2003 World War II Weekend

June 6-8, 2003

Airshow report written on June 10, 2003.


Stepping into the site where the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum's World War II Weekend is like taking a trip back to 1944. The show is held annually at the Reading Regional Airport, located northwest of the city of Reading, Pennsylvania. At one of these World War II Weekends, the airport is literally transformed into what life would look like back in 1944, both on the Allied front and on the Axis front. Hundreds of re-enactors portrayed scenes that were customary during the war - battles, the vehicles, the fashion, what Germany looked like after 300 B-17s bombed it in one day, how wounded soldiers were treated, how Allied soldiers lived while fighting, and, the aircraft of the time. World War II Weekend wouldn't be complete without those who actually served in the war, telling his or her stories to everyone who has a passion for history and for that particular period of time.

I am not much of a World War II buff like most people who attend the event - as well as Frederick's show. I came to World War II Weekend because of the planes. The show consisted of all warbirds, with the exception of some post-war aircraft with their roots dating back to World War II. Because of the orientation of the show site versus the parking, one must take a shuttle bus to get to the main static display or face a nice walk of about a mile or so. The static display consisted of a lot of warbirds - which I will break down by category. In terms of World War II-era aircraft, the largest planes were the B-17F Flying Fortress Memphis Belle, B-17G Flying Fortress Yankee Lady, B-25J Mitchell Briefing Time, C-47 Skytrain, R4D Skytrain (painted up in post-war USAF markings - actually that would have to be post-war because the USAF was formed in 1947!), and the C-60 Lodestar Lady Lode Star. Fighters consisted of three planes from the Planes of Fame Museum out of Chino, CA: the P-40E Warhawk, F6F Hellcat, and an F4U Corsair. The Planes of Fame Tour also consists of a P-38 Lightning, but it was forced to stay in Knoxville because of the weather. Two P-51D Mustangs - Glamorous Gal and Donald were on hand with the P-47D Thunderbolt Hun Hunter. There was also a Supermarine Spitfire Mk IX - a very rare treat in the country, as well as two TBM Avengers. The Commemorative Air Force also brought in a replica of the Val dive-bomber. In terms of trainers, there were no less than six AT-6/SNJ Texans in attendance - one of which belonging to the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum and another belonging to Kevin Russo.

Rare aircraft in the warbird static display included a Percival Provost, a BT-13 Valiant, AD-4N Skyraider Naked Fanny, SBD Dauntless, and Sean Carroll's Yak-9. There were also several Stearmans, several Stinsons, a pair of Fairchild trainers, an array of L-Birds, a pair of T-28C Trojans, and three T-34C Mentors. Post-war statics included the MAAM's P2V Neptune, the BAHF's C-54E Skymaster, a CH-124 SeaKing, UH-60 Blackhawk, T-6A Texan II from Randolph AFB, T-1A Jayhawk from Columbus AFB, T-37 Tweet from Vance AFB, and an A-10 Thunderbolt II from the Pennsylvania Air National Guard out of Willow Grove. Other displays on the ground, not including all of the World War II Weekend-related displays included a display from the Air Victory Museum, the Planes of Fame, and a hangar open with displays from the MAAM.

As with the last several weeks, the weather did not cooperate for Sunday. Friday's show had the best weather out of the three days, while Saturday was filled with pouring rain. On Saturday, several thousand people showed up in good spirits to check out what was on display, even though little to no flying was done that day. Weather forecasts on Saturday night had called for fog and low clouds to clear the Reading/Berks County (well, the whole Delaware Valley region for that matter) area. That was not the case. The entire day was filled with an overcast sky with ceilings barely above minimums for flying. Because of the ceiling, the opening ceremonies had to be revamped a little bit. There was supposed to be a parachute jump with the national anthem, but only the national anthem was used to officially open the flying display.

Throughout the morning, airplane rides were given in a C-47, B-17G Flying Fortress Yankee Lady, an SNJ, various Cessnas, and a Waco and Stearman. The first sets of aircraft to take to the sky were a PT-19, PT-26, N2S Stearman, a rare bi-plane, and six L-birds. The ten aircraft all flew an oval pattern from show left to show right in what would be described as a warbird review. This would be the case for the entire show, with the exceptions being airline arrivals and departures and military departures. As they landed, two T-28C Trojans were towed from the static display and started up so that they could be part of the next formation of aircraft - more trainers.

As the trainers were holding short, a US Airways Express Beech 1900D arrived on time. The next trainer flight included the two T-28s, six AT-6/SNJ Texans, a BT-13 Valiant, Provost, and a Stinson Reliant. The T-28s made a pass in a very tight formation. Four of the AT-6/SNJs formed up for a very nice formation. The other two Texans did not form up and the Valiant, Provost, and Stinson followed suit in a review. The T-28s formed by for a photo pass as the six Texans broke to land, the Valiant, Provost, and the Stinson Reliant doing a photo pass. All of the aircraft landed with the exception of Kevin Russo's SNJ.

