What I Learned From By Going To A WWII Airplane Show!


Please no texting and invading at the same time!

This past Sunday, Jimmy, Clif and I made a quick fun “Hail Mary” to VA Beach to the “Warbirds Over The Beach” show. Was it amazing? Hellcat yes! The photos sure will not disappoint. And sadly, for you and I, this is a thing that I have no idea about. I never had the dream to fly. But, it is cool, and that sometimes is all that matters.

I think I heard Jimmy say “That’s Bad Ass” about 100 times in three hours!

I did learn some things though that may help us in the boat world. And no its not stuff to do, but more of a mind set. There I was, a geek of sorts amongst other geeks. We are all geeks of something. Some more than others.

Hanging out is cool!

Hanging out looking the part

Lets figure out a way to get our wives out here? OK Fritz.. mmmm Yeah. mmmm she doesn’t get it. REALLY? Yea, I mean I tried to go to Starbucks the other day and she freaked out. I forgot to leave my Luger in the car. Phew she saved me!

There is an odd feeling that the uniform means something, its not just clothing. But maybe in a way its art to folks. Living art now. And with saying that was the insight.

Coming in for a landing

Ripping by the crowd

To new people coming to your show, or meeting you at the dock, they are in awe of your boat and passion. but scared to death of it, and its intimidating. That’s how I felt for sure. It was their universe and I was a spectator. I never felt invited in. Mind you that’s in my head, and the volunteers couldn’t have been more helpful. It was a very welcoming crowd. Sound familiar? Sometimes we forget how it’s all kinda overwhelming to new folks!

The museum is amazing and all their planes fly. You could spend an entire weekend there

An Army runs on its Chicken On A Stick and Funnel Cakes!

I am going to go out for a short ride on my bike Mom! OK Dear, don’t blow up the neighbors again! OK Mom!

I found myself saying things like. Man that’s cool, but ouch its expensive. Or what does it take to restore one of those. All the same things folks say when they meet us. Honestly, if someone in a Spitfire had said. Come on, lets go.

Lets go!

And then told me how fun it all is.. Maybe there would be a Canvas Flyer website. mmmmm. NO!

Oh crap, RUN!

look up there

Bail out!

The entire day was filled with the wonderful roar of those massive engines!

Folded up and ready to go across the ocean

Start that sucker up! Man oh man those engines are amazing

Fly like the wind

Regardless, of how welcoming we may all be, no matter what is said to new folks in the hobby or wanting to get into the hobby, it can be a tough and courageous leap to getting into classic boating without someone reaching out there hand and saying, COME ON IN, THE WATER IS GREAT!

Lets go!

35 replies
    • Fred B
      Fred B says:

      Jim, If I remember correctly, if you put a non stock engine in a restored original aircraft, OR if it is a homebuilt replica, you must label it as experimental forever. That’s just the law if it didn’t come from a factory that way.

      • m-fine
        m-fine says:

        The FAA in its infinite wisdom has decided that any plane not built for civilians, under its supervision must all fit under the same category, Experimental. They also decided that the best way to keep the public away from these aircraft is to require owners to have the word EXPERIMENTAL in a large font prominently displayed.

        These old warbirds are not all super safe, but you can be sure they are not being used for any experimentation these days. Even if it is 100% original from the factory in better than new condition, former military birds will always be EXPERIMENTAL to the Feds, just like a plane I design myself after a few beers and build in my barn while drinking a few bottles of tequila.

  1. Cameron
    Cameron says:

    The link is there; it’s was the advances in high powered airplane engine technology in the 1WW that enabled boats to really fly. The 150hp Hispano-Suiza V8 engine was taken to 180hp for fighter aircraft and was apparently very advanced for its time. Miss Detroit 111 had a Curtiss V12 aero engine in the 1918 Gold Cup. I’m no engine expert, just quoting from ‘Classic Speedboats 1916-39’ by Gerald Guetat. Great book.

  2. steve in the woods
    steve in the woods says:

    I was always told that those birds were built with an expected life of a couple hundred hours…and the are still here!

    • m-fine
      m-fine says:

      The WWI engines, including the Liberty were only expected to last under 50 hours before needing a rebuild. The planes at the time had an average life of 20 hours or so before getting shot down or crashing.

      In WWII things were much better, but they also pushed the equipment much much harder. 200 combat hours is a ton. These days they are not flown as hard and the engines are not pushed to the levels of boost/compression and heat like they were in combat. Kinda like how a restored Chris Craft cruising along at 2000 rpm will last a lot longer than if you ran the old flathead full out…on the very edge of detonation…with a huge super charger and 150 octane fuel.

  3. Matt
    Matt says:

    Correct me if I am wrong, and I know you will. But I think the same was expected about our Woody Boats. They were not designed to last more than 5 years or so, came from the factory with 3 coats of varnish?

