The city of Auburn, WA has been hosting a Veteran's Day weekend celebration since 1965. In 2020, due to COVID restrictions, a planned parade was downsized to a Veterans Vehicle procession through downtown Auburn. Former F-105 Wild Weasel pilot Dan Barry had previously flown over the parade in his Aeronca L-3, and contacted me to try to coordinate more participation from local NorthWest warbird pilots. Due to our minimal flying opportunities due to lockdowns and cancellations this year, I received enthusiastic response from 13 aviators to join in a November flyby.
I was able to obtain ramp space in front of the Boeing Employees Flying Association (BEFA) hangar at the Renton airport. Even though we took a number of ‘pre-combat losses’ from our original potential list of 13 airplanes, 5 intrepid aviators made it to Renton, with 4 making it 'to the target' over Auburn.
‘Pre-combat losses’ were as follows:
Troy Larson/John Parker (Video Chase Bonanza) - Cancelled early as a safety measure due to COVID issues in the Parker household - Get well, Parker family!
Joshua Weinstein (T-34) - Stuck in annual
Tom Hoag (Seabee) - Starter issues
Tom Rogers (Stearman) - Busted oil line
Bob Hill (IAR-823) - Timeline issues with Museum of Flight preparation
Smokey Johnson (Bonanza) - Mechanical issues
Vic Norris (IAR-823) - WX cancel/freezing rain at Bremerton
Doug Clough (Stearman) would actually be considered a ‘combat loss', since Doug was able to launch in his Stearman from Kapowsin, but had to turn back due to IFR conditions north of Auburn.
The five aviators that made it to Renton had to delay also due to weather.
Ryan Georgi and I launched as a weather ship in Ryan's 1946 Luscombe 8E. I had never flown a Luscombe previously, but always enjoy flying in any airplane that has sticks instead of yokes! The Luscombe has an inherent short takeoff and landing capability with its wing design, and with an 85-hp engine and no flaps, we still leaped off Renton's runway 16 in a few hundred feet. We cruised south among the pockets of low clouds, fog and rain, while I got a feel for the Luscombe's flight controls, noticing slightly heavier ailerons forces than I had anticipated. The airplane is quite stable in pitch, and can be easily trimmed for hands-off flight. It's an honest airplane, with surprisingly good over-the-nose visibility for a tail dragger. The only real difference in the right seat is that there are no brakes on the right side, with heel brakes only on the left.
Once Ryan and I found acceptable weather over Auburn, we raced back to rally the 5-ship. Just after run-up, Tanner Matheny and Damon 'Manpad' Kroes had to ground abort due to an imminent ‘hot chocolate recycling drainage leak’ from the two young co-pilots in the backseat, Dylan and Henry. Crisis averted, but too late to join the 4-ship. Tanner made a run to join the 4-ship, but had to turn for home due to WX.
So, Dave Desmon’s 4-ship evaporated to a single, and Dave smoked to the target solo, with smoke on, with Dan Shoemaker and Ron 'Capt Mac' McElroy in the cockpit. In trail was the only true close formation of the event, with Ryan getting his first experience as lead (with me in the right seat for guidance), and Dan Barry in his Aeronca L-3 stuck like glue on the left wing. You looked great, Col. Barry!
In trail of the two-ship were Tom and Marian Jensen, who actually pushed it up and were able to join to a nice route formation right over the target! Kudos to Tom and Marian for braving the cold, rain and wind in their open cockpit N3N! They were awesome! I think Marian bent the throttle forward in the front cockpit for the extra speed!
After our target runs, all involved separated for their home airports.
Thanks to all involved in providing a positive salute to our Veterans. Also thanks to BEFA for their hangar use and Boeing for their ramp space at Renton. Well done all!