Kevin Russo stayed in the air for one reason - to fly his aerobatic performance. Working with about 2,000 feet of altitude, Kevin put on a rather unique performance that was not like his usual. Heck, an aerobatic performance at this show is unique in its own respect. As Kevin taxied back to his spot in the static display, a Beech 1900D departed the airport - its destination unknown - the same for another 1900D that departed soon afterwards. The next formation to take to the sky was a Pacific fighter flight. This included the Planes of Fame's F4U Corsair (which demonstrated how the wings are extended for flight) and F6F Hellcat, a Val replica, and the SBD Dauntless. Another Beech 1900D arrived on time into Reading Regional Airport for its regularly scheduled flight. It makes me think that all these arrivals and departures might be coming to and from Philadelphia. The Pacific flight got airborne and they did the usual oval patterns with one exception - the Val demonstrating a simulated dive-bombing attack and the Dauntless, Corsair, and Hellcat all trying to catch the Val - demonstrating air superiority in the air. The Hellcat and Corsair formed up for a formation flyby while the SBD flew a photo pass and the Planes of Fame fighters flew a photo formation pass before landing. The fighters then joined up to park themselves in front of the crowd - the F4U Corsair with its wings folded.

A Beech 1900D departed as a full-scale battlefield assault took place on the ground. During the assault between Allied and Axis forces, the Allied forces defeated the Germans once again while Sean Carroll took off in his Yak-9. As the action on the ground became more intense, so did the styles of fighting. Hand grenades were used and attempts by German soldiers to unconditionally surrender went down by about six feet - if you know what I mean. As the battle concluded, Sean came back around in his Yak and flew two photo passes and left the area for a short while.

Arriving for another scheduled flight was a Beech 1900D. As he cleared the runway, Sean Carroll came back around for his solo aerobatic performance. I had said that it wasn't the best, but with the kind of show that World War II Weekend is, the aerobatic performance was welcomed. For some reason, his performance here was much better than at Millville. He seemed to do a few extra photo passes as well. Sean even came around to taxi in front of the crowd before shutting down and letting the transports take the stage.

The transport flight consisted of the C-60 Lodestar Lady Lode Star, C-47 Skytrain, and the R4D Skytrain. The C-60 and C-47 actually formed for what appeared to be a formation, but it really wasn't. After the three transports made their first pass, the Skyraider was towed out to the hot ramp for startup. The transports all did three passes each - the last being a photo pass for all before landing. As they were landing, the AD-4N Skyraider Naked Fanny had already been started up and was making its way to the active runway along with the B-17G Flying Fortress Yankee Lady. In the meantime, the T-1A Jayhawk made its way to the opposite end of the runway and departed shortly afterwards.

The bomber flight was up next. It consisted of the B-17 and the Skyraider - a much smaller flight than what I had anticipated. I was expecting the Memphis Belle and Briefing Time to join in the display as well. The B-17 and AD-4N took off and did two passes each before the last section of warbirds took the taxiway to start up. Those warbirds consisted of both P-51D Mustangs - Glamorous Gal and Donald, along with the Planes of Fame P-40 Warhawk and the P-47D Thunderbolt Hun Hunter. The B-17 and Skyraider made a photo pass each, with the B-17 leaving for home. A Beech 1900D departed the airport on another scheduled flight as the fighters taxied out to the runway.

In the meantime, four L-Birds departed Reading and headed home early. Joining the P-51s, P-40, and P-47 was the Supermarine Spitfire. The Spitfire was the first to take off, followed by Donald and Glamorous Gal, the Planes of Fame's P-40 Warhawk, and the P-47D Thunderbolt. Making the first pass was both P-51s and the P-40. The aircraft were then called back down because the visibility and ceilings got lower and unsafe for airshow flying. The P-40 did a break to land as the others came around to land. The aircraft, minus the Spitfire, parked and shut down their engines on the taxiway in front of the crowd as taps was played to close out the show and World War II Weekend's flying display.

I stayed around for a few departures at the end of the show - notably the UH-60 Blackhawk and the T-37 Tweet. The Blackhawk actually did a high-speed pass before departing. The Tweet was actually parked on the ramp in front of the crowd with its wingtip less than three feet away from the crowd line. It fired up from that precise location and within a window of less than three minutes, it was taxiing and departed Reading Regional Airport. As a closing note, I'd like to thank David Schultz, Greg Witmer, and Eddie Leuter for all the help with my visit to World War II Weekend. I will be back next year!

Overall Score: 8.75





What the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum Did to Make World War II Weekend Unique:


Participating Organizations


Announcer: Howdy McCann (for a small portion of the show)