VACAVILLE — A missing man formation by a group of AT-6 Texans was one highlight during Saturday’s show of antique aircraft and restored cars at Nut Tree Airport.
The Travis Air Force Base Heritage Center hosted the fifth annual Mustangs and More show to benefit the Jimmy Doolittle Air and Space Museum Education Foundation. The P-51 and its modern replica, the Thunder Mustang, were the stars Saturday in a vast display of aircraft and automobiles.
“I just love these old planes,” state military reservist Ron Crouch of Dixon said as he stood near the propeller of an FM-2 Wildcat.
“I can’t get enough of hearing the old motors and smelling the old smells,” the staff sergeant in charge of small arms restoration at the Center for Military History said. “I guess you could call me a gearhead.”
A later model of the Wildcat, the FM-2 was capable of flying off a “smaller” escort carrier to support torpedo planes and dive bombers in anti-submarine missions, said living historian Jim Ronka of the Military Commemorative Association.
Ronka was portraying Lt. Cmdr. Jimmy Thach, who flew a variant of the FM-2 during World War II, developing maneuvers to fight the superior Japanese Mitsubishi A6-M Zero, said Ronka. The fighter plane at Nut Tree, however, never saw combat.
Other historic aircraft on display Saturday included a B-25J, an authentic World War II bomber. The Doolittle group was offering rides on the Tondelayo, which is expected to stay at Nut Tree for a while.
“(It’s) just like one of the planes that Doolittle flew in World War II,” said Kelly Nice, board member of the Doolittle Center.
Doolittle was launched to fame in the 1940s after his raid on Japan, said Nice, who described the pilot as an “amazing pioneer and patriot.” While a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Air Forces, Doolittle and a fleet of B-25Bs took off from the U.S. Navy’s USS Hornet on April 18, 1942, to attack the Japanese homeland. The Doolittle Raid, or Tokyo Raid, was the first attack on Japan after Pearl Harbor, and most of the men survived.
“(It was) a huge morale boost for the United States,” Nice said.
The Tondelayo stands at Nut Tree as a tribute to the late Fred Lewis, the Doolittle foundation’s former president who was killed in an Aug. 13 plane crash in Butte County. Lewis was honored Saturday with the missing man formation, said Bob Walker of the Experimental Aircraft Association.
Only days before the crash, which also claimed the life of 26-year-old Matt Moody, Lewis flew the Tondelayo to the Nut Tree Airport.
“He was one of the most wonderful people I ever met,” said Walker, who had known Lewis for about a year.
Proceeds from Saturday’s Mustangs and More show will help fund the construction of the Doolittle museum, which Nice hopes will educate future generations, at Nut Tree Airport.
“We’re trying to keep that spirit of patriotism and innovation alive,” said Nice, in reference to Doolittle’s accomplishments.
Reach Adrienne Harris at 427-6956 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/aharrisdr.