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Article by Dennis Norman.
Video by Michael Smith and Chad Budreau.
National Museum of the U.S. Air Force Hosts WWI Centennial Event
Also featured in the February 2015 issue of
Model Aviation.

For the last several years, I have been privileged to be a vendor at the spectacular Dawn Patrol Rendezvous gatherings at the National Museum of the United States Air Force located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. The Dawn Patrol events were held in two-year intervals until 2011, when the organizers decided to wait until 2014 to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I. This year’s Dawn Patrol Rendezvous took place on the weekend of September 27-28, 2014.

An estimated crowd of 15,000 came enjoy this splendid event. Ceremonies officially began each day at 9 a.m. with the national anthem and brief introductory remarks. Then the full-scale and nearly full-scale aircraft took to the air for the first of two, 2-hour flying demonstrations. This would be repeated in the afternoon of both days.

Taking to the sky was a magnificent JN-4 Jenny, a Fokker Dr.I triplane, three Fokker D.VIIs, a Fokker Eindecker E.III, a Nieuport 11, a Nieuport 12, three Nieuport 23s, an S.E.5a, a Siemens-Schuckert D.I, three Sopwith Pups, and a Spad XIII. As the air show progressed, it was accompanied by running commentary from experts. After the full-scale flying came hour-long hour displays of RC model flying (there were six RC sessions during the two-day show).

In addition to the nearly constant flying of replicas and models, the Dawn Patrol Rendezvous also featured full-scale static displays of two Fokker Dr.I triplanes, two Fokker D.VIIs, one Fokker Eindecker E.III, a Nieuport 17 and a Nieuport 28, two S.E.5a aircraft, and a Sopwith Scout/Pup in Soviet markings. Also displayed was a Gnome/Omega rotary engine that was periodically started on a static base by Thomas Kozura, of Comstock Park, Michigan.

Fascinating static displays of WW I replicas under construction gave the crowd insights into the techniques and materials of the period. Also included was an unconventional, all-metal, uncovered, S.E.5a frame being built by Gregory Haynes of Saint Johns, Florida.

Each morning and afternoon, spectators were treated to parades of antique vehicles, accompanied by reenactors in period civilian dress. Sixty-seven military reenactors wowed the crowd with highly detailed uniforms and displays of arms and equipment.

Twenty-one vendors offered everything from food to merchandise. Products included such things as artwork, prints, photos, magazines, books, toys, aircraft models and supplies, aircraft parts and reproduction items, uniform items, T-shirts, and other memorabilia. Plenty of children were present and were encouraged to participate in supervised art and craft workshops. As they did so, their families had the opportunity to buy souvenirs for them.

The busy flying field was close to the museum buildings that offered air-conditioned relief and a chance to peek at the museum’s handsome exhibits. A large collection of paintings and drawings by Henri Farré filled the museum’s art gallery and offered glimpses of French WW I aviators and their experiences.

Under the masterful leadership of Special Events Coordinator David C. Thomas, the Dawn Patrol Rendezvous took more than a year of preparation by museum personnel and outside professionals. During the show, 20 members of the museum staff, assisted by as many volunteers, handled myriad details.

Sponsors included the Air Force Museum Foundation, Alley Cat Designs (T-shirts), Balsa USA, the Green County Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Holiday Inn in nearby Fairborn, Sopwith Motor Sports, and Robert and Erma Scott.

Twenty-eight owners participated with their aircraft. An alphabetical listing is presented in the sidebar. Seven WW I aviation historians spoke on a variety of topics during the flying demonstrations.

On both days, the last flight of man-carrying replicas enacted an aerial battle in which the losers were “shot down” and “captured” by uniformed reenactors. At the end of Sunday’s show, the museum invited guests to see the movie Flyboys in its theatre. Those not wishing to see the movie were treated to a final session of RC flying.

September 2016, is the next planned Dawn Patrol Rendezvous gathering. It will again be free and open to the public, and will offer even more insight into mid-WW I aviation history. Hop to see you there!

—Dennis Norman


The grace and beauty of the Nieuport 28 was dramatically captured in a full-scale replica and an equally impressive RC model in matching camouflage and markings. Both gave thrilling flight demonstrations for the appreciative crowd. Charlie Sauter photo.

The RC flightline was run by Lee McDuffee, who can be seen in the photo wearing a paddy cap. Throughout the event, no models were lost or significantly damaged. Mike Pennell photo.

Tony Gronas’ 1/3-scale Balsa USA Sopwith Pup. A large majority of the models in attendance were constructed from Balsa USA kits. Jay Smith photo.

A Fokker Dr.I in the colors of Lothar von Richthofen, brother of the Red Baron, takes to the air over Dayton. Jay Smith photo.

Keith Zimmerly and his 1/2-scale Nieuport 28 C.1 in Swiss markings. This scratch-built, 65 pound model was built in less than two months. It is powered by a DA-170 and covered in Solartex. Jay Smith photo.

Having the opportunity to see early aviation aircraft, such as this full-scale Curtiss JN-4D Jenny, take to the air is a thrilling part of the event. Smith photo.

Bonus Photos


World War I Dawn Patrol Rendezvous

National Museum of the United States Air Force
(937) 255-3286


First time visit to this site. Looks wonderful and is very interesting. Great pictures of planes from long gone days!

Nice article, Dennis - it's interesting getting another perspective on a large event like the Rendezvous. I wasn't able to make it to vendor row all weekend - as far as I managed to stray from the R/C compound was to check out the Jenny Friday afternoon.

Here's some additional notes on the R/C side of the event.

We had 82 R/C Participants from 19 different states, and they brought over 120 models of nearly 30 different airplane types, with Sopwith Pups and Fokker Triplanes the most popular. Almost all the models were either 1/4 or 1/3 scale, as well as 5 that were one-half scale (or larger!). And while most were kit built (with a couple of ARFs in the mix), two dozen were scratch builds.

The Museum reported to us that they had some 15,000 spectators on Saturday alone, plus another 8,000 on Sunday.

The dates for the 2016 Dawn Patrol Rendezvous will be September 24th and 25th (with the planned daily schedule at this time being pretty much like the 2014 event).

The posted AMA video on the event has my role incorrect. Our Contest Director for the Rendezvous was once again Doug Cox, and he was the one handling all the administrative tasks an event like this requires. My job once the event started was making sure the R/C flightline ran safely and smoothly.

Lee McDuffee - R/C Event Director - R/C Air Boss

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