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Critical Mass, a modified Sea Fury air racer

Warbird is any vintage military aircraft now operated by civilian organizations and individuals or, in some instances, by historic arms of military forces, such as the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, the RAAF Museum Historic Flight and the South African Air Force Museum Historic Flight.

Restored warbirds are a frequent attraction at airshows. Highly modified as well as "stock" warbirds can also frequently be seen at air races, since World War II-era fighters are among the fastest propeller-driven airplanes ever built. Some of the most popular warbirds for races are the North American P-51 Mustang, the Hawker Sea Fury, the Grumman F8F Bearcat and the North American T-6 Texan.


Although the term originally implied piston-driven aircraft from the World War II era, it is now often extended to include all airworthy former military aircraft, including jet-powered aircraft. Vintage jet aircraft in airworthy condition, however, are much rarer due to technical complexity.

Sometimes, newly built replicas and reproductions of vintage aircraft are called "warbirds," such as Allison V-1710-powered Yakovlev Yak-9s from Yakovlev, Messerschmitt Me 262s built by the Me 262 Project and Focke-Wulf Fw 190s by Flug Werk; this can include any one of a large number of different aircraft designs from between World War I the late 1930s, when military aircraft design was less complex. Such replicated warbirds may even be powered by vintage engines from the era of the aircraft design being flown, as Cole Palen did at his Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome aviation museum with accurate and airworthy reproductions of the Fokker Dr.I, Sopwith Camel and Sopwith Dolphin World War I aircraft.

Major operators of historic aircraft

  • Alpine Fighter Collection of New Zealand Fighter Pilots Museum
  • Amicale Jean-Baptiste Salis
  • Battle of Britain Memorial Flight
  • Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum
  • Shuttleworth Collection
  • Temora Aviation Museum
  • The Fighter Collection

Restoration process

Restored de Havilland Vampire warbird

Vintage warbird restoration, or classic aircraft restoration, is the process of taking aircraft from the previous era, and performing processes such as maintenance, repairs and refurbishments in order to restore these military aircraft to their original wartime state (minus, of course, any working weaponry). According to Classic Warplanes, some of the tasks performed on these vintage aircraft include:[2]

  • Structural repairs
  • Standard maintenance
  • Interior and exterior paint
  • Decals and stamps
  • Upholstery replacements
  • Control heads and radios
  • Parachutes, ejection seats, and ejection seat cartridges
  • Rewiring
  • Replacement of real weaponry with non-operating replicas

Air shows

A Douglas SBD-5 Dauntless dive bomber is salvaged from the depths of Lake Michigan

EAA's AirVenture 2004

2008 Commemorative Air Force Airsho

There are several different types of warbirds such as the Fighter, Trainer, Bomber, Jet, Transports, Utility, etc. Examples of aircraft types include the North American P-51 Mustang, Vought F4U Corsair, Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, North American T-6 Texan, Beechcraft T-34 Mentor, Messerschmitt Bf 109, Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire. There are great warbirds air-shows all over the world annually. Warbird Alley claims that some of the best-known air shows in the United States that feature warbirds are:[1]

  • EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, Oshkosh, Wisconsin
  • Alliance Airshow, Fort Worth, Texas
  • Dayton Airshow, Dayton, Ohio
  • History of Flight Airshow, Geneseo, New York
  • Indianapolis Airshow, Indianapolis, Indiana
  • Miramar Airshow, Miramar, California
  • Orlando Air Fair, Orlando, Florida
  • Spirit of Flight Airshow, Galveston, Texas
  • Commemorative Air Force AIRSHO, Midland, Texas

In Europe, one of the best known warbird air show is the annual Flying Legends arranged in Imperial War Museum Duxford in UK. La Ferté-Alais air show in France collects warbirds annually too. Warbirds fly also in most of the Shuttleworth Collection flying days in UK every summer.

Clubs and organizations

Some organizations in the United States are:

  • Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA). The primary focus of the group started with building individual airplanes, and it soon grew to include antiques, classics, warbirds, aerobatic aircraft, ultralights, helicopters and contemporary manufactured aircraft.
  • Warbirds of America (WOA) is a non-profit organization formed in 1964. A year after its start, it became a branch of the EAA.
  • