Day Trip Discoveries: Vintage planes soar May 21 at Paine Field Aviation Day

Flying Heritage fighter plane.
Flying Heritage fighter plane.

Want to watch a spectacular show of restored vintage aircraft fly again? Head for Paine Field near Everett on Saturday, May 21, for its annual Aviation Day, now in its 21st year. You’ll see such World War II “warbirds” as a B-25D Mitchell, an early 1940s bomber nicknamed “Grumpy” and Curtiss P-40C Tomahawk, plus many other antique planes meticulously restored to flying condition.

Paine Field Aviation Day planes at Historic Flight,
Paine Field Aviation Day planes.

Aviation Day is organized by the Washington Pilots Association, Paine Field Airport, Flying Heritage Collection and Historic Flight Foundation. The family-friendly event runs from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., and the $10 admission (youth under 17 are free) includes entrance to both the Flying Heritage Collection and Historic Flight. This is a real bargain – their admission prices are normally $14 and $15 respectively – and a great opportunity to see both of these amazing collections of vintage airplanes.

Aircraft from the Flying Heritage Collection, Historic Flight and Cascade Warbirds will fly from 12 to mid-afternoon. The planes take off, demonstrate their flying abilities just a few hundred feet aloft, and land at the south end of Paine Field. The flights are subject to weather conditions, but those usually aren’t a factor on the third Saturday in May.

You can meet the pilots and view one-of-a-kind aircraft up close. There are free Young Eagles introductory flights for youth ages 8-17 on a first-come, first-served; space is limited so sign up early. If you’re a member of the Historic Flight Foundation (here’s a reason to join!), you can take a scenic flight in its DC-3 at 3 p.m., B-25 at 2 and 4 p.m. or other planes from its collection.

There are also local food vendors, live music and shuttle buses to take you between the Flying Heritage Collection on the southeast side of Paine Field and Historic Flight on the southwest side, where free parking is provided.

Bad Kitty in flight. (Photo by Liz Matzelle)
Bad Kitty in flight. (Photo by Liz Matzelle)

Historic Flight is an unusual facility in that you can walk right up to its vintage planes for a close look – no roped-off areas. See a Waco UPF-7 biplane, B-25D Mitchell bomber, P-51B Mustang fighter named “Impatient Virgin” and the 1940s bomber “Grumpy.” Other aircraft have equally amusing nicknames, including “Wampus Cat,” one of just 10 Grumman F8F Bearcats still flying today, and “Bad Kitty,” a Grumman F7F-3 Tigercat, one of six surviving Tigercats.

You can also see a Canadair T-33 Silverstar, Beechcraft Staggerwing D-17 and Supermarine Spitfirean agile fighter plane that flew from 1936 to 1957, served four Air Forces and played a vital role in winning the Battle of Britain in 1940.

Staggerwing Pass. (Photo by Terry Green)
Staggerwing Pass. (Photo by Terry Green)

This private collection of aviation enthusiast and pilot John T. Sessions opened to the public in 2010. It contains the most important aircraft produced between 1927 and 1957, all fully restored – or in the process – to airworthiness.

Across Paine Field, the Flying Heritage Collection showcases the rare private collection of philanthropist Paul G. Allen, co-founder of Microsoft with Bill Gates. Known as “Home of Flying Warbirds,” it contains 1935-1945 combat aircraft from the U.S., Britain, Germany, Russia and Japan. All the aircraft are authentically restored, many to flying condition.

Grumpy banking in flight. (Photo by David Atkinson)
Grumpy banking in flight. (Photo by David Atkinson)

Here you can see a Curtiss P-40C Tomahawk, Focke Wulf 190 D-13 Dora (the only such long-nose model to survive World War II), Grumman F6F Hellcat with foldable wings, Messerschmitt Bf 109 E-3 (the first modern fighter plane), Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa Oscar (Japanese Kamikaze attacker) and Polikarpov U-2/Po-2 (flown by Russian “Night Witches” over Germany).

The collection also contains an intriguing variety of artifacts ranging from a Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer tank destroyer and Flak 37 88mm Gun (the most famous artillery weapon of WWII) to SpaceShipOne, the first privately funded aircraft to exceed Mach 2 and Mach 3 and fly over 100 kilometers (62 miles) in altitude.

If you can’t make Paine Field Aviation Day, come on one of the weekend “Fly Days” this summer when pilots “exercise” the restored vintage aircraft from both Flying Heritage and Historic Flight, weather permitting. Check their websites for dates.


Paine Field Aviation Day

Historic Flight
Phone: 425-348-3200

Flying Heritage Collection
Phone: 206-342-4242

Julie - headshot 2013— By Julie Gangler

Julie Gangler is a freelance writer who has worked as a media relations consultant for the Snohomish County Tourism Bureau. She began her career as a staff writer at Sunset Magazine and later was the Alaska/Northwest correspondent for Travel Agent Magazine.

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