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Chuck & “The Princess” 33 Ford Coupe

Culpeper Regional Airport’s
12th Annual AirFest

Culpeper, VA
Oct. 8, 2011

 Pictures By Charles Shotwell aka Chuck the Slacker

Friday evening we met some friends at the Burger King in N. Stafford, VA for the weekly cruise.  We had 16 special cars show up and a number of spectators walking through the mix asking questions about the cars.  The Princess and I left about 8:30 because we had a long day in the morning….very long.

Saturday Andrew met us at our home and our two cars began the trek to the Culpeper Regional Airport’s, 12th annual AirFest….in the dark, 5:40AM   Along the way we met Dan & Ramona then we all cruised on….in the dark….in the fog….in deer mating season….did I mention it was dark & foggy?  The headlights on the Princessmobile are 10” ’34 Ford Commercial units.  They are larger than the standard 7” headlights but they don’t throw much of a beam….they are really bright but the brightness ends about 25’ in front of the car.  When I drove the RedRat the headlights were like laser beams and since she always followed me I never worried about the headlights on her car….now I need to worry!  The country roads we travel don’t always have centerlines….or….sidelines.  So when it’s dark and foggy I almost have to drive by feel letting the bumpiness of the car as it goes off the edge of the road tell me to turn left a little….not a friendly feeling.  We started seeing dead deer carcasses on the side of the road too, about 438 of them.  But we have to preserver on to the event; we are in charge so we can’t let a little thing like not being able to see the road slow us down!?  And besides dodging the deer is like playing a video game….except for the Princess screaming things like “where are the hunters when you need them?” and “Bambi had it coming”.  Then she muttered something about why the deer didn’t use their crossings, the yellow signs with the running deer silhouette, that way we would know where to watch out for them?  I need my own car!  About the time we were half way to the event another group left N. Stafford for the same destination….in the dark, fog, deer mating season and all that previously detailed excitement.  That group was led by Fred and assisted by Ron.  They put the original Ford Model T between them so the group was paced to the speed of the Model T.  Like anyone could go fast in the dark, fog, deer mating season and it was cold for an open car too!

Our group arrived at the airport before sunup and Matt’s sinister black 38 Pontiac was already waiting in the parking lot!  We worked out some details of the display while we waited for the rest of the thundering herds to descend upon us.  Andrew would be out on Beverly Ford Rd. to sort out the display vehicles from the spectator vehicles then direct the display vehicles to me in the parking lot.  I would explain to the owners how we wanted them parked then direct them to Dan who was in the display field.  Dan would park the vehicles to get the most exposure for the vehicles and at the same time ensure there was adequate distance between vehicles so the spectators could maneuver without impacting the display vehicles.  He wanted to also have enough room for those that may want to erect a canopy.  This year we had a treat for the spectators in Ron’s Alcohol dragster.  This vehicle was very popular with the spectators all day!  Soon the rest of the display group started rolling in and we ran around, waving our arms and somehow got everyone in their place by 8:30….whew.  Some of the ladies huddled under Fred & Debie’s canopy most of the day….talking and laughing to the point that Fred had to leave the area before his head exploded….with that many ladies all talking at the same time it gets real scary….and I think they have mastered talking while they breathe?  It’s like 5 chain saws running at the same time!  It’s nonstop….it’s amazing….it’s other worldly….us mere men do not stand a chance.

Our display is meant to be an addition to the total day’s event and not to be a distraction from the airshow.  The participants are picked so we have a diverse group of vehicles to show the spectators and that the owners enjoy talking about their vehicles.  We feel that aviation and automobile interests are intertwined and can be enjoyed together….so the airport has allowed us to set up this display for three years now!  We also use this event for Prince William Cruisers to present Ray & Terry with the donations they have collected during the year for Wounded Warrior Project.  This year the Cruisers gave Ray & Terry a check for $5100!  There was also another $600 collected for WWP at the event….what a day for WWP!

We have a finite number of vehicles that we invite, we have the space set up that number of vehicles and our tokens of appreciation are made up for the vehicles we invite.  But each year there are some uninvited people that use our display space as their privileged personal parking place for their “special” vehicle and have no intention of staying with their vehicle and interacting with the spectators….this year we had three such interlopers.  I guess there is always someone that feels they are so very important that they can “game” the rules for their personal benefit and us lesser minions just have to deal with it….too bad. 

