In 2005, Bob Russell and Bob Yanacsek decided to hold a 1940’s style hangar dance to honor veterans. This humble beginning led to the current weekend-long event that includes planes, parachutes, flags, explosions and antique and replica vehicles.
This year’s show featured such icons of war as the B-17 Flying Fortress, P-51 Mustang, Curtiss Helldiver, Avenger and many others. Most of the planes are owned and flown by enthusiasts and serious hobbyists from around the country. The small double runway of the Charlotte-Monroe Executive Airport lets spectators get up close and personal with the planes as they fly fifty feet off the ground right in front of the crowd.
These planes aren’t the slick, jet-powered technological wonders of today’s military – these are the exhaust spewing, bone rattling monsters from sixty years ago. It’s like watching classic muscle cars and hot rods cruise the strip rather than watching Formula 1 aerodynamics wedging their way around a road course. If your blood vibrates at the harmonic frequency of a Chevy big block, these are the planes for you.
Some of the highlights include helicopter rides, the Black Daggers United States Army Special Forces Jump Team, and Franklin’s Flying Circus (a wing-walking biplane duo of sword fighting pirates). Of course, Saturday night still plays host to the original hangar dance.
The feature event, for kids and adults alike, is “Tora, Tora, Tora,” the Commemorative Air Force’s recreation of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Six Japanese Mitsubishi A6M Zero’s take flight and dive-bomb the airstrip, criss-crossing wildly in front of the audience as fiery explosions shake the ground and black smoke billows into the sky.
With affordable prices, ample vendor-supplied food, and hands-on aircraft exhibits, this really is a family event. The event educates and entertains as it honors military veterans from all nations for their sacrifices.
Photos by J.R. Carson