Nostalgia in the air |

Nostalgia in the air

As two P-51 World War II planes buzzed the runway at the Nevada County Airport, Richard France of Grass Valley looked up at the sky in amazement.

“It’s a time warp,” he said, shaking his head at the elegant bombers with deep-bellied fuselages and fishbowl-shaped canopies. “You can just picture the past. It’s like being on an airfield in wartime England.”

The 30th annual Nevada County AirFest on Saturday featured aircraft from the past and present, but vintage bombers and fighter planes drew the most oohs and ahs from the crowd.

Many spectators commented on the sputtering sound of the old warbirds, which is also part of their vintage appeal.

This popping noise comes the plane’s propellers traveling faster than the speed of sound, according to announcer and AirFest organizer Tim O’Brien.

“Hundreds of little sonic booms are literally paddling the air into submission,” O’Brien said, adding that after the war, designers slowed down propellor speeds to make planes quieter.

At noon, an hour after CalFire put on an aerial fire suppression demonstration, event organizers shut down the air show for about 20 minutes to allow a Calfire plane to take off toward El Dorado County. The Nevada County Airport serves as a staging area for the region’s fire planes.

The day’s soaring, 90-degree temperatures didn’t stop spectators from lining up to pay $40 for a 20-minute ride in a warbird.

Nostalgia for the old planes reached a high point when a large crowd gathered to hear retired Gen. Chuck Yeager tell war stories of dogfighting and flight testing. After flying combat missions during World War II, Yeager became the first person to break the sound barrier in 1947.

Sitting in the cockpit of his BAC-167 Strikemaster that the Botswana Defense Force had once used to train pilots, Bob Farrell of Sacramento summed up the allure of flying a vintage military aircraft.

“I never got an opportunity to fly in the military,” Farrell said. He flew commercial airliners for nearly 35 years.

“I’m a wannabe fighter pilot. This has fulfilled that wish for me.”

Watch a slide show featuring the warbirds of AirFest 2007 in “The Week in Pictures” on the home page of


To contact Staff Writer Jill Bauerle, e-mail or call 477-4219.

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