5/15-16 2010 Chino Planes of Fame Air Show


The Plane of Fame air museum is located at Chino airport in California.  This museum have a flyable Japanese Zero fighter.  According to the museum, there are only three flyable Japanese Zeros in the world.  And, only one of them uses an original Sakae engine that was actually manufactured and used during the world war II.  The other two uses an engine manufactured by someone else presumably after the war.

The air show announcement was saying that there are numerous Zeros in the museums of Japan.  However, Japan does not have motivation, resource, money, and restoration technique to put those historic fighter airplanes back in the air.  Unfortunately, this seemed to be true.

It takes substantial money and effort to keep such an old airplane flyable.  In many years, it may become difficult even for the Planes of Fame museum to keep it airworthy only by donations.  In fact, The Commemorative Air Force owns a B-29 "FiFi", which they successfully restored and flew a few years ago.  However, FiFi is grounded due to lack of budget (that's what I heard) to maintain its airworthiness.  Actually, the official FiFi web site says it is going to fly this year, but the schedule is empty at this time.  So, I wanted to see a Zero fighter flying before they no longer are able to keep it flyable.

A6M5 Take off Landing

This Zero fighter of the Planes of Fame museum basically flies only twice a year (although it could occasionally fly in other air shows.)  Once in the Chino air show, and once in December 7th, Pearl Harbor memorial.  I cannot go there on December 7th because I am teaching a course in the fall semester.  I will be very busy early December to wrap up the semester.  Only chance for me was Chino air show.  This year, Chino air show was held on May 15 and 16, and we decided to go there this time.

There is no question that Japanese Zero had a significant impact on the aviation history.  In the early stage of World War II, no fighter airplane was able to beat Zero in 1-on-1 dog fight.  U.S. Navy's F-4F Wildcat was not able to out-climb and out-maneuver a Zero.  The Zero fighter dominated the sky over the Pacific.  The United States took a very logical approach to defeat Zero fighters.  First, they tried to capture a flyable Japanese Zero with first priority, and finally they captured one that was ditched in a remote island.  The pilot was supposed to destroy the airplane to protect the secret.  However, he died on ditching and was not able to fulfill his mission.  The U.S. forces actually flew, analyzed, and finally found weaknesses of the Zero fighter.  The point was, there was no way to beat Japanese zero on 1-on-1 dogfight, then just stop doing it.  This idea revolutionized the air combat.  It was like changing the game rule.  The U.S. then built a fighter, an engine, and tactics, to re-write the rule of the air combat, and finally shattered the dominance of the Zero fighter.

On the other hand, Japanese fighter development during the World War II didn't go well.  It took twisted turns and dragged by egos of Imperial Navy and Army.  They were not able to re-take the air dominance before it was too late.

A Japanese non-fiction writer, Mr. Kunio Yanagida, wrote a documentary series that looked at the World War II from the aviation-technology point of view.  I wish someone translate them to English.  This series is the best documentary I know that focuses on aviation-technology competition between U.S. and Japan.  That book was written in 1970s, when Japan was at its peak of economical growth.  Nonetheless, he mentioned in that book that unless we (Japanese) learn a lesson from the technological war that took place behind the scenes during the world war II, Japan will be defeated in a same way again and again.  Indeed, I see a similarity in the computer competition between U.S. and Japan in 1990s.  In early 1990s, Japanese computer manufacturers dominated.  U.S. actually had to block import from Japan to protect its computer manufacturers from extinction.  Japanese manufacturers were that much dominant.  But, the U.S. overturned Japanese dominance just like they did against Zero fighter.  Since U.S. computer manufacturers were not able to beat Japanese manufactures in hardware, they changed the battle ground from the hardware to the software.  We all know that Microsoft dominated the market, and now once-dominant Japanese computer manufactures are just one of many computer manufacturers.  Bill Gates is described as a person who was at the right place at the right time (and with the right idea) to start a software giant.  But, I am curious if someone else was drawing a bigger strategy behind the scenes.  There probably is no way for me to know though.  The author of the documentary, Mr. Yanagida, seemed to me a genius because he apparently predicted what was going to happen in 1990s when he wrote his documentary series 20 years earlier.

