Rarely is it possible to truly appreciate the advancement that has occurred in military aviation since the Second World War. While the aircraft can be easily compared in technical terms, and visitors to museums can even note the differences in the size and scale of the planes, nothing quite compares to seeing a mix of aircraft from different eras fly together in a tight formation.
Such flights are actually not all that common, attendees at last week’s 2021 Thunder Over Michigan Air Show at Willow Run Airport, hosted by the Yankee Air Museum, were treated to what was likely the highlight of the weekend when three aircraft from three different eras took part in a heritage flight flyover.
The Show Did Go On
As one of the largest military air shows in the Midwest, the two-day show featured a sold-out crowd of drive-in guests for both the morning and afternoon shows. The new format was necessary to replace the usual walk-in shows, which had been canceled last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
This year’s show was unique in that it featured both the U.S. Navy Blue Angels and U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds flight demonstration teams performing at the same show – which included the Blue Angels in their new F/A-18 Super Hornets.
The show also hosted the country’s largest collection of B-25 Mitchell aircraft – the bombers that were used in the infamous Doolittle Raid over Tokyo in the early stages of the Second World War.
F-35 Do Their Stuff
While the weekend featured perfect weather, it still lived up to the “Thunder Over Michigan” name as the U.S. Air Force F-35 Lightning II Demonstration Team was also present.
And certainly, the picture-perfect moment of the show may have been when an F-35 Lightning II, a P-51 Mustang, and an A-10 Thunderbolt II took to the skies and flew in a tight formation that allowed attendees to see three generations of U.S. military aircraft in the skies at the same time.
The Mustang was reported to have been flown by U.S. Air Force Heritage Flight Foundation pilot, Stuart Milson, along with Maj. Kristin Wolfe, F-35A Lightning II Demonstration Team pilot and commander, and Capt. Haden Fullam, A-10 Demonstration Team pilot and commander. The three skilled pilots successfully made the staked formation look easy!
However, it wasn’t actually the first time that such a mix of aircraft had flown together. In fact, at least year’s Tri-City Water Follies Drive-In Air Show held in Kennewick, Wash., attendees were treated to seeing four unique aircraft take part in a heritage flight formation that included Maj. Wilton and his A-10 Thunderbolt II, Capt. Wolfe in her F-35A Lighting II and Maj. Garret Schmitz of the F-16 Viper Demonstration, while Milson was also at the controls of his P-51 Mustang.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.