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Warbirds and Legends Airshow Takes Off
Photo: Tyson V. Rininger
A whole new airshow concept made its debut this weekend with the inaugural Gathering of Warbirds and Legends in Topeka, Kansas. Sixty-one airplanes of various types and sizes were on display and flew over Forbes Field. But none of these flights included what airshow attendees have become accustomed to: aerobatics, inverted flight or wingwalkers. “This was an airshow that was not an airshow,” said Dan Gryder, one of the main organizers of the event. “We flew our airplanes but that’s all we did. We just flew around in circles and the public seemed to enjoy it.”
But these weren’t any old airplanes flying in circles. The concept of the show was to bring in a variety of warbirds and unusual airplanes for people to see. Noteworthy airplanes flying overhead were PV-2 Harpoons, C-60 Lodestars and C-1 Traders, to name a few. And while the event gave owners a good excuse to fly their airplanes, the show did more than that. “We gave away 74 free rides to World War II vets,” Gryder said. This included many flights in Pecos Bill, a P-51 Mustang owned by Cowden Ward Jr.
In addition to seeing warbirds fly, the approximate 10,000 spectators that came to Forbes Field during the three-day event had a chance to witness a mass parachute jump in which a formation of three C-47s (the military version of the DC-3) dropped parachuters from 1,200 feet — low enough that the spectators were able to clearly see them exit the airplanes.
Gryder described the airshow as a co-op in which owners of various airplanes who were assigned slots were provided with free food, free beer and cheap gas in return for bringing their airplanes. Revenues were brought in from admission sales and sponsors with $120,000 raised and the same amount spent, according to Gryder, who plans to make the show an annual event. “We’ve already got people who have registered for slots for next year,” he said.