By Donna Hill
For the Fort Bend Star
Crowds braved one day off hot weather and one morning of rain to see a spectrum of aviation history involving aircraft, demonstrations and air shows at Wings Over Houston last weekend.
Aviation fans of all ages arrived to see Air Force, Army, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard aircraft and personnel at Ellington Field. The Thunderbirds performed each day of the two-day event, bringing their own unique brand of flight attention to detail and the capability of a F-16 Fighting Falcon.
The 31-year-old event brought in honorary aviators to the Legends and Heroes Tent, where fans waited for photos and autographs, while the celebrated aviators greeted fans, including World War II veteran and last surviving member of the Doolittle Raiders, 102-year-old Lt. Col. Dick Cole. The Doolittle Raiders was a group of 80 volunteer airmen from the U.S. Army Air Forces who flew 16 B-25 bombers in a heroic first-strike on the Japanese mainland after the Pearl Harbor attack.
Navy Cdr. Mark Vizcarra and Capt. Michael Vizcarra , having a combined 51 years of military service, participating in Southern Watch, Desert Storm and Enduring Freedom, were also on hand for autographs. The graduates of the Navy Fighter Weapons Schools (Top Gun) were in attendance along with their father, Air Force Col. Victor Vizcarra, a Vietnam combat veteran.
History at Wings Over Houston went as far as World War I, with a presentation of a rare flyable replica of the Curtis JN-4H plane called “Jenny.” Other historical performances included World War II American and German aerial battle and the Tora Tora Tora re-enactment, where pyrotechnics were used to simulate battles.
The classic air show not only brought in historical remembrances, but aerial adventure from pilot Michael Wiskus, a 2002 U.S. National Aerobatic Champion, and member of the 2004 U.S. Aerobatic Team, who took his Lucas Oil stunt plane to a dizzying heights and drops, and left the crowd awestruck.
First responders from Hurricane Harvey were recognized throughout both days of events, including U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Houston, where they recreated a Search and Rescue (SAR) operation demonstration with the MH65D Dolphin helicopter. Visitors saw Vietnam War re-enactments, complete with MIG-17 fighter jets, and demonstrations from the U.S. Navy F-18 Super Hornet, 138th Fighter Wing from the Tulsa Air National Guard.
Wings Over Houston was presented by the volunteer efforts of the Houston Wing, Gulf Coast Wing , and Tora! Tora! Tora! of the Commemorative Air Force, with support from the Lone Star Flight Museum, Texas Flying Legends Museum, Collings Foundation-Houston based at Ellington Airport, and the Vietnam War Flight Museum.
Lt. Col. Cole commented on the Wings Over Houston performances, by saying the fans made it “a good day and a great crowd.” When asked about his first day of military service, signing up to active duty when he was 26 years old, Cole recalled emphatically, “Being an aviator was my life’s dream.”