Story and photos by Shawn Byers
This is a late season Warbirds show over the weekend of Veterans Day that has been on my list for a while. Held at Charlotte-Monroe Executive Airport, the show dedicated to our Veterans has been running for 17 years.
This was my first time attending and it was not in my plans until some time in September. Truth be told, I was chasing an F-15E Strike Eagle in a special paint scheme at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base and the timing lined up to continue onto Monroe. I only attended the Saturday show as I had a long drive back home.
Unfortunately, Sunday was the better weather day as Saturday featured more clouds than sun. At least there was no rain but there was some in the days prior, leaving some grassy areas wet and muddy. The temperatures were mild for the season where a sweatshirt was required in the morning but just a long sleeve shirt in the afternoon, unless you are a bit more hearty than me, you’d be in your t-shirt.
Charlotte-Monroe Executive Airport, Southeast of the city of Charlotte, has a single runway, 05/23 with the ramp based on the west side. Morning sun backlights the runway but there is a tree line along half the runway that offers some light balance. Had the clouds not taken over in the afternoon, the sun would have been prime for photographs.
Prior to the show, there are arrivals, including a rare Beechcraft AT-11, regular business and General Aviation flights and Bell Helicopters. For a nominal fee, you could take a ride in a UH-1 Huey or man the gunner seat in an AH-1 Cobra Helicopter from the Army Heritage Foundation.
First to fly at show time was Chef Pitts in his red, aerobatic biplane. He would also fly toward the end of the show.
Hot Streak II, a highly modified firetruck, spewed smoke and flame before taking a high-speed run down the runway. He would also make two appearances, the second featuring a race with Chef Pitts.
The Alabama Boys executed their drunk farmer/free flight lesson routine with the yellow Interstate Cadet. Grandpa, hilariously, tried to shoot the plane down. It culminated with a landing atop a moving truck.
A Nanchang CJ-6 and Pilatus 3 trainer flew while a large group of Vans RV kit planes launched for a mass formation routine.
Thom Richard in his TP-40 Warhawk, “American Dream” launched earlier and returned for a low and fast aerobatic demonstration.
A pair of T-28 Trojans launched and performed a simple, right to left, circling flight in formation.
RT Dickson performed a solo routine in his P-51 Mustang, “Swamp Fox”. This is a home-based show for him.
A group of T-6s flew around before going to a hold point. Patrick McAllee performed an aerobatic display in his Blue Demon X-Plane. The T-6s returned in a missing man formation.
Chef Pitts performed his second routine as well as Hot Streak II.
The final act, the “Fighter Finale” featured “American Dream” and “Swamp Fox” in addition to a Grumman Wildcat and Avenger from the Military Aviation Museum in Virginia Beach. They split into pairs and flew around amidst pyrotechnic effects.
After the show cleared out, I took in some refreshments at my parking spot. I wish I had known what was coming. The C-54, “Spirit of Freedom” arrived but I was out of position and unable to get a photograph. I was near the approach end of the runway and as early evening fell under cloudy conditions, I saw the dramatic blue flames erupting from the engines upon arrival. You always remember the moments or the pictures you have missed and that is one for me.
Although the weather was not ideal, it was an enjoyable event. I wish to thank Airshow Director, Pete Hovanec and Alison Nichols for their assistance for this first timer.