angels to 3 vintage four-engine bombers from World War II, the sound of thunder wow'd the crowd.

Two of the most iconic aircraft from the designers of both de Havilland (Mosquito)
and Supermarine (Spitfire) in a nice formation pass.

The collection of both display and static aircraft was historic in its own right. Watching the de Havilland Mosquito and Supermarine Spitfire tearing up the sky in a pre-airshow performance had people stopped in their tracks, looking skyward in awe of these two historic British aircraft.

Taking a trip across the flightline was the UH-1 Huey allowing passengers to get some photos and a view of everyone viewing them, left. The USAF F-16 going up, right.

There was an assortment of World War II fighter aircraft, a Heritage Flight, high speed fighter jets, aerobatic performances in modern and vintage aircraft, helicopters and a great line up of static aeroplanes for spectators to walk around and sometimes climb into.

It was great to see three Mustangs and the Corsair in some nice formation passes.

Always popular at airshows are the World War II fighter aircraft, whether performing formation passes or single, high speed, tear up the sky passes. At Thunder 2015 the fighter aircraft performing in the show included Mustangs, a Corsair and a rare Focke Wulf 190. The sight and sound of these vintage historic aircraft, honouring the pilots and ground crews who fought for our freedoms today, had many people looking up with immense pride. These aircraft are meticulously maintained and lovingly flown and it shows in every pass the pilots make in their rides.

P-51B Mustang "Old Crow" making an assortment of passes.

One of the Mustangs putting on a great display was the P-51B "Old Crow." Known as the "razorback" Mustang, this beautiful example of North American Aviation's famous fighter aircraft had every camera furiously clicking away. The aeroplane is dedicated to the famous American fighter pilot and triple Ace, Clarence E. "Bud" Anderson, who flew with the 357 Fighter Group, 8th Air Force operating out of Leiston Airfield in the UK.

The gull wing design of the Corsair makes it one of the most recognizable warbirds around.

The Cavanaugh Flight Museum displayed their fabulous Goodyear/Chance-Vought FG-1D Corsair. The amazing Corsair, with its distinctive and unmistakable gull-wing design, and is capable of speeds in excess of 400mph. It was utilised as both a fighter and a close air support ground attack aircraft and was very successful in both roles. Though the Corsair was developed and fought in World War II, it also performed as a ground attack aircraft during the Korean War.

Two superb mustangs that took part in the fighter flypasts were P-51D "Gentleman Jim," left, and "Ain't Misbehavin'," right.

Other Mustangs performing where the P-51D "Gentleman Jim" and "Ain't Misbehavin'," both of which also flew a nice formation pattern with P-51 "Old Crow" and the Corsair. Seeing these classic, historic and beautiful examples of two of the most famous and successful aircraft of World War II was a wonderful sight.

A unique and beautiful sight and sound was the formation of 4 engine bombers including the Avro Lancaster, B-17 and B-29, left. One of the B-25 bombers that performed numerous passes was B-25J "Super Rabbit," right.

Of course, World War II wasn't just about fighter aircraft and many equally famous and successful bombers came out of a necessity and need during the war. Two and four engine aircraft fought and flew in Europe and the Pacific theatres of war and each were successful in their own right. Boeing produced two of the best American bombers in the four engine class including, but not limited to, the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and the Boeing B-29 Super Fortress, both of which flew individually and in formation during the airshow.

One of only two currently flying Avro Lancaster bombers in the world is the Lancaster from the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Hamilton, Ontario, and the aircraft is loved everywhere she makes an appearance.

Probably the most loved and most effective of the British bombers was the famous Avro Lancaster and Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada brought their Canadian built Lancaster to Thunder. This iconic RAF/RCAF bomber carried payloads of 12,000 - 22,000lbs, a massive weight in the form of bombs such as the Tallboy and the Grand Slam. The Lancaster also flew one of the most famous missions of World War II carrying the spinning "bouncing bomb" developed by Barnes Wallis which was used to attack German Dams.

Relatively new to the airshow circuit was A-26 Invader "Silver Dragon," which has a very unique paint scheme that is hard to miss.

Making its first appearance at Thunder was the A-26 Invader, which had been recently purchased by Tim Savage and his son. The A-26 is painted in the markings of the World War II 386th Bomber Group and wears the unusual nose art and name "Silver Dragon." Though the aeroplane will continuously undergo restoration, she is thought to be one of the most authentic aircraft of its type with much of her original World War II gear still intact. This Invader will most certainly be seen at many airshows in the years to come.

The Consolidated PB4Y-2 Privateer, derived from the B-24 Liberator,
was another of the 4 engine giants that made several passes.

An unusual aircraft making an appearance in the air was the Consolidated PB4Y-2 Privateer. Derived from the B-24 Liberator, the Privateer was designed for use by the US Navy. The Privateer operated as a patrol bomber during World War II and in the Korean War and flew into the 1960s after being converted to drone configuration with the designation QP-4B.

One of the most popular World War II bombers on the airshow circuit, the CAF Boeing
B-29 Super Fortress "FiFi" and is also the only currently flying example in the world.

Also flying was the ever popular and largest of the World War II bombers, Boeing B-29 Super Fortress "FiFi" from the Commemorative Air Force. The B-29 prototype first flew on September 21, 1943 but developmental issues combined to delay production until late in 1943. Over 100 aircraft were delivered however a very limited number were actually airworthy. During a six week period in early 1944, General Hap Arnold stepped in to help to resolve the issues that plagued the aircraft. The B-29 was probably most well known for dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima (Enola Gay) and Nagasaki (Bockscar), credited for ending the war in the Pacific.

A popular B-17 on the airshow circuit is the movie "Memphis Belle," which made numerous passes as well as participating in the bomber formation.

The B-17 movie "Memphis Belle" took part in the bomber formation and flypasts and is always a popular B-17 at any airshow. This example of one of the most historic US bombers is one of more than a dozen currently flying B-17 bombers, including the B-17 "Yankee Lady" from the Yankee Air Museum at Willow Run Airport.

The beautiful Avro Lancaster in formation with the big Boeing B-29 Super Fortress, left. The Yankee Air Museum has a Rosie the Riveter Campaign and we'll delve into that a little bit in Part II.

This week we've spent time reviewing part of the line up of aircraft that participated in the 2015 Thunder Over Michigan Airshow. Next week, we'll return to the show and see what else participated and have a look at the Yankee Air Museum Rosie the Riveter Campaign.

The Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum B-25 "Hot Gen" on final, left, after participating in a series of flypasts. The CAF B-29 "FiFi" on final after her flypasts & bomber formation, right.

Next week we'll have a look at the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum B-25 Mitchell, "Hot Gen," on final, left. Another look at the CAF Boeing B-29 Super Fortress on final after performing several flypasts.

For Part II of this article, click here »

By Kevin Moore, Contributing Editor & Photographer

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