have never thought of myself as much of a warbird guy — at least until I went back in time to the summer I was unsuspectingly infected with a love for old military airplanes. It was during a summer volunteer job at the EAA Airshow in Rockford, Illinois, the precursor to AirVenture. I worked the flight line with a pair of painted ping-pong paddles, pointing aircraft that passed in the grass to their parking spots. Hundreds of homebuilts, factory-builts and, of course, warbirds taxied past. I recall meeting a P-51 pilot late one afternoon who said he remembered passing me while taxiing in. “You were the kid with the green hat standing there with his mouth wide open, weren’t you?” he asked. I was. Then there was my Air Force veteran cousin, who flew A-1 Skyraiders during the Vietnam War. He’d stop by our house when he was home on leave and quiz me about the airplanes I’d been watching or reading about. I learned much about that 20,000-pound single-engine piston fighter, facts I still remember. My interest in old airplanes never really made sense to most people I knew, not even to me, really, yet I hungered to see and touch a Corsair or a Mitchell bomber or an old Boeing whenever I could, even years later when I found myself surrounded by a flock of F-100s on my first Air Force base assignment.