CAF at Thunder Over Cedar Creek Lake - By Stephanie O’Connor O'Connor
A diverse lineup of aircraft took to the skies for the 2015 Thunder Over Cedar Creek Lake Airshow on Independence Day. The show featured historic planes, aerobatic teams, a Grumman HU-16 Albatross and more. Among the ranks were several Commemorative Air Force crews piloting World War II aircraft.
One of only a few female pilots at Thunder Over CCL, Beth Jenkins put on an impressive show in the U.S. Marine Corps B-25 Mitchell Bomber Devil Dog. The Devil Dog Squadron is a volunteer organization of the CAF that takes the nickname of the World War II bomber. Jenkins, who owns and operates a flight school in Georgetown, Texas, was the first woman in the CAF to achieve pilot-in-command status for the B-25.
Best known for its use in the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo in response to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the B-25 can reach 275 miles an hour and carry 3,200 pounds of bombs. The aircraft was first manufactured by the U.S. Army Air Corps but reallocated to the Navy for the Doolittle Raid. Because it was too heavy for most Navy missions, the B-25 was later handed over to the Marine Corps, where it was rechristened the Patrol Bomber J. Under the Marines, the PBJ underwent some customization to make it better suited to Marine use. Nine squadrons of PBJs saw overseas action before the end of World War II. CAF members Mark Allen and Ken Crites both flew in Thunder Over CCL as part of the Tora, Tora, Tora air spectacle, which reenacts the 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Head of the Tora Team, Allen piloted a Mitsubishi A6M Zero, which was the lead Japanese aircraft on the Day of Infamy. The quick and agile A6M is a long-range carrier-based fighter, considered to be the most capable of its kind when first introduced. Allen is in his tenth year as a Tora pilot and works as an accountant outside of his airshow involvement.
The Tora, Tora, Tora show is performed in remembrance of the soldiers on both sides in World War II who sacrificed their lives for their countries. When performed in full, the spectacle features eight to ten aircraft and 60 pyrotechnic effects, demanding the active participation of 20-26 individuals, all of whom are volunteers. The story of this unique airshow began in 1972 when the CAF received six replicas of Japanese aircraft that were used in the creation of the American-Japanese war film “Tora, Tora, Tora.” The show debuted later that year and had made appearances in Canada, Mexico and the U.S. by 1978. Tora, Tora, Tora was instrumental in commemorating the 50th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor and has been honored by the International Council of Airshows with the Art Scholl Award for Showmanship.
Also representing the CAF was Craig Hutain in the Bell P-39 Aircobra. During World War II, the Soviet Union used P-39s on loan from the United States to defend their border on the Eastern Front. More P-39s were shot down in World War II than any other airframe type. Thanks to a full restoration by the CAF, Miss Connie is the only airworthy P-39 in the Western Hemisphere. Hutain is an airline pilot who has also served as a member of the Tora Team.
In addition to the CAF planes that flew in this year’s show, over two dozen other aircraft were present, including:
- Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-17
- North American Aviation P-51 Mustang
- Vought F4U Corsair
- Extra Flugzeugbau EA300
- de Havilland Canada DHC-4 Caribou
- Pitts Special
- Cessna T-37 Tweet
- AT-6 Texan
Thunder Over CCL also drew two precision flying teams – AeroShell Aerobatic Team and Falcon Flight. Established as a fundraiser for the Cedar Creek Veterans Foundation, the Thunder Over CCL Airshow is an annual July 4th event hosted at Pinnacle Golf and Boat Club in Mabank, Texas.
Article by Stephanie O’Connor, Five Oaks Media