„Warbirds over the Beach“ is the annual airshow of the Military Aviation Museum (MAM) at Virginia Beach with a strong focus on aircraft of the WWII era. Each year during the May weekend before Memorial Day the majority of warbirds from the 1940s era being part of the fantastic collection of the MAM are literally unleashed and take to the air from a small private airstrip just South of Virgina Beach on the US Atlantic shoreline.
Where? Virginia Beach, Virginia, USA
The second half of May is a good time to travel to Virginia Beach. Strawberries can be bought fresh from the field, temperatures are still bearable, the big stream of tourists just starts to flock in to that popular beach area on the East Coast, and it is of course time for “Warbirds over the Beach”.
With US Navy Hornets circling overhead in the pattern of nearby NAS Oceana, the red-white checkered water tower of the Virginia Beach Airport (42VA) becomes clearly visible when heading out South of Virginia Beach towards Pungo, which itself also hosts a former US Navy training airfield.
It is an aviation-rich area that warbird collector and businessman Jerry Yagen chose as a home for his impressive airplane collection, and which is one of the world’s largest private collections of historic military aircraft. And “Warbirds over the Beach” airshow is the main event each year to see those airplanes from the Second World War era flying!
It is a “trip back in time to the memorable days of the Second World War. A time when everything was much simpler”. And, as the museum’s website continues further, it is really worth to “travel to Virginia Beach, alongside the bright sunshine of the Atlantic shoreline, where German submarines once hunted merchant ships in the Gulfstream waters. Look up in the sky, where you will see fighters and bombers of our armed forces patrol the countryside to protect our homeland from the Axis forces”.
The show itself offers that view without a doubt. And it does so in a relaxed and enjoyable way, as it is not overrun by the crowds in any means. Maybe in 2017 that was partly due to the weather, which was unfortunately not very favorable that week-end, or just due to the fact that this airshow is still rather young and not so well know … yet! Because of the massive amount of warbirds and the ever-growing collection I am pretty sure that this should change in the near future.
The American Classics
On the list of airplanes flying this year were of course American classics such as the Goodyear FG-1D Corsair, Grumman FM-2 Wildcat, Curtiss P-40E Kittyhawk, all of them representing major American warbirds from that era. And the ubiquitous NA P-51D Mustang, was flown by the museum’s owner himself, Jerry Yagen.
Furthermore it was a chance to see the Curtiss C-46 Commando and Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina up close and operating of the grass strip.
British and German Warbirds
From the other side of the pond an impressive British trio of the meticulously restored de Havilland DH-89 Mosquito, Supermarine Spitfire and Hawker Hurricane was up as well. Obviously their German counterparts, namely the Junkers Ju-52 and Focke-Wulf FW 190 (this one being a Flugwerk re-build) were sent up to fly and fight as well. Unfortunately technical reasons kept the Messerschmitt Me 262 and Messerschmitt Bf 109 on the ground. Talk up about something to keep up for next year!
CAF Dixie Wing P-63 Kingcobra
As a thank-you for supporting their shows the CAF Dixie Wing did also send some of their aircraft to this show. Rides were offered in their Dauntless and namely the appearance of the recently restored P-63A Kingcobra was a real surprise!
“Warbirds over the Beach” Airshow
Regarding photography the airshow proved to be a challenge. Due to the airfield’s layout the crowd is facing the sun when watching the runway, and the flying happens over the Western part of the airfield at quite an altitude. Facing the sun was (unfortunately) not a real issue that year due to a cloud-covered sky. But being quite close to the action on the gras strip is excellent, as are the trees that provide a nice background. So problems can be overcome and it is not that often that you get to see such a vast collection of airplanes in one place from this up and close.
With the FW190, Bf 109 and Me 262 being part of the collection of the Military Aviation Museum, the hopes of many visitors were high to see this trio flying. Due to technical reasons this was unfortunately not possible in 2017, and bringing those three German WWII fighters up in the air will obviously be a big motivation for the follwoing year. Achieving it will be a brilliant feat of the mechanics and pilots of the Military Aviation Museum! I am looking forward to that!
If you want to be kept informed about the event, the website of the show is http://www.vbairshow.com/. It should be online with WW 2 content once their “Biplanes & Triplanes” event with a focus on WWI and vintage aviation has been held at the beginning of October.