Wonder In Boeing Square
Although I’m the walkin’ and talkin’ personification of jaded and hard-bitten, even I was dazzled by what I saw in Boeing Square at AirVenture on Monday afternoon. First, the place was jammed with humanity; more people than I ever remember seeing in the gazillion years I’ve been coming to this show.
But it was the range of aircraft EAA shoehorned into the square that was simply stunning. Two B-29s, a B-52, a C-123, a C-47 in Normandy livery—the actual airplane, not a stand-in—and after a crazy cool flyby, a B-1 whistled into the square with its APU screeching to add to the over-the-top din. Behind that, they dragged in Scaled’s wonderfully weird Proteus. On a scale of 10 for holy s&^t moments, it was an 11.
It wasn’t by happenstance, either. At his press briefing, EAA chairman Jack Pelton said the association had, by design, tilted toward a multi-theme format this year. Heretofore, the show has generally been focused on one idea, say warbirds or tributes to homebuilts or that sort of thing. As Russ Niles and I mentioned in our golf car tour, this year, the interest areas are more diverse.
Because we love aviation anniversaries so much, more are being celebrated here than I ever remember seeing. It’s the 80th anniversary of the Piper Cub, the 75th of the Doolittle raid on Japan in 1942, the 40th of the Christen Eagle, the 90th of Lindbergh’s flight to Paris and I’m sure a few others. As a nice promotional touch, EAA dusted off its Ryan NYP Spirit of St. Louis replica, made it airworthy, and will launch a Lindbergh look-alike at the same time the original lifted off—7:52 a.m. Thirty-three hours and 30 minutes later—the actual time of Lindbergh’s crossing—the airplane will land somewhere on Wittman field. In a nice touch that would do a Hollywood publicist proud, Pelton declined to say where the NYP will land. Cameras in tow, us news hounds will be on an Easter egg hunt.
Later in the week, we’ll have a cockpit tour of the B-52 and here a shout out to Maj. Keith Vandagriff. A B-52 instructor pilot, he was our tour guide on the Stratofort and he couldn’t have been more accommodating or done a better job of explaining an airplane that’s both a relic and a cutting edge weapons platform. We find that in many cases, the people the services send to show off their expensive hardware don’t really get AirVenture and don’t understand why they’re here. But Maj. Vandagriff certainly does, so he gets a tip of the editorial hat.
In today’s video feed, look for some 360 footage of Boeing square. You gotta see it to believe it.