We left Pittsburgh and headed for Santa Ana, Orange County (SNA), on Friday May 14th.  I was in good mood since I finally was able to fly for my commercial-pilot check ride and got the certificate the day before the departure.  The Plane of Fame Air Museum is located about 30 minutes drive from Santa Ana airport.  I stayed in Crowne Plaza Hotel right next to the Santa Ana airport.

Since my flight from Pittsburgh was an early morning flight, we woke up at 5:30am and arrived at Pittsburgh International airport at around 6am.  The security checkpoint was so crowded that I was not able to see the X-ray scanner from the back of the line.  I was worried if we were able to go through the checkpoint before my flight.  Despite the long line, we were able to go through the security checkpoint in 15 minutes, and we got on the airplane in time.  We flew to Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) where we were going to change an airplane as scheduled.  However, severe thunderstorm struck DFW just before our airplane to SNA leaves the gate.  The thunderstorm gave us 3 hour 30 minutes delay.  We were exhausted but managed to get to SNA and checked in the hotel.

Next day, we left the hotel 7:30am so that we could enter the air show as soon as the gate opens.  This air show was hosted by the museum, and main attraction was World War II airplanes.  The air show was not as crowded as other air shows that feature Thunderbirds or Blue Angels.  While walking to the ramp, I saw three SAAB Draken fighters.  I never expected to see Draken here.  They didn't look flyable though.  One of them had left landing gear broken and tilted to the left.

SAAB Draken.  Whoes is it? Cessna 210.  The airport was maintaining normal operation before air-show flights started.

Before the air show flights began, I was able to walk close to the flight line.  But, they didn't take out Japanese Zero at that time.  I was worried if there was some mechanical problem, and they cancelled Japanese Zero.

Airplanes in the flight line. A lot of P-51s.

At around 10am, the air show flights began.  First, P-51 flew over the show center in a missing-man formation with the national anthem.  I thought there were 11 P-51s, but my photo shows only 10.  I may have mis-counted.  After the formation fly-by, P-51 flew into the show center in a long trail formation one after another.  It was an impressive demonstration.

A formation fly-by of P-51. 10 (11?) P-51s flew over the show center one after another as if they were strafing the ground.  Impressive view!

Around 11:45am, World-War II Navy airplanes took to the sky.  So many WWII Navy airplanes took off.  Among those historic airplanes, only one of them had Japanese Rising Sun on its wings and fuselage.  Finally, I saw Japanese Zero fighter flying!  Zero made a steeper climb than other airplanes.  I didn't know if the pilot made a Vx climb to emphasize its lightness, or if it was a normal Vy climb.

Then the airplanes made a big circle around the show center.  Each airplane flew at low altitude in front of the audience and climbed back to higher altitude when it flew away (to the behind of) the audience.  Always one of the airplanes was in front of us.  I was impressed by the demonstration of massive P-51s, but this big circle of the airplanes was also spectacular!

Then came A6M5 Zero!  It was my first time to use my new E-30 camera in an air show.  I aimed at the rear end of the cockpit (where protection bar that protects the pilot in case the airplane overturns on the ground is sticking out) and pressed the shutter button.  It made circle so many times, and I was able to try slightly different camera setting each time.

A-1 Skyraider.  It was used during the Vietnam war. F-8U Corsair. A6M5 Zero!
British Royal Navy Firefly. Zero came back. F-6F Hellcat.
SBD Dauntless TBM Avenger. F-8F Bearcat.

After the Navy fly by, Northrop N9MB flying wing flew.  It was also a rare opportunity to see such a historic airplane actually flying.

Northrop N9MB Flying Wing. Cessna Citation aerobatic.

In the afternoon, we saw flight demonstration of Army Air Corps airplanes.  (There was no Air Force then.) 

