As summer starts to draw to a close in the Pacific Northwest, there is a final burst of aviation events making use of the conditions before it starts to get damp. Paine Field hosted one such event with European Theater Day and Rob Edgcumbe went along for GAR to see what was taking place.Paine Field is known around the world as the home of Boeing widebody production with the lines for the 747, 767 and 777 along with part of the 787 production contained within the vast production hangars on the north end of the field. However, it is also a busy place for aircraft restoration and vintage aircraft collections, one of which is the Flying Heritage and Combat Armor Museum (FHCAM). The museum is based around the collection of Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, and throughout the year, various days are held on which visitors can not only see the museum’s collection on display but also see them in action.
The museum recently changed its name to include the armour element and this is a prominent part of what is on display. The activities start with the firing of the 88mm Flak gun and this is followed by a demonstration of tanks manoeuvring within a rather confined space at the end of the ramp and firing their guns. The ramp is a big space but the surrounding buildings certainly concentrate the intense sounds of the guns when they fire.
For many people, though, the planes are what they have come to see. FHCAM has a diverse collection of types including some very rare items. All are immaculately restored although not everything flies. However, most of the planes are airworthy and will make an appearance at some point or other. This allows the special days to adopt a theme, hence this being their first European Theater Day.The plan was to bring out types from the Royal Air Force, the US Army Air Corps and the Luftwaffe. The US contingent was a North American P-51 Mustang and a Republic P-47 Thunderbolt. The German aircraft were planned to be a Messerschmidt 109E and a Focke Wulf FW190 but, sadly, the 190 experienced problems when it taxied out for a test flight the day before and it was hangar bound come the day. The U.K. types were a Hawker Hurricane, a Supermarine Spitfire and the main attraction for many, the de Havilland Mosquito.
All of the display aircraft were arrayed on the ramp when the gates opened. Some early morning flights had been made with the Zero acting as a camera ship but everything was back when the visitors started streaming in the gates. A B-25 was also parked up on the ramp along with some other armour and an array of older cars just to mix things up a bit. Meanwhile the main museum halls were still open so other parts of the collection could be viewed too. These include a replica of Spaceship One which Paul Allen funded along with the original White Knight carrier aircraft.
Around 1pm, the ramp was cleared so the aircraft could start up. They taxied out in a single stream, passing in front of the museum area where many spectators were arrayed and down to the hold point for power checks and to throughly warm the engines. They they lined up in turn and took off. Turning downwind they grouped into sections for the flybys to come. Almost immediately, the P-51 reported some problems. It appeared to be streaming some vapour and, after the first pass, elected to cut things short and land. It was part of the dramatic first flyby though which included everything coming through in short order with the P-47 offsetting before running back across the display line to make a very dynamic element to the pass.Thereafter, the groups came through making relatively benign passes. Unfortunately, they didn’t choose to have some passes as single ships so, from a photographic point of view, you had to choose what you were going to aim to photograph. After a few passes, they set up for landing. It was a rather brief display but, these were not display routines and Paine Field remained open the entire time so this was all coordinated with the normal air traffic of the airport.
Once on the ground, a couple of the aircraft made one more taxi past the crowd before everything headed back to the ramp. Once more the ramp was opened up to the visitors and the planes could be checked out while the pilots sat out under a tent signing autographs and answering questions.
The event seemed to attract a good number of visitors. Whether they were regular visitors or this was their first experience of FHCAM, this was a great showcase for the museum and will hopefully keep interest levels high throughout the quieter parts of the year.