Warbird Weekend to display vintage military aircraft at Shelby County Airport

Published 6:23 pm Wednesday, May 8, 2024

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By DONALD MOTTERN | Staff Writer

CALERA – History buffs and fans of vintage military aviation will have the rare opportunity to experience a number of vintage aircraft when Warbird Weekend takes place at the Shelby County Airport from May 13-19.

Warbird Weekend is a collaborative event involving a number of aviation groups that include the Commemorative Air Force, which has led the charge in organizing the event.

“We are a national organization that flies World War II aircraft. We have approximately 175 World War II aircraft that we fly through various regional chapters throughout the country,” said Pat Grogan Wing Leader of the Shelby County Airport based Commemorative Air Force – Birmingham Escadrille. “Here in Alabama, we’ve got Birmingham, Huntsville and the Florabama Wing. We have a World War II training aircraft at the Shelby County Airport called a PT-19—this would have been a trainer in the first step of pilot training during the war.”

The event will include a cooperation with the Flying Legends of Victory Tour organized by Airbase Arizona, who are supplying the B-17 bomber named Sentimental Journey and their B-25 named Maid in the Shade for the event.

“Our sister organization in Arizona, called Airbase Arizona, has multiple aircraft including a B-17 and B-25 bomber,” Grogan said. “I think there are only three B-17s flying in the United States right now. Airbase Arizona is currently on a tour that started in Arizona and is going through Texas, New Orleans, through Birmingham, Georgia and then working their way up the East Coast. They wanted to stop at Shelby County Airport to support our unit.”

Bombers will be present at the Shelby County Airport located at 265 Weather Vane Road in Calera from Tuesday, May 14 until Sunday, May 19.

Visitors will be able to book a ride on either the B-17 or the B-25 bombers on flights that will be available from Friday until Sunday. Seating is limited and weather and other factors beyond the control of event organizers may affect ride availabilities. Rides can be booked online at FlyingLegendsTour.com

The cost for the flights are as follows:

  • B-25 front jump seat – $590
  • B-25 waist gunner seat – $375
  • B-17 bombardier/navigator seat – $850
  • B-17 radio room/waist gunner seat – $475

Tours of the two bombers will also be available from Tuesday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Friday through Sunday from 2-6 p.m. The cost of the tours will be $15 per person or $30 per family unit.

Event sponsors for the outing include Hendrick Chevrolet Hoover, Birmingham Escadrille Commemorative Air Force and Baker Camp Arnold Capital Management.

Other military vintage aircrafts have also been invited to attend the event on a static display basis and a number of vintage military vehicles including jeeps and trucks will also be present. Related organizations such as the Birmingham Aero Club and Women in Aviation will also have informational booths at the event and will have merchandise available for purchase.

“It will be a great opportunity for all persons who are interested in history, aviation or patriotic events to come out and see some aircraft from various vintage eras,” Grogan said. “They can talk to pilots, learn more about the aircraft and go on tours of the planes and bombers.”

A Vietnam Era UH-1 Huey helicopter will also be giving rides from Shelby County Airport on Saturday, May 18 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. as part of the weekend. That experience will be provided by The Friends of Army Aviation which is an organization based out of Ozark, Alabama and made up of former military helicopter pilots that have restored the helicopter for educational and ride experience purposes.

“I’ve flown on it myself—they had a career aviation day in Pell City, last fall,” Grogan said. “It is an $80 flight for about (8-10) minutes and they do simulated military maneuvers where they are dipping up and down and sideways, performing high bank turns and things like that.

Minors from ages 2-17 will be allowed to ride with some restrictions while minors aged 16 and 17 may ride alone as long as they have their parent or guardian’s written permission.

Tickets for the helicopter rides can be found at Friendsofarmyaviation.org/venue/shelby-county-airport.

“Warbird Weekend is a special opportunity to see the aircraft that helped to protect the United States over the last 80 years” Grogan said. “This will be a great opportunity to see vintage military aircraft and military vehicles in person for tours and rides”.