P-40 Warhawk P-51 Mustang.  I guess they made it really tough.  There are still so many flyable P-51s. B-25 Mitchell.  For some reason, it had Russian Red Star marking.
P-38 Lightning P-38 Lightning B-25 Mitchell.  U.S. Air Corps marking.

They were followed by Korean-War era fighters, T-33 (aka F-80 or P-80), F-86, and Mig-15.

T-33 F-86 Sabre Mig-15

There was an aerobatic of F-16 and a (kind of) aerobatic of C-17, but the sun was behind the airplane.  I guessed the photo wouldn't be as nice as ones I can get from Dayton and Cleveland, and didn't take pictures of them.

On the second day, I saw Japanese Zero in the flight line.  I took numerous close-up pictures.

Right landing gear strut. Air intake. Original Sakae Engine.
Left tire. Left landing gear strut close up.  I suspect that the yellow switch was added to comply with Federal Aviation Regulation, which requires an airplane with retractable landing gear to have a gear-position indicator. Canopy.  The bar behind the canopy is to protect a pilot in case the airplane flips over on take off or landing.
Sakae engine. Vertical stabilizer. Tail wheel.
Original serial number and current registration NX46770. Profile view. I don't know if this tab is from the original air frame.
Inside landing-gear cover. Left 20mm Cannon. Pitot tube.
Left landing-gear strut. Left tire. Right 20mm Cannon.
Air intake. Right landing gear.

On the third day, I woke up at 4:30am, which was normal.  4:30am in California is 7:30am in Pittsburgh.  But, I felt a pain in my right abdomen.  I thought my last dinner was too heavy.  I used a bathroom and the pain started going away.  I laid on my bed again, but in one hour, the pain came back with substantially higher intensity.  I felt as if I were stabbed by a sword.  Severe pain in right abdomen, it should be from my appendix.  That's what I thought.

I was not able to stand up any more.  I woke my wife and asked her to call an ambulance.  It was nice to have my insurance card in my wallet.  The pain was increasing its intensity.  Within a few minutes, an ambulance came, and I was carried out from the hotel.

In the ambulance, I first kept my eyes closed because I thought that helped fight the pain.  But, soon I realized opening or closing my eyes doesn't change the intensity of the pain.  So, I opened my eyes and looked around the ambulance.  It was my first time to see inside the ambulance.  I hoped it was my last time to be carried in an ambulance, but I didn't want it to be because I died in this incident.  I usually don't get a motion sickness, but this time I was fighting a sever pain in my abdomen, and I was laying down, and shaken by the ambulance.  I threw up a little bit.

According to my wife, it took about 15 minutes to reach the hospital.  I was carried into the ER of Kaiser Permanente Hospital.  I thought I would be given a dose of pain killer soon, but the nurse told that they were not going to give me pain killer until they diagnose what was causing the pain.  Then the nurse took some blood sample, and started saline infusion.  Then I felt my pain dissolving away.  I thought the nurse finally gave me pain killer.  So, I asked him if he had just injected a dose of pain killer.  He replied he did nothing yet.  What?

So, he did nothing, but my pain was gone.  I had no idea what was wrong.  The nurse suggested that when I threw up in the ambulance, whatever causing the pain also could have come out.  Blood test and ultra-sound exam came back negative.  According to the doctor who took care of me said that more than 50% of the abdomen-pain or stomachache cases that are taken to the ER are caused by an unknown reason.  I guess my case was one of them.  But, I will see my PCP back in Pittsburgh soon for check up just in case.

I was released from ER at around noon.  We took a taxi back to the hotel and checked out.  Then we drove to the Newport Beach.  Last time I came to the Newport Beach, I saw a lot of hummingbirds and pelicans.  I also take pictures of birds, so I wanted to take some pictures of pelicans and hummingbirds.  But, I guess they come out only in summer.  I saw no pelicans and only two hummingbirds.  I didn't have opportunity to shoot them with my camera.  I hope I have an opportunity to visit Los Angels or Orange County in summer.  In fact, I was not able to see the Planes of Fame museum because it was closed during the air show.  If I have chance to visit the area again, I will also visit the museum facility, too.

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