    • Tommyholm
      Tommyholm says:

      Century did two “warm” coats of varnish. The life expectancy coincided with the plan to sell you another Century sooner than later. The dealers liked that plan. It was a business plan not unlike the automobile makers.

  4. Matt
    Matt says:

    john, there is another one this summer, focused on WWI airplanes. Lets all go! The museum is cool as hell!

    • Marty Feletto
      Marty Feletto says:

      I was on both Hudson River trips and we stopped both times at Rhinebeck for plane rides. Fun being up in the air!

  5. Dick Dow
    Dick Dow says:

    As I often say – Cars, Planes, Boats, Motorcycles – whatever vehicle excites your passion, “It’s all the same sickness!” Over 30 years ago there was a Stearman Biplane based in Roche Harbor that gave 15-30 minute plane rides and tours of the San Juan Islands during the summer. I handed over the crisp $20.00 bill and went for a ride I’ll never forget. Old leather goggles to see through and a vintage radio headset to communicate with the pilot… I’d do it again in a minute!

  6. Randy
    Randy says:

    … suppose we could get someone (Matt) to restore an old WW2 plywood CC landing craft to represent us WB’s in some of these events????????

  7. Emil
    Emil says:

    I grew up around that area (Air Force brat) and have somehow never heard of this museum or event. Definitely on the list for next year.

    This is all very cool to me as a geek – sort of like our very own Goodwood Revival. Civil War re-enactments though, don’t have as many cool toys, and can get politically-touchy and revisionist pretty quickly.

  8. Fred B
    Fred B says:

    There’s also a Great War group that also works with aircraft replica owners. Most every WW1 aircraft you can think of you can build from a kit from Airdrome Aeroplanes in Missouri. Here’s the reenactors:

  9. Philip Andrew
    Philip Andrew says:

    Well that was fun! Looks like a few aircraft we don’t get over here. We do however have the ‘ re-enactors’ and they look just as ridiculous either side of the globe. I enjoyed the change of pace this morning. Thanks Matt.

  10. Howard Hughes, Jr.
    Howard Hughes, Jr. says:

    You men seem pretty passionate about your wood boats and planes. Let me tell you, I know first hand how engrossed one can become, especially when it involves the combination of wood, water, sky, boat and plane. OCD is a *itch my friends. By the way, it was birch, not spruce!

  11. Skeefy
    Skeefy says:

    There is a connection between wooden boats and airplanes. In a boat, a line parallel to the keel drawn horizontally up and down is the water line, lines parallel to the keel drawn fore to aft are butt lines, and lines perpendicular to the keel are stations. The early airplane engineers barrowed these terms to locate positions in their airplanes and drawings. The same terminology is still used in both industries.

  12. Rabbit
    Rabbit says:

    Fifteen years ago I shot a series of BMW commercials in New Zealand and we chartered a WWII-vintage DC3 to takes us from one location to the next for an entire month. The flight attendants wore vintage uniforms, even. We took off and landed on grass airfields (which helped with our locations) and flew at low altitude. The pilots always invited me to sit in the jump seat on landings and take off (nothing but blue sky on that tail dragger for most of take off). We were working with Ridley Scott’s production company and crew and he had just used the same plane while filming Gladiator. A great thrill. And then we’d get to the location and often switch to helicopters. In Queenstown they were filming the first two Lord of the Rings as well as a movie called Vertical Limit, about a climb on Mount Everest. There was a field outside of town filled with heli’s for all of the crews. You’ve got one beautiful country, Phil. From the air and land and sea.

    In other news, my dad worked on Hellcats and Corsairs during WWII as a mechanic’s mate in the Navy. He must have just handed wrenches to the mechanic, because he could barely change a light bulb. OK, I’ll shut up now.

    • Matt
      Matt says:

      Dang! Stories like this always surprise me with how they connect to things. Shooting with RSA is an amazing experience. Nothing is half ass. Full throttle and amazing!

  13. floyd r turbo
    floyd r turbo says:

    Nothing like the sound of that Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp in F4U Corsair. Radial engine design just boggles my mind. We need sound.

  14. Tom Wilson
    Tom Wilson says:

    The correlations between aircraft and (power)boats are legion, mainly because aircraft and boats can use essentially unlimited amounts of power and stress engines similarly (high output for long periods). It’s no surprise boats have been blowing up surplus aircraft engines for about a century now.

    Flying my biplane is my first love (hey, it’s got wooden wings), but I enjoy my ‘glass runabout and did a stint trying to keep dad’s Matthews cabin cruiser operating, so I guess I’ve got my feet wet and head in the clouds. Even more so, Mira Slovak kept his Bucker biplane in the hangar across from me in the last years before he passed away. Mira was famous both as a pilot and is even better documented as an unlimited hydroplane driver (two national championships). And for sure Mira did his share of depleting the world’s supply of Merlin and Allison V-12 aircraft engines via some rather fast wooden boats. Great stuff, and a great guy.

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