The 15th annual Culpeper Air Fest is right around the corner, and we can literally already hear the unmistakable roar of the large Pratt & Whitney radial engine of the most famous trainer to come out of World War II – the T-6 Texan, or SNJ as the Navy calls it. Designed by North American Aviation, Inc., and first flown in 1938, the “Texan” quickly became became known as the “pilot maker” due to its vital role in preparing pilots for combat. Over 15,000 T-6 variants were built, yet only 400 remain in the U.S. and today the T-6 Texan is a popular choice for warbird drivers and a favorite amongst airshow fans. Many of said enthusiasts will descend upon Culpeper, VA this coming weekend for a very special event honoring both plane and pilot.
This year’s Air Fest is sure to thrill spectators as the events kick off on Friday, October 10 with the one-of-a-kind Potomac Flight. A mass formation of 24+ T-6 Texans will take off from Culpeper Regional Airport some 60 miles southwest of Washington D.C., and fly up the Potomac River, passing over the Pentagon and Arlington National Cemetery in a special flyover honoring our Disabled American Veterans (DAV) and the sacrifices they have and continue to make for our freedom. The formation will turn heads all over northern Virginia and the nation’s capitol as anyone in the area of Reagan National Airport, the Pentagon, and Arlington National Cemetery will be able to catch sight of (not to mention, hear!) the roughly 15,000 horsepower formation roaring down the river at approximately 12:30PM Friday afternoon. Take a step outside on your lunch break, look to the sky and watch for the aluminum overcast.
For those thrill seekers who want to do more than just view the formation flight from the ground, an extremely limited number of opportunities are available to be a backseat passenger in one of the T-6s. A Texan backseat promises to offer a truly unique view of Washington D.C. and the chance to be a part of living history that will be sure to provide you with an experience of a lifetime.
The Potomac Flight immediately precedes the 15th annual Culpeper Air Fest that takes place on Saturday, October 11. The airshow is a free event that is sure to thrill all ages with performances by various aircraft including numerous warbird types as well as some civilian heart-pounding aerobatics. Headlining the show and bringing the jet noise is the world’s ONLY civilian-owned-and-operated Sea Harrier jump jet, flown by former USMC Harrier driver and retired LtCol Art Nalls. Other performers include the locally-based Flying Circus, ChefPitts Airshows, the DAV’s own B-25 Mitchell Bomber “Panchito,” the Trojan Horseman demo flying fellow North American trainers of the T-28 variety, and Jason Flood flying his highly modified Pitts S-1S, dubbed the RED GHOST.
The Commemorative Air Force (CAF) also has a local squadron based right at Culpeper, which operates a growing collection of airplanes. They are committed to keeping history alive and their most recent arrival is a Grumman TBM Avenger, which will be on display for its first Air Fest. You won’t miss it, it’s the huge, imposing and awe-inspiring taildragger with wings that fold up.
The Culpeper Air Fest’s goal is to help the community celebrate a great aviation heritage and experience. The show is locally produced, free to the public and draws top performers from around the nation and has become a perennial favorite among various airshow and warbird communities. In its 15 year history, the Culpeper Air Fest has become a big-time show but has kept a small-town mentality: everyone with even a trace amount of aviation running through their blood will feel at home at the Air Fest.
So come on out to Culpeper this weekend, where the avgas will be flowing, the smoke-oil blowing, and the flying? Exhilarating. The Air Fest has become a huge success story, but none of this weekend’s events would not be possible without the tireless effort from so many fine folks that volunteer their blood, sweat, and tears to make this extraordinary event happen. This year promises to be the biggest Air Fest to date, so stop by and see what makes the Air Fest special. For more information have a glance at Culpeper Air Fest website.
See you there!