As the newly appointed Operations Officer for the Cascade Warbirds, I had built up a jam-packed spring and summer of flying opportunities by early 2020. By early May, the COVID-19 pandemic had wiped the slate almost completely clean. In addition, our piloting and formation skills hadn't received their early spring opportunity to 'get the rust out'. As the 75th anniversary of VE (Victory in Europe) Day approached, it appeared like a great chance to show our appreciation for all the Veteran's sacrifices years ago would pass by without an appropriate remembrance.
Luckily, our Cascade Warbirds CO, Smokey Johnson, decided that we should try, with as many rusty warbird pilots that were available and willing, to perform a VE Day flyby throughout the Puget Sound region. As VE Day, May 8th, approached, Smokey had coordinated a flight of eleven warbirds, and also set up a photo-chase. The eclectic mix of warbirds gathered at the Arlington, WA (KAWO) transient ramp for a 10:00 briefing. Included in the flight were four T-6s, four Navions, two Nanchang CJ-6s and a lone IAR-823. We were blessed with gorgeous sunshine, striking blue skies and temperatures in the high 70s. It was perfect weather for early May in the great Northwest.
Although we expected maintenance issues and delays, all eleven aircraft, plus the chase RV-8, started and took off from Arlington exactly at the pre-planned 11:30 takeoff time. After a rejoin overhead Arlington, the VE Day flight cruised over Paine Field in Everett, flew low over the Seattle waterfront, the docks and Boeing Field. Smokey led the flight south over I-5 to overhead McChord and Gray AAF, then northwest to the Port of Bremerton. After a few of aircraft departed for home, nine of the initial twelve landed at Bremerton for their good fuel prices and an initial debrief.
Thanks go to Smokey Johnson for coordinating and leading this VE Day remembrance, and to the amazing group of warbird enthusiasts who flew this striking tribute to the Veterans from 75 years ago.