Thursday, April 16, 2015

Rexburg, Idaho Air Show

Me in Ole Yeller!  P-51 Mustang

Rexburg, Idaho:  Flight Museum and Airshow
The town in which I live has a flight museum, mainly devoted to WWII propeller driven aircraft, but a few exhibits that are older and some that are newer.  Rexburg is a small town, so to have this kind of history is pretty cool.

The main feature of the museum are the P-51 Mustangs.  The P-51 Mustang was a single engine fighter that was designed and built later in the war by the Americans and the British.  The airplane was an American design and American engineering with a British made Rolls Royce engine.

Before the Mustang, the heavy bombers flying over Germany had a terrible attrition rate.  They were being shot down by the Luftwaffe at an incredibly high rate.  The fighter escorts they had before the Mustang were short range and couldn't go the distance.  The German air force knew the range of the previous fighters and would hang out at the turnaround point and then shoot the bombers out of the sky.

That all changed when the Mustang came about.  The Mustang had a long enough range to fly from England to Berlin and back again.  Not only that but it was fast, elegant, could fly at high altitudes or low.  The Mustang had wing mounted machine guns and could carry a torpedo beneath.  The wings were also fitted with drop tanks to increase the range.  There was no other plane that could compete with the P-51 Mustang.

There were other planes that on a single attribute may be better than the Mustang, but no other airplane did everything as well as the Mustang did.  Once the Mustang entered the war, we lost very few heavy bombers because of it.  When Hermann Goring, the head of the Nazi Luftwaffe saw the first Mustang fly over Berlin, he declared the war to be lost.

Today there are an estimated 150 P-51 Mustangs in the world that are flight worthy.  Rexburg, Idaho has three of them on display most of the time.  Most of the time, meaning when they aren't in the air...

The Mustang is my very favorite military aircraft of any war at any time.  It is truly an elegant bird.

Last year, for the Memorial Day airshow, one of the curators of the flight museum asked me to supply him with costumed actors to work as ushers for the event.  I helped him out and in return I got to sit in the most famous P-51 of all, Ole Yeller!  Old Yeller still has the speed record for a single engine, propeller driven airplane flying coast to coast in the United States.  It was owned by Bob Hoover and he set that record years ago.  He sold it to a man here in Rexburg who is an airplane enthusiast.  The Smithsonian wanted it, but they would have put it in a static display and it would have never flown again.  Hoover sold it to the gentleman in Rexburg because he knew Ole Yeller would continue to fly.  He couldn't conceive of a world in which Ole Yeller wouldn't fly.

Every year on Memorial Day there is an airshow, free of charge for the public here.  50,000 people show up sometimes.  Typically, my family and I drive down to Moreland, Idaho to visit my father's grave site and we miss the airshow.  Last year, I caught the first part of it.  While my family was getting ready, I walked over to the park with my camera and took a few photos.  Sadly, we had to leave before they brought out the Mustangs.

Here are some pictures.

Starting with Ole Yeller

And the Mormon Mustang

Yellow Bi-Plane first pass

WWII or Korean War vintage

and it's Marine counterpart

I think this is a Korean War vintage aircraft

Yellow Bi-Plane second pass

Here's that plane again

And it's brother

And a crop duster

The red Bi-Plane

Big ole boy


Red Bi-Plane second pass

All in all, this is a pretty cool place to live.  It's a small town, and yet there is so much to do here.  What other town this size could boast three P-51 Mustangs?