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August 11, 2010

Airshow: Wildcat and Zero!

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I spent this past weekend at Naval Air Station Ventura County, where my California State Military Reserve unit was recruiting next to the C-130 transport. I was parked next to a B-25 Mitchell bomber, the plane Jimmy Doolittle and his men used to hit Tokyo shortly after Pearl Harbor.

Sitting in my 1945 Willys Jeep, dressed head to toe in WWII gear, I had a great view of the mock dogfight in the skies above between a Japanese Zero -- the plane that dominated the skies during the early days of the war -- and an American F6F Wildcat, a plane that more than made up for its less-than-graceful lines (especially when compared to the lithe Zero) with gobs of power, lots of firepower, and enough armor to keep the pilot protected.

Here, the Zero maneuvers to get on the Wildcat's six.

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The Wildcat presented a big target for the Japanese pilot (actually a white guy from Camarillo).

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The Wildcat used its massive engine to pull away from the pursuing Zero, the sound of the big radial's exhausts music to my ears.

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The maneuverable -- but lightly-armored Zero -- soon found itself in the sights of the massive Wildcat and it's array of .50 caliber machine guns, capable of putting pounds of lead on target with the press of a finger.

(Click on image for full-size version)

The Wildcat and the Zero flew in formation after they finished their mock dogfight, providing the crowd a nice view of the birds during a photo fly-by. The Zero is one of three still flying; the only one with the original -- and extremely rare Japanese engine -- is based at Chino, CA. This bird has an American Wright Cyclone radial engine under the cowling.

Posted by Mike Lief at 10:16 PM | Comments (1)

August 03, 2010

So this is what it's like to sit in a P-51 Mustang!

Did you ever wonder what it was like to sit in the cockpit of a P-51 Mustang, arguably the greatest fighter of World War II? For many of us aviation enthusiasts, this is the closest we'll ever get.

It's a 360-degree, high-resolution, click-and-draggable virtual reality rendering of a P-51. It'll take a while to load, even with a high-speed internet connection, but when it's done, you'll be able to zoom in to get a close look at the controls, spin around, look up, down and around the inside of the old warbird.

This is a screengrab after I zoomed in on the throttle and the controls for the weapons. I've reduced the size and resolution, which should give you an idea of just how detailed this rendering is.

Based on the shape of the canopy -- lots of framing, as opposed to an unobstructed bubble -- she looks like an early-war, "Razorback" model.

Very, very cool.

Posted by Mike Lief at 08:17 PM