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Thunder In The Sky! - PART I
By Kevin Moore, Contributing Editor & Photographer
Watford, Ontario, Canada
The highlight of the airshow, for many, were the 11 Corsairs that took to the sky.

The Yankee Air Museum, and it's sponsors, having been putting on a great airshow at the old Willow Run Airport in Ypsilanti, MI for years, offering spectators the opportunity to see, and hear, a wide variety of aircraft from World War II to modern day fighter jets and other aircraft.

US Air Force C-130 Hercules, considered by many to be the workhorse of the air force.

The first opportunity a visitor has is to walk around all the aircraft on static display, some throughout the day and some temporarily until such time as they are expected to fly. Regardless, some aircraft and aircrews offer one the opportunity to get inside and talk to the folks who fly and crew them and some you can just get up close and... kind of personal with.

Among many aircraft on the static line up were a pair of F-16s and a vintage, de Havilland of Canada Chipmunk.

The airshow features a mix of vintage aircraft from World War II to modern day jet fighters and other aircraft, at times, flying together in a single formation. There is plenty of both prop and jet noise for any ardent aircraft fan! There's also lots to see on the ground including aircraft and vendors, and US military booths where you can obtain information about the different military branches.

The US Air Force T-6 Texan II is used as a basic pilot training aircraft by the USAF.

The US Air Force displayed their "Beechcraft" Texan II with a formation of 3 aircraft that performed multiple passes before setting up for landing. Built by Raytheon Aircraft Company, the Texan II is a single engine turboprop used for both basic pilot training and for combat systems officer training by the US Air Force. The aircraft has a top speed of 585km/h (364mph), cruise speed of 512km/h (320mph) and a service ceiling of 9,400m (31,000 ft).

The F-16 Fighting Falcon Viper Demo team always puts on a good, loud and fast show!

The US Air Force also displayed their General Dynamics (Lockheed) F-16 Fighting Falcon air combat jet fighter. The F-16 was first introduced into the US Air Force in 1978 and operates with an additional 25 other countries. Along with the US Air Force, the United States operates F-16s with the Air National Guard and the Air Reserve. The F-16 has a sea level maximum speed of 1,472km/h (915mph) and a service ceiling of 15,000m (50,000). There were over 4600 F-16s produced since 1974.

The Heritage Flight was performed by a single F-16 Fighting Falcon and two P-51D Mustangs.

The F-16 also performed in the heritage flight with 2 P-51D Mustangs, Moonbeam McSwine and Glamorous Glen III. Though generations apart, these aircraft have both played pivotal rolls in their service with air forces around the world and the opportunity to see them fly together in such formations is one airshow patrons tend to enjoy. The once considered sleek lines of the Mustang and the modern day sleek lines of the F-16 compliment each other. One day, we may see a similar formation with the most modern of jet fighter aircraft thrown in the mix.

US Navy Corsair 416 & P-51D Mustang Quick Silver performed several formation passes together.

During the early part of the airshow there was a nice formation display with the Chance-Vought F4U-4 Corsair "Korean War Hero" US Navy 416 and P-51D Mustang "Quick Silver." This Corsair flew over 200 combat missions from two different carriers, USS Boxer & USS Valley Forge. It also served with the Honduran Air Force from 1960 - 1970. P-51D Mustang, QuickSilver, though not a World War II veteran, is painted in honour of all US and Allied servicemen who flew the Mustang. Each painted and polished feature of the aircraft has a specific meaning to those who flew these fabulous aircraft from World War II until the last Mustang left service. It is truly one of the best rebuilt P-51s in the sky today.

The sleek lines and the superb performance of the P-51 Mustang was on display with several passes during the airshow.

After the Corsair/Mustang formation display, several P-51s took to the sky to perform numerous passes for the crowd. All but one of the Mustangs were P-51D models, with the exception being a single P-51B, known as Old Crow. The P-51 Mustang was developed by North American Aviation based on a requirement by the British. The Mustang initially flew with the Allison V-1710 engine and was first flown in operations by the RAF. However, it was found to be underpowered at high altitude and the Allison engine was replaced by the Rolls-Royce Merlin which transformed the aeroplane into a super, long range fighter aircraft capable of escorting bombers deep into Europe while still capable of taking on German fighters. The Mustang served in both theatres of war, the Korean war and other conflicts around the world, serving with many different air forces.

There are dozens of P-51s still flying around the world, most of which are in the United States.

The P-51 Mustang was often considered the 'Cadillac' of the sky and there are pundits who argue over which aircraft was the best fighter of World War II. Regardless, the Mustang was certainly in the top 5. Of that, there is no doubt! With long range fuel tanks, it could fly further than any other fighter escort the Allies had at the time. It had speed, manoeuverability and sufficient guns and was used in multiple roles. It can be honestly suggested that the war may not have been won if not for the introduction of the P-51 or, at the very least, it certainly would have been prolonged. The P-51D had a top speed of over 700km/h (440mph) with a cruise speed of 583km/h (362mph), a climb rate of 16.3m/s (3,200 ft/min), a service ceiling of 12,800m (42,000 ft) and, with external fuel tanks, a range of 2,656km (1,650 miles).

The unique shape of the Corsair wing and the bubble canopy are unmistakable on the ground as much as in the air.

Next week we'll return to Willow Run Airport in Ypsilanti, Michigan for more of the Thunder Over Michigan Airshow including military and vintage aircraft.

P-51D Swamp Fox, left, and Gentleman Jim, right, just after their arrival at Willow Run.
US Navy Corsair 416, left, showing off her topside. US Navy Corsair 416 & P-51D Mustang Quick Silver completing a formation pass, right.
Another look at the P-51D Mustang, Swamp Fox, in a nice pass.
Next week we'll have a look at more from Thunder, including the US Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II.
By Kevin Moore, Contributing Editor & Photographer
Watford, Ontario, Canada
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