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Elkhart Warbird Fly-In

By Chuck Marshall,WOA 594412, for Briefing

Elkhart Fly-In

The Elkhart Warbird fly-in must have been quite the event. Here at Briefing we’re always looking for local reporting. This aviation happening generated two unsolicited articles! Rumor has it that our Warbirds of America President Rick Siegfried was in attendance and may have been spotted dropping flour bombs (all with appropriate waivers of course)! Chuck “Marshmellow” Marshall wrote up all the action—and did his best to protect the innocent. (Ahem!)

What a wonderful weekend for the 2nd Annual Elkhart Warbird Event in Elkhart, Indiana. Thirty-five (35) Warbirds came to play, compete, and have fun October 7 to 9. Autumn weather treated us to the fantastic vivid colors of Michigan and Indiana. This event is one of the special occasions where we get to fly for ourselves, showing the proficiency we’ve earned over the years and sharing the love of flying with fellow aviators. We had six four-ship formation teams each competing for the coveted trophies and awards, especially the bobblehead eagles distinctly awarded for last place. (More later on who won this award.)

Fifty pounds of flour packaged into 70 rectangle aerial bombs, each identifying the bombardier and aircraft, were hurled into the air in attempts to hit the 30-foot bull’s-eye target. No one hit the mark!

Aerial demonstrations were performed with great skill and daring in the Wildcat (Mike Gillian), Corsair (Mike Schiffer), and T-6 (Vlado Lenoch).
Unlike last year, we invited the public to view all this fun, and for everyone’s protection we flew under waivered airspace with the local flight standards district office personnel in attendance. Many thanks to Scott Duck of Dave Dacy Airshows fame for being our air boss and working out all the kinks with the FAA. The Goodyear blimp crew showed up for the pilot briefing, but I had to rule them ineligible for the flour bombing. However, the crew demonstrated two high-speed passes over the target zone while departing for Notre Dame.

The Elkhart Airport (EKM) is a wonderful facility for this event. Enough can’t be said for all the airport staff, which prepared and made our weekend great. The tower controllers—Mick, RJ, Joe, and Chris—all worked overtime processing 1,400-plus operations. The grounds and maintenance crews (Herb, Terry, and John) prepared the safety lines, manicured the grass, set up barricades, and manned the transportation bus. They also procured the golf carts and did everything necessary to prepare for the public and pilots. Rhonda Tesch and Bill Gius of Warbirds Flightline fame came down from Wisconsin to lead the ramp crews (Augie, Dennis, Rod, Steve, and others) in providing us with a very safe operating environment and marshaling services. Even the crash and rescue crews were impressed.

Andy Jones, the manager of this wonderful facility, was tireless in getting everything coordinated and ready. He kept the ball rolling and was always providing help where needed. Andy got so involved with cleaning and setting up that he missed taking his wife, Bea, out on their anniversary. She tells me Andy blames me.

EAA Chapter 132 served breakfast and lunch to all the public drive-in/fly people. Many thanks to Phil, Karen, Don, Vic, and Jerry, and of course Michelle and all of the unnamed chapter volunteers, the Scouts, and emergency medical service personnel.

Thursday early arrivers Don Stamp and Mike Porter from Ohio won the T-shirt. No, it wasn’t a wet one. Dan and JoAnn Springer from Echo Bay, Ontario; Todd Winemiller from Ohio; and Jim Keller, also from Ohio, comprised the infamous team of “Major FU’s.”

Friday brought in the majority of participants: the “Rebels” of Dave Folk, Lou Feldvary, John Feldvary, and Bob Pingston, although Bob came in early solo—something about sleeping in Stevensville the previous night. Ron Staley tagged along with the Rebels but had to go home and get his L-39 Oshkosh Champion for the Watervliet flyby. Solo’s T-6 pilot Bob Redner from Michigan and Eric Woelbing from Wisconsin arrived as did Ralph Lutes from Indiana. Slowly the “Boyz From Illinoiz” Rick Siegfried, Tim Gillian, Gary Applebaum from Minnesota (formally from Illinois), and always the showman, Vlado Lenoch, arrived. Thus they comprised the T-6 class: Major FU’s, Rebels, and Boyz From Illinoiz.

The Stearman team of “Scorpions” was led by Cal Tax from Georgia, Rick Lutes from Illinois, Alan Wright from Michigan, and Tom Lowe from Illinois. Solo Dan Hallack came from Michigan.

The “RedStars” fielded two teams: 1) “BeerCans” John and Erin Shuttleworth from Indiana, Ryan Patterson from Ohio, Dave Tan from Wisconsin, and John Lindsay from Indiana; and 2) “RedStars”Shuttleworth, Teresa Engle and Jim Wilson from Ohio, and Rick Crepas from Michigan. This was a mixed group of aircraft: Yaks, T-34 RVs, CJs, and SF Marchetti. Static displays from Duane Packer in his T-28 and Jim Shenk’s J-50 Army Twin Bonanza arrived.

Once again not allowed to demonstrate my fine station-keeping skills, I had to lead the Edwardsburg “Eddy” Michigan flight of six (Keller, Winemiller, Siegfried, the Springers, and Stamp) to open the Homecoming Football Game. We all had Guys In Backs, and what a perfect evening sunset flight it was. My wingmen were fantastic in perfect position; in perfect timing we passed the stadium as the last note of the anthem sounded and the cannon went off.

