BroncoFest III On-Site Report from Mike "Merlin" Whaley
Saturday, Oct. 20, 2001
It's been crazy here!! Yesterday saw the arrival of everyone else. The PX has had a larger-than-ever variety of things to sell, with Grump getting a hand in selling stuff from Tom Kemp, Joe Copalman, and others. We've had some good donations to the museum, although not nearly as much as the last BroncFest. That's not unexpected, however, as many people have sent a lot of material directly to the hangar in the time since then. This year again, we have many folks who are well-known in the community for being all over the place... Jack Norton (engine tech rep), Jack Ballard (Rockwell tech rep), and Emerson Smith, Ruben Best, and Warren McGowan representing the NAA design team. We went to lunch at a fun cajun restaurant near the hotel called Razoo's Cajun Cafe... the food was superb and reasonably priced, and we all really enjoyed it. (The stuffed cajun shrimp lunch is great!!) Throughout the day, I was helping the Venezuelan contingent get online, so that they could get to some online material for their presentation on Saturday morning.
In the evening, we had the flight-suit party and everyone really went full-tilt on the war stories. It was added to by the OV-10 videos and slide shows we had running during the evening. Probably about 100 people showed up, and of course the people that you didn't already know quickly became your friend. The OV-10 community is of course very unique in the friendliness towards others, and we all had a great time. Howard Pierson talked about being the next-to-last FAC over the fence in SEA (his backseater was the actual last guy back!) and gave the invocation. Special guest was Howard's dad. Pops "Bronco Bill" Pierson was introduced in the typical style: "There's a guy here tonight that was 3 years old when Orville and Wilbur first flew..." For a 103-year old, Pop sure is looking good!! It's always a pleasure to talk to him... at the FAC reunion in Ft. Walton last year, it was tough to do that... he stayed so busy dancing with all the pretty girls!!! Tony De Bruyn of the GWOBA finally made it as well, I must say that I'm not disappointed now that I've met him in person. Tony is a really sharp and friendly guy that is a great credit to the OBA.
After we shuffled out of there late in the evening, many of us migrated up to the 12th floor to the OBA Hospitality Suite, aka THE HOOTCH. (A BIG BIG thanks to Tammi, Larry, and Maney aircraft for sponsoring the refreshments!!) Big Bear Evans sang at least one or two Irish drinking songs for us with stories involving things like falling down in the gutter next to a pig (who got up and walked away in disgust, I may add.) The stories came freely and the party continued well into the wee hours of the morning.
Today (Saturday) we all got up for a filling breakfast. We saw presentations and reports from Ron Fix, Garry Goff, Jim Hodgson, and Tim Sikorski about the status of the organization. At one point while trying to pick on Garry, Ron (USMC) allowed that Mike Sterling, despite being Air Force, was a good guy that seemed to have the rare extra chromosome that would have allowed him to make a good Marine anyway. Mike's response: "Yeah, but you know I was way too smart to join the Corps!!"
After that, Tony gave a really amazing, professional-quality presentation (more of a documentary video, set to music and with a very professional narrative) showing all their hard work to get their two OV-10Bs in the air. When the scene of the first plane lifting off came up, the entire room broke out into loud cheers!! A very uplifting thing to see. We are very proud of the GWOBA and see many great things ahead for them and for us in partnership with them!
Unfortunately, after numerous attempts the Venezuelans had a glitch back at home that prevented them from being able to access their information and pictures to add to their presentation. Still, 1st Lt. Angel Condi got up and talked a little about their mission. He pointed out that he found it quite interesting in talking to the American Bronco folks that "Your history is our present" Interesting thought.
We then got on the bus and went out to the Vintage Flying Museum and the OBA Museum. The planes were outside (except for Chuckie the B-17) as VFM prepared for their big yearly 1940's-style Big Band dance event. Joe Copalman talked for a while about the many uses of the OV-10's backseat, and then we all saw the OBA area.
Then we saw the mockup. I thought that it was made mostly of wood: WRONG!! This is a metal airplane!! Many pieces like trim tabs and the guns are made of wood, but all the major structures are metal, and prety much just like the final aircraft. An interesting thing was that the nosewheel was a solid block of wood! There are many things on the mockup that were ultimately changed on the production airplane, but it's a real treasure. I arrived expecting to be impressed, but went away feeling like we really came across the treasure of a lifetime. The NAA crew who worked on it originally thought it was really great, of course!! This is a great item and probably worth a lot more than what it cost us... and there are many possibilities for how best to restore and display it. We'll figure all that out, eventually, but for now, rest assured that prucahsing the mockup was a VERY VERY good thing!!!
After that, we had good box lunches and took the bus to the alliance Airshow. There was difficulty getting in, so we saw an F-16 demo and the Blue Angel's "Fat Albert" C-130 do a 60-degree RATO takeoff from the bus. The planes were not there in nearly the quantities as at last BroncoFest, due to the current military actions, but there were some neat surprises... the same huge Russian An-124 cargo plane that brought back the EP-3 from China was there and opened up for walking through. It's a fascinating plane... about as big as a C-5 (maybe a shade bigger) but the cargo bay actually has two overhead cranes in it, that can go from the front to the back along overhead rails!! A great aircraft, and unique for all the Cyrillic labels on everything. Other static planes included were a B-1B, four F-16s, a T-2, a Customs/DEA Citation, Pilatus, and helicopter, the BaE 600 tilt-rotor mockup, an example of most of FedEx's fleet including a 727, MD-11, A-380 (?), Cessna, and their sponsored Sukhoi Su-31, as well as an American Airlines 767 (or was it a 777? I never can tell!) The Blue Angels show was ery good and aside from the delays in getting in and only having 1.5 hours to cruise around, it was a good show.
As I write this we're preparing for the big Saturday night banquet, the flagship event of BroncoFest. In fact, posting this little article is my last official act as the First Bronco Buster. All the nominees have done exceptional and commendable work, but the new BB is IMHO very deserving and I am very honored to share the distinction. But who is it, you ask? Hahaha, I can't tell. You'll have to wait until the next update!
If I don't go, I'll miss the beginning of the fun. Bye for now!