Sunday, July 17, 2011

CAF Air Expo at the New Century Air Center brought you back to the 1940s with cars, trucks, big bands, and historic World War II aircraft

Of all the events we went to this weekend, we probably had the most fun at the Commemorative Air Force (CAF) Annual Air Expo, which took place Saturday and Sunday at the New Century Air Center near Olathe. There were tons of things to see and do, and all of it had the net effect of taking you back in time 65 years. It might have been hot out, but this event was cool to say the least.

Of course, this blog is primarily about cars and trucks, and there were certainly several things at the Annual Air Expo that fit that category. There was a small display of civilian cars. Most of these were from the '30s: Model A's, a Chevy, and the like. There was a great Model A roadster pickup that really stood out. There was also a really slick '39 Ford, and the newest in the bunch, a long-unmolested '61 Corvette.

The show had sort of a World War II theme about it, and there were several period military vehicles to drive that point across. These were brought out by the Military Vehicles Preservation Society. Most of them were Jeeps, painted in Army green, Navy grey or Air Force blue. But they had tractors, motorcycles, and other interesting vehicles as well. Among my favorites were a 1944 Cushman scooter that was designed to be air-dropped from a plane, and a big, old, nasty '43 White scout truck.

But first and foremost, this was an air show, and there were several real standouts. The undisputed star of the show was FIFI, an awesome B-29 Superfortress. 3,970 of these planes were built, only 26 still exist at all, and FIFI is the only one in the world that still flies. They would actually give you a ride in it--for $1,500--but just getting to see it was pretty neat in itself. We actually saw it arrive and taxi in, and it has to be a rare opportunity to get to see it move. The old bomber had a very nice restoration, and was even still fitted with its machine guns and weapons. To put it in a historical perspective, the B-29 Superfortress was the plane chosen to drop the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

They also had a P-51 Mustang, known as "Gunfighter", flying in and out throughout the day. The 1,490-hp V-12 engine in this 1945 vintage aircraft sounds absolutely awesome when under throttle. Honestly, everything about that plane is pure cool.

There were plenty of other very nice aircraft to look at. They had two big C-47's, a UC-78 Bobcat, and a T-33 training cockpit that made for a popular photo opportunity.

There was a lot of effort put toward the 1940s ambiance of this show. While we were there, the Moonlight Serenade Orchestra was blasting out the Nat King Cole tunes. They really were a big, brass swing band, and the way they had them positioned in the hanger with the runway in the background was quite impressive. There were also a few guys dressed like 1940s U.S. soldiers out and about, and even a few 1940s hot tamatas with great gams.

The slideshow below has pictures from the 2011 Annual Air Expo at the New Century Airport. I'm sure you'll agree, it was a very unique and interesting event. And by looking at it here, you don't even have to break a sweat to take in the action.

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