by Mike Nightengale
MADISON, WIS. – EAA Chapter 93 hosted its third annual Heavy Bombers Weekend, July 17-19, 2015 at Wisconsin Aviation, Dane County Regional Airport, Madison, Wis. The event has set itself apart from regular airshows with a strong emphasis on vintage aircraft tours, airplane rides in World War II military and vintage aircraft, and honoring war veterans. There are no aerobatic performances. A hangar dance is held Saturday night with a large 1940s swing band.
U.S. Airways First Officer, Jeff Skiles of Oregon, Wis., copiloted the B-29 “FiFi.” Skiles and U.S. Airways Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger are best known for making an emergency water landing on the Hudson River on January 15, 2009, when the Airbus A320 they were flying lost power on takeoff following a bird strike (U.S. Airways Flight 1549). EAA’s B-17 “Aluminum Overcast,” and EAA’s Ford Tri-Motor, also gave rides to the public.
A star of the event was World War II veteran Arnold (Arnie) Willis, who shared some stories from when he was a tail gunner on a B-17 as a member of the 303rd “Hells Angels” Bomb Group stationed in Molesworth, Cambridgeshire, England. After 35 combat missions over Germany, Willis returned to the United States in January of 1945 and completed a gunnery instructor course for B-29s in Laredo, Texas.
Tentative dates for Heavy Bombers Weekend 2016 are July 22-24 (heavybombersweekend.splashthat.com).