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Written by Fitz Walker I
Bomber Field's 30th Anniversary B-17 and Big Bird Fly-In
Event Coverage
As seen in the January 2019 issue of Model Aviation.


Bomber Field

7000-foot paved runway

800-foot grass strip

600-foot seaplane pond

a pair of sopwith pups are positioned
A pair of Sopwith Pups are positioned for the next gaggle.
Photos by the author and Lee Ray.

Ask any Southeast Texas RC airplane modeler about B.B. Weber (born Alman Arnold Weber) and the response will almost invariably be about Bomber Field. West of Houston, in a small country town called Monaville, a gorilla statuette marks the entry into one of the finest model airplane fields in the country. It is a large, open piece of real estate that features a newly resurfaced, 700-foot paved runway with an adjacent 800-foot grass strip, plus a 600-foot seaplane pond.

Field amenities include a building with second story spectator seating, an enclosed kitchen, room for camping, and an air-conditioned relaxation room. That’s not all! A multitude of covered work tables, complete with AC power, await the use of visitors. If nirvana could be manifested into an RC flying field, this place would be it. They say everything is big in Texas, and Bomber Field is no exception.

B.B. had a dream and vision. As a lifelong avid modeler, he built the field for his personal use in 1988. He was disappointed in the lack of a suitable flying field for his large aircraft and decided to do something about it. That is when B.B. found 55 acres of land in the country where his dream was born.

Initially built as B.B.’s own private and invitational flying field, Bomber Field has evolved into a fullfledged sanctioned club and a RC aeromodeling landmark. B.B. passed away in 2013, but his memory lives on in the legacy of the club and in this memorial event.

The B-17 and Big Bird Fly-In marked its 30th year on September 19-22, 2018. It is a world-class event where large-scale military and civilian models gather and B-17 bombers are the guests of honor. To encourage people with B-17 models to participate, a special perpetual trophy was awarded to the best B-17 bomber in attendance. Additional awards were given for various non-bomber categories such as Best of Show and Best Jet.

Camping is allowed at the field, and for those who wanted to stay the night, the club set up an outdoor movie screen and showed two classic war movies: The War Lover and Memphis Belle. Both are bomber- and B-17-specific movies, which is certainly not a coincidence.

highly detailed ziroli sbd dauntless dive
Marcelo González’s highly detailed Ziroli SBD Dauntless dive bomber prepares for takeoff. Many aircraft that were present would be very competitive at any competition.

bob nosers award-winning spirit of st
Bob Noser’s award-winning Spirit of St. Louis makes a low pass.

brett bowlings b-17 makes
Brett Bowling’s B-17 makes a bombing run.

Despite threatening weather, attendance was impressive with roughly 115 registered pilots. When you consider that most people bring at least two airplanes, there was no shortage of models to see. Attendees spanned the entire length of the runway (and more), with all manner of large-scale models. Although the event generally specializes in warbirds, there was no shortage of impressive scale, civilian models.

The event started on Wednesday and continued through Saturday. This year included a special charity event on Thursday for children, but people came to fly, and fly they did. I attended the fly-in on Friday and Saturday, and the flightline was never empty. One moment the sky would be full of Piper Cubs, and the next a gaggle of World War I biplanes would majestically fly past.

The most impressive display was a local group of fliers that named itself the Texas Warbird Thunder. This group of happy-go-lucky pilots loved to fly their Giant Scale warbirds fast and low, often within inches of the ground and occasionally while inverted. They frequently performed coordinated loops and rolls. Watching six airplanes pull a loop at the same time is more entertaining than one would think.

b.b. webers children pose with the last
B.B. Weber’s children pose with the last model their father worked on.

AWARD WINNERS

Best World War I

Jay Maguire, Sopwith Pup

Best World War II

Phil Smith, P-47

Best Civilian

Bob Noser, Spirit of St. Louis

Best B-17

David Fernandez

Best Jet

David Fernandez, F9F-8 Cougar

Best Bomber

Randy Larson, B-17

The event is not called B-17 and Big Bird Fly-In for nothing. I counted no fewer than seven B-17 bomber models. That was in addition to the many B-24s and B-25s that were also present. Bomber Field easily lives up to its name with a huge number of large bombers.

There were two B-17s of special note. One was brought by David Fernandez and his team from Mexico. It was almost destroyed at this event several years ago. The aircraft’s successful flight at this year’s gathering ended in loud cheers from the support crew and much of the audience.

On a more sentimental note, another B-17 that flew was started by B.B. himself, but left unfinished upon his death. Named Hi-Ho Silver, this Don Smith 138-inch wingspan airframe was ultimately completed in part by local flier Randy Larson.

The B-17 was to make a special memorial flight on Saturday, but it was damaged on the takeoff attempt. The model flew the day before and even participated in a bomb drop competition with several other airplanes, including Mike Liable’s impressive and wellused 146-inch wingspan B-24.

a zero splashes through a puddle while an
A Zero splashes through a puddle while an F-84F Thunderstreak taxis back to the pits.

This event is a mixed crowd of gas-, glow-, electric-, and turbine-powered models. Of note were Jay Maguire’s amazing scratch-built, electric-powered, 98-inch wingspan Curtiss Pusher and a large turbinepowered F-84F Thunderstreak built by Bomber Field club president Barry Raborn.

A team of four men, calling themselves Aces High, brought their matching Cessna 152s and wore matching shirts. All four airplanes had self-starters and effective smoke systems. They delighted in making a show of smoking up the runway in a formation takeoff and entertaining the crowd with their smoke-trailed aerial antics.

The event’s biggest spectacle is the warbird gaggle and pyrotechnics display. Remote-controlled explosions and simulated artillery fire were set up on the opposite side of the runway, complete with a large German tanklike caricature. While a mass flight of various warbirds made repeated low passes over the "tank," occasional small explosions were triggered in coordination as the airplanes flew through the billowing smoke.

This was similar to Pearl Harbor demonstrations at full-scale air shows. It provided a spectacular show for the crowd and was equally entertaining to the participating pilots.

Throughout the day, numerous kits were sold off by the event runners in an informal auction. These kits were donated by the estate of a former associate of the Bomber Field club, and quite a few good deals were available. A generous raffle award was sponsored by VQ Warbirds. The company offered a choice of its new 110-inch B-24 ARF or a choice of two 80-inch ARF models—quite a generous award that no doubt sold a lot of tickets.

The only disappointment in the event was the highly variable weather that prevented a planned appearance of skydivers and full-scale warbird flybys from the Lone Star Flight Museum. Regardless, the Bomber Field’s 30th anniversary fly-in had an incredible showing of amazing airplanes. If you are ever in the area, it’s a place you must visit.

SOURCES:

Bomber Field

www.bomberfieldusa.com

Bomber Field’s Facebook page

www.facebook.com/BomberField

1 comments

With a 7000 foot runway at Bomber field. I guess they will be landing full scale 747 planes.

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