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Wed, Feb 20, 2008

2008 Geneseo Airshow To Host Flying Tigers Reunion

"The Greatest Show On Turf" Will Honor AVG, And Their P-40s

The 1941 Historical Aircraft Group Museum told ANN this week its theme for the 2008 Geneseo Airshow, planned for July 11-13 -- "The Greatest Show on Turf." This year also commemorates the 70th anniversary of the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, and it is the intention of the 1941 HAG to celebrate this anniversary by honoring the people and planes who made this aircraft one of the most famous and widely recognized of World War II, through hosting a Flying Tigers Reunion.

This event could possibly be the most talked about aviation event of 2008 due to its unique subject. With over 13,700 Curtiss P-40s of various models built between October 1938 and November 1944, it is sad to realize there are only about two dozen flying today in North America.

It is the intention of the 1941 HAG to bring as many as possible of these airframes together for a definitive reunion. Aviation museums and private collectors from both coasts of the United States and all parts in between, as well as in Canada, have been invited to be a part of the unique warbird gathering.

Not since the 1970s have there been more than a handful of P-40s together at any one location and flying together. When one thinks about the success of the recent Gathering of Mustangs and Legends held in September 2007 at Columbus, OH, where over 75 P-51 Mustangs out of the existing 150-plus flying airframes showed up, the 1941 Historical Aircraft Group would be more than happy to see 50% of the existing P-40s at its event.

The beautiful 4800' grass airfield of Geneseo is located in the Western New York Finger Lakes Region that was the birthplace of the Curtiss Corporation. Event organizers note Geneseo is exactly halfway between Glenn Curtiss' hometown of Hammondsport, NY and the WWII manufacturing center of Curtiss-Wright Corporation in Buffalo, NY... a geographic coincidence that makes the Flying Tigers Reunion even more unique.

The gathering of the planes, and the people, near the place where the P-40 was created is a fantastic opportunity for the public to meet and honor the veterans who flew and fought for Allied victory is an even greater reason to attend.

Sadly, there are hardly any of the original American Volunteer Group (AVG) pilots still alive. One of the last was David Lee "Tex" Hill, who passed away October 11, 2007 at the age of 92. The 1941 HAG tells ANN it would like to contact any surviving P-40 pilots -- whether Flying Tiger, 14th Air Force member or others -- to invite them to be part of the festivities.

Several former employees from the Curtiss factory in Buffalo also plan to attend, as well as crew chiefs and mechanics who serviced the P-40s in the China-Burma-India Theater (CBI). Anyone who may know the whereabouts of any of these veterans should contact us as soon as possible.

The history of the Curtiss P-40 began in October of 1934 when its design-technician Donovan A. Berlin developed the Hawk 75 (Mohawk), which had the military designation P-36. This aircraft became the primary pursuit plane for the recently established United States Army Air Corps (USAAC) as well as foreign air forces like France's Armée de l'Air. Among those exports were 30 of the fixed-gear Hawk 36H models that went to Nationalist China in 1938 and were the type first flown there by an American ex-Army Air Corps Captain Claire Chennault, who became the Air Adviser to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek.

In July of 1937 Don Berlin replaced the P-36A's Pratt and Whitney R-1830-17 Twin Wasp, 14-cylinder, air cooled radial 1,200 hp engine with an Allison V-1710-33, 12 cylinder "V" liquid cooled 1,040 hp power plant, and the XP-40 (Model 75P) was born. The Curtiss P-40 was built in the nearby Buffalo, New York factory and made its flying debut on October 14, 1938 as the model 81A. In 1941 Curtiss made major design modifications and the new version became the model 87 with a 1,150 hp Allison V-1710-39 engine (P-40E) and later, the V-1710-81 and V1710-99 (P-40N). In all, the

Curtiss factory produced 1,704 model 81s (P-40B & C's) and 12,034 model 87s, which saw service in the European, Pacific, North African and Russian Theaters of Operation. The various models were called at various times the Tomahawk, Kittyhawk and Warhawk.

Although the classic shark's-mouth of the Flying Tigers adorns many of the P-40s invited to attend this reunion, not every aircraft will display it. Some will have the plain, overall olive drab paint scheme of the USAAC while others have the unique parrot head or Aleutian Tiger motif. Some AVG pilots first saw the shark's-mouth design in a photograph of a British RAF Tomahawk in the November 2, 1941, issue of Illustrated Weekly of India and it was soon adopted as the group trademark for all three squadrons. Thereafter, the AVG was better known as the "Flying Tigers."

This event marks the 28th anniversary of the Geneseo Airshow. Continuing a tradition as the premier warbird airshow of the Northeast, the Geneseo Airshow and the 1941 Historical Aircraft Group museum is committed to preserving aviation history for future generations.

FMI: www.1941hag.org

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