The day was perfect, weather wise, and program unfolded with mechanical certainty.  Tanya, the Airport manager, and her staff made the day seem to roll along perfectly.  The vendors were varied and numerous.  The restroom facilities were first rate for an event like this.  And the flying was superb! 
I am a recovering pilot wannabe and washed myself out after 9 hrs. of flight time a long long time ago.  My Dad was a fighter pilot in the big war and was intent on helping me follow in his flying shoes….  So when I was 16 he said it was time I quit talking about it and start learning how to fly….so my short introduction to the majestic discipline of flying started.  Since I was an Air Force brat, he was going to teach me at the aero club at Minot AFB where he was stationed.  He was one of the instructors in the aero club and had a gazillion hours in a lot of different airplanes, (P-51, F-80, F-84, F-86 to name a few).  So after many hrs. of ground school, at home, it was time to learn how to be a birdman.  It was winter and the airplane we used was a Cesena 140.  We had to have two Herman Nelson heaters to go flying, one to heat up the engine and one to heat up the cockpit!  And I had to prop the engine to start it….on PSP….in the snow & ice….yeah flying was going to be fun!?  So off we went but I soon discovered that I couldn’t keep from looking at the ground as we flew around, it was so interesting to me to investigate the different perspective of our earthbound environs.  Dad had to keep telling me to watch out for other airplanes and watch the horizon and the gauges and our location over the ground and too many other things more important than looking at the wondrous landscape unfolding under me.  I wasn’t a good student….  This was in 1960 and I guess not much was really understood about Clear Air Turbulence….  The runway we used was the active runway for the base….which had B-52G’s and F-106’s using the same runway.  I guess they are great generators of CAT?   After I had about 9hrs of instruction my Dad was nudging me to think about soloing soon.  I was set up for landing and we were on final, about 100’ in the air and all of a sudden the airplane shook and jumped around and when the disturbance was over the airplane was pointing almost perpendicular to the runway and we were still losing altitude.  My Dad kicked the little 140 around and landed….I was frozen….I got out and told him that was enough for me…..and I have been a ground grabber ever since.  I still love airplanes but I have no interest in flying them myself but I do have a great appreciation and respect for those that embrace all the nuances of flight, they are truly masters of their realm.

The flying demonstrations of the day were perfect and the formation flying was very impressive.  But most of the spectators, including us, were waiting for Art Nall and his flight demonstration in the only civilian owned Harrier in the world!  If you have never seen a Harrier fly you are truly missing something in your life.  The first time I saw a Harrier was in the early ‘60s at Edwards AFB.  It was called the P-1127 Kestrel then and was being tested to see if it would fit our Country’s needs.  The announcer told everyone that off in the distance was the new VTOL airplane being tested at Edwards and that it was going to give us a demonstration of its flying prowess to include a vertical takeoff.  It was a hot day in the desert and the little airplane whistled and moaned then bounced from one wheel to another but couldn’t get airborne!  It made a lot of noise and black smoke but just taxied around a while then went back into a hanger….  But now the little screamer is a proven piece of battle hardware that in the capable hands of its pilots is a force to be reckoned with.  And this is the only time anyone gets to see one outside of a Military airshow….it’s a real treat.  After the Harrier flew the crowd started to leave….a fitting end of a really great day at the airport.

We all broke camp and started to cruise to N. Stafford but one of our group had a little problem firing up his ride….but have no fear….hot wire man is here!  It took one guy to figure out how to start it, one guy to corroborate the fix, one guy to donate the wire and the rest of us walking around looking serious with deeply furrowed brow and pointing authoritatively to the engine compartment while we muttered things like….12v, 7 1/16, terminal end, ballast resistor, flooded, linkage lockage, secondary wire and other phrases better left out of a family dissertation.  But the beast finally relinquished its stubborn grip on silence and roared to life….so with one of hot rodding’s little annoyances behind us we all jumped in our cars to leave only to find out another vehicle was being stubborn….but hot wire man to the rescue again and that one was fixed too….THEN we really did begin our cruise back home.

When we arrived at Bruster’s in N. Stafford the year end “Blow Out” show was in progress so we parked out on the outer perimeter parking area then walked to Sam’s Restaurant for dinner.  We met with Steve & Sally from the Prince William Cruisers who joined our group to share a meal.  We all enjoyed each other’s company while time marched on and by the time we got back to the show it was almost over!  Oh well….another fun filled day with friends and hot rods….what’s not to like?

Click on Photos to Enlarge

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See the Video!


Thank you Chuck!





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