Saturday’s formation contest was to be four passes (fingertip, diamond, optional, and echelon, followed by a timed break) with a total score of 50 points. A drawing for the sequence resulted in the following order: BeerCans, Major FU’s, RedStars, Boyz from Illinoiz, Rebels, and Scorpions. Pilots put on their game faces; leads briefed and encouraged their teams.

Two hours later with all teams safely down, the viewing public had been treated to some of the best formation flying possible. Optional formations were amazing: goose neck arrowhead, line abreast, close trail, and fan break with smoke. Some marvelous demonstrations of skill in symmetry and balance were presented.

Lunch was followed by an improvised low-level aerobatic demonstration by Vlado Lenoch in his T-6. As you know, Vlado is one of the most skilled at this business, and he gave a great show. But not to be outdone, Mike Gillian put the FM-2 Wildcat and its Wright Cyclone 1820 engine through its paces, looping, rolling, and showing us why this is such a formidable nimble fighter.

Finally the big F4U Corsair flown by Mike Schiffer was given a workout as the Pratt & Whitney R-2800 turned the 13-foot prop into an array of rolls and Cuban eights.

With the aerial demonstrations complete, the bomb bays loaded and the teams departed in the same sequence. However, a switcheroo occurred in Vlado’s T-6 when Mike Keenum of Sea Fury Riff Raff fame took over as pilot in command. But Mike has never flown a T-6 before. He has tons of heavy warbird experience but never in a T-6. Good luck, Vlado and Mike; we can’t wait for the landing, let alone the formation join-up.

The team mission was to depart, join, and pass in echelon, then break for individual strafing runs over the bomb target. The bomb judges, with tape measures, scoop shovels, and brooms in hand, waited anxiously as each bomber passed. Of course for safety reasons they all stood in the middle of the target zone, never to be hit or grazed.

Award presentations were each preceded by appropriate comments as to compliance to the rules, and of course, if any malfeasance was noted. Having noted that all aviators in attendance were “goodfellows” or potential candidates, I proceeded to award the trophies in remembrance of this fine 2011 Elkhart Warbird Event.

Warbirds of America President Rick Siegfried at the awards ceremony.

Formation Team Flying Awards
First place (Big Eagle with glass inscription): Boyz From Illinoiz
Lead Rick Siegfried, #2 Tim Gillian, #3 Gary Applebaum, and #4 Vlado Lenoch
Second place (Eagle flag): Scorpions
Lead Cal Tax, #2 Rick Lutes, #3 Alan Wright, and #4 Tom Lowe
Third place (Eagle): Rebels
Lead Dave Folk, #2 Lou Feldvary, #3 John Feldvary, and #4 Bob Pingston
Last place (Small Eagle Bobbleheads): BeerCans
Lead John Shuttleworth, #2 Ryan Patterson, #3 Dave Tan, and #4 John Lindsay

Flour Bombing Awards
First place 15 feet from the target center: Rick Siegfried – 87H  
Second place 17 feet: Ryan Patterson – 9109
Third place 30 feet tie: Don Stamp – 45; Dave Folk – 39
Worst 543 feet from target: Vlado Lenoch and Mike Keenum – 39311
Mechanical failure: Gary Applebaum – 17
Dog turd 81 feet: Alan Wright – 939
Disqualified, too low: Jim Keller – 675
Disqualified, too many bombs: Matt Throckmorton and Bill Foraker – Texas Twister

Sunday morning was another stunning day. Some early departures like Stamp and Springer buzzed the Marshmellow on their way to Florida. Keller tagged along for a while en route to Ohio. The only Harvard (of Gary Applebaum fame) headed for Minnesota. After a complete briefing from Dave Folk, the rest of us departed for Watervliet, Michigan (40C). Vlado showed his magnificent flying skills with the Big Eagle trophy in the windscreen of the T-6 all the way to Watervliet; someone said he slept with it. Another example of feather bedding, I guess.

At Watervliet we were treated to a fine reception by Al Hartline and his crew. Mike Schiffer in the Corsair was again the star of the gathering, even as Vlado hailed the crowds and pointed to the Big Eagle in his windscreen. Duane Packer went home with his T-28 and brought over his wonderful BT-13.

The Texas Twister made a first in landing on the grass—hello! Matt Throckmorton and Bill Foraker were treated to a first-class indoctrination of T-6 camaraderie. (See the article about their experience at this event here.) Maybe they can bring the rest of the southern Indiana boys up next year. Bob (Turbine Goose Driver) Redner, a newbie T-6 guy, will fit right in with the Michigan crowd now that he has started to learn what formation flying is all about. Maybe he’ll have his wing card by next Alma Air Show which takes place in Michigan.

Well, this wraps up just some of the fun we had at the 2nd Annual Elkhart Warbird Event. I want to acknowledge all that participated with thanks of appreciation in sharing this safe, fun-filled weekend of flying festivities. Too bad cohort Ralphie Lutes had to go to work—thanks for the Jeep. We took pictures of Ralphie’s T-6 with the covers on. Maybe next year he can play, too.


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