AKRON It has been a while since the air above Akron-Fulton International Airport vibrated with the sounds of powerful military aircraft. But on Sept. 9 and 10, the airport hosted the Props and Pistons Festival 2017, and for two days spectators watched in awe as fabled planes from history took to the skies once more.
Among the legendary planes seen in flight and on the ground were the Grumman TBF Avenger, similar to the one President George H.W. Bush flew in when he was shot down in World War II. Joining it was an Vought F-4U Corsair, one of the premier Navy and Marine fighters of WWII and the Korean conflict. Nicknamed "Whispering Death" by the Japanese, the Corsair was also produced by Brewster Aviation, and in Akron by Goodyear.
Another favorite was the North American B-25 Mitchell. Sixteen of which took off from the deck of the USS Hornet under Col. Jimmie Doolittle to carry out the first US bombing raid on Japan after Pearl Harbor. But perhaps the plane that really turned the crowd on was the famous Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, one of the key American bombers in the war waged against Germany over Europe. Its arrival that Sunday caused a stir in the crowd as the huge silver four-engine bomber touched down on the runway and taxied to the parking area. Even before its engines had shut down, spectators gathered around to view this legendary warrior from the past.
Joining these planes were a host of others, both military and civililan, which were on display and gave rides and flight demonstrations during the two-day show. And what would an airshow in Akron be without an appearance by the Goodyear Blimp? Rides also were available for a fee in an ex-military North American AT-6 Texan trainer, a Robinson R-44 helicopter and a 1930 D-25 Biplane.
Other planes on display were a Vultee BT-13 trainer, a modern Air Force T-6 Texan II trainer, several life-flight medical evacuation helicopters, barnstorming aircraft and commercial prop and jet aircraft. The Ohio Air National Guard was also on hand with a small mock-up of the A-7 Corsair II to give rides to children around the parking apron. Unfortunately, a C-130 Hercules cargo plane from the Air National Guard that was suppose to be on exhibit was reassigned to a hurricane relief mission along with a modern C-17 Globemaster III.
Besides the aircraft on display, there were also numerous booths that dealt with a variety of subjects and commercial interests. These included one for Vietnam Veterans which was giving away American flags and another that had aviation shirts, homebased in Kent. There were also numerous booths to purchase drinks and food, ranging from hamburgers and hot dogs to slabs of ribs.
There was also entertainment during the two day event. Music was provided by country music singer and Akron native Marl Leach and local artist John Lee Nelson. On Saturday, there was a car show. On both days, Stephanie Johnson gave a keynote speech. She was the first African American pilot hired by Northwest Airline in 1997 and later became the first African American captain at Delta Airlines. The Akron native graduated from the Kent State Aeronautical Program.
A special treat for the crowd was a display set up in one of the hangars where they had a chance to meet Mike Fulton, grandson of airport founder Bain "Shorty" Fulton. He had displays from his grandfather's collection along with many historical photos documenting the rise of the airport facilities.
"This was really a great opportunity for the people of Akron to come out and see the history of aviation in the Akron area," said Fulton, as he talked about growing up around the airport and his grandfather.
Joining him at the booth was Pam Baughman, a friend, who helped with the display.
"This shows the kids the about aviation in the area, and shows them the possibilities for careers in aviation," Baughman said.
Another popular booth was the Kingdom Builders modeling display, run by Dean Kleines. His group meets at the Maranatha Bible Church in Green and sponsors a monthly model building meeting, using scripture to help promote model building.
"This airshow has great potential," Kleines said. "It has been needed and desired for a long time. Hopefully, it will continue in the future."
Off course, what would an airshow be without rides, and many people took the opportunity to fly off "into the wild blue yonder. Once such family was Kelly Snell and her two sons, Ryan and Riley, who took a ride in the Robinson R-44 helicopter over Akron.
"Both my sons had a wonderful time and Akron is just as beautiful from the air as it is on the ground," Kelly Snell said.