Looking to the horizon around Midland the width of the Texan landscape is interrupted by oil pumps, and with the sweetish smell of oil also the smell of the money lies in air. High above a stairway of clouds leads from the horizon into the big blue, proudly supported by the clear air of the Texan sky. Historic bombers and warbird fighters would soon sneak through those skies, giving plenty of photogenic topside passes for the Airsho crowd.
Where? Midland, Tx, USA
The journey to the CAF Airsho at Midland, ranked amongst the largest warbird shows in the USA, is unfortunately not an easy one. Transfer connections usually bring the visitor right into the heart of the United States, where the city of Midland can offer the birthplace of former president George W. Bush as an attraction. At the civilian airport the Air Power museum of the Commemorative Air Force (CAF) is located, which is for the airplane enthusiast clearly a more interesting alternative.
The renewed oil boom around Midland changed not only the environment of the host city of the CAF’s annual “Airsho” (the Texan spelling of airshow), this year’s meeting was also subjected to some other changes.
So much as the oil and money apparently in this area recently flow out of the ground and the Airsho poster speaks of „The Best Warbird show in America “, so much the world-wide largest Warbird organization, counting around the 12.000 members, has to struggle somehow with scarce resources. The impression was that the cash box has been better filled in previous years, and this could be felt in this year looking at the participating Airsho aircraft.
Originally the show was a large CAF member meeting, to which most of the 80 wings, that are scattered around the whole USA, flew in with their warbirds. The opportunity to see the majority of the 162 airplanes of CAF on-location in Midland to find and a top-class program were always very high. But this somehow changed in the recent years.
Always impressive of course is an apron filled with heavy bombers from the time of WW II. They were of course preceded by „FiFi “, still the only flying Boeing B-29 Superfortress world-wide and the figurehead and a unique “selling point” of the CAF. Apart from that two B-17 Flying Fortress were parked side by side with FiFi. Furthermore two B-25 and a A-26 Invader completed the heavy bombers ramp in the South of the actual spectators area. By themselves these six airplanes brought 18 enormous radial engines during the flight demonstration in the air. And hearing their sound was an impressive to say at least!
Beside “the usual suspects” like the P-51 Mustang or P-40 Warhawk there was also „Tora Tora Tora” – the bunch of modified American warbirds that reenacts Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor for the American audience, always using a lot of much smoke and fireworks.
Further highlights were however quite rare, because contrary to the announcements on the participants list many warbirds cancelled in the last minute. For example there was no sign of the Dauntless, Airacobra or the Avenger, and this was not always due to technical reasons that prevented the flight the Midland. In previous years the CAF paid for the fuel for the whole return trip to the show, but this was reduced to a single trip only in recent years. With additional restrictions to carry paying passengers – or just due to the fact that the warbird is a single seater… – paying for these flights gets additionally difficult, and some CAF Wings were simply missing the financial means to pay for this costly journey.
Nevertheless there was Fighter and a Trainer parade apart from the large bomber formation and the battle in the Pacific was also going on. And those fly-bys and low photo passes in front of the audience are hard to beat, especially if compared to the standards on European airshows.
The financial restrictions and the quite small presence of the members with their airplanes on the Airsho 2014 showed quite clearly that this event is at the crossroad. Combined with the move of the CAF’s headquarter and the Airpower Museum to a new location in Dallas, approximately 500km away from Midland fears and rumors existed that this move might somehow involve the end of the Airsho tradition at Midland.
But as announced by Steve Brown, the president of CAF, the Airsho will stay in Midland despite a new focus on the Dallas metropolitan area. This announcement became true in the beginning of 2015, but it moves to a new date: August 29th-30th will be the Airsho 2015, featuring the famous USAF Thunderbirds as the main line-up. This will attract a huge audience once again for sure.
The Airsho’s Website http://www.airsho.org/ will bring you all the updates!