Wheels and Warbirds Offers Excitement to Mechanically Minded

Addison — Car enthusiasts and war history buffs traveled from across the country to see antique automobiles, tanks, planes and helicopters at the Cavanaugh Flight Museum’s Wheels and Warbirds event, Sept. 21-22.

Vintage military aircraft took to the skies throughout the weekend, and guests could arrange to fly on certain planes. Aircraft like the popular UH-1H Iroquois helicopter, also called a “Huey,” flew groups around the area as spectators marveled from below.

On the first day of the event, as planes and helicopters filled the four hangars of the museum and littered the skies overhead, Pontiac owners displayed their coveted automobiles. Dozens of Pontiacs, from the first-generation GTO to the Firebird Formula 350 filled an entire hangar and spilled onto the hot concrete with their engines on display.

The event was one of the museum’s two most popular of the year.

“In the fall we always do an event with the Pontiac Association.” Doug Jeanes, Cavanaugh Flight Museum’s executive director, said. “They do their southern nationals, and cars come in from all over the area, in from Oklahoma and there’s people here from Little Rock.

“We teamed up and called it ‘Wheels and Warbirds’ because it made sense. The Vietnam-era airplanes especially fit in with the muscle cars, and also it’s kind of a fun deal.”

Jeanes comes from an Air Force family. He was in the Air Force, as was his father, and his son recently completed his service.

“We’ve kind of been around aviation our whole lives.” Jeanes said. “I started out working on [planes] and restoring them for fun, and it turned into a career.

“I think it’s pretty popular,” Jeanes said of the event, “especially with our generation, but you’ve got a lot of younger people, a lot of millennials here too. I think everybody likes cool cars.”

Everyone also likes cool planes.

“The Mustang is always real popular,” Jeanes said. “Hopefully, we’ll get a ride in it, because that’s kind of everybody’s bucket list thing. The Huey is a big deal, especially with the Vietnam-era folks. Everybody knows the Huey. The kids love the tank demo, so that’s always a fun thing.”

The tank was an M50 Super Sherman built in 1942, and for the demo, it was operated by the Armor Volunteers group of the museum. The three-man team consisted of the driver, Julian Banks, the loader, Dick Helms, and the commander, Jack Schulz.

The tank took thousands of dollars and months of labor on the part of 10 crew members to restore with used tracks shipped from England.

Tank Commander Schulz began volunteering at the flight museum seven years ago, two years after moving from Chicago where he retired from the Chicago Police Department. He lived right down the street from the museum.

“They were flying over the house and I said, ‘what in the world,’ and that’s how I wound up here,” Schulz said. “I love the airplanes and the military vehicles.”

While some came to see the cars and military aircraft out of fascination and intrigue, others were there chasing something a little more sentimental.

David Wade came from Frisco to see the warbirds.

“When I was a kid,” Wade said, “I built models of the P-51 out here and the F-86. I can’t remember how many models I built. That was during the Korean War, and so I have an emotional attachment to them.

“I had a couple of Pontiac Trans Ams too,” Wade said. He no longer owns them, though. “I wish I had kept the tenth anniversary one, because they’re getting really valuable.

“When I sold mine, there weren’t that many people beating down the doors for them. It was just an old used car.”

Written by Charles Dyer