The lure of wings

  • Wings over Wine Country airshow at Schulz Airport. WWII vintage P-51 Mustang fighters. The first P-51 in the line, "Lady Jo," is hangared here at the airport in Santa Rosa. ho 8.13

You may have noticed that local airports normally don't draw large crowds of spectators. So why do 20,000 people turn out every year for the Wings Over Wine Country air show?

It's because these planes aren't everyday passenger carriers. These aircraft come soaring out of history and into the present, roaring right over your head. In fact, you might see them in the Sonoma County skies from nearby even if you don't go to the air show.

"You'll see up to 17 P-51s flying overhead," said Wayne Seamans, the event's chairman this year, "and it's going to be an amazing sight. People turn out to see the P-51s. It's a unique aircraft."

The P-51 Mustang, a fighter plane introduced in 1942 and used in World War II and the Korean War, will be the star of the show Aug. 17-18 at the Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport.

"The P-51 is a beautiful airplane. It had a vast superiority in combat," said pilot Lynn Hunt, who will fly a P-51 in the air show.

"It had an extremely long range, which endeared it to bomber pilots, because the Mustang fighter escort would stick with the bombers all the way to Germany and back," he said.

Plans call for a B-25 Mitchell bomber to fly with the P-51s at Wings Over Wine Country, Seamans said.

"The B-25 is a medium-sized bomber, not as big as the B-17 or the B-24, but it's obviously much bigger than the fighters, and it's fun to watch it fly," he added.

Aeronautics fans find the "war birds" fascinating, not for their destructive capacity, but for the rapid technological advancement they represented at the time, spurred by the pressure of war, Hunt explained.

"These airplanes, when they were first introduced, were on the cutting edge of technology," Hunt said. "And I don't have an issue with their military past. I look at the incredible job they did to keep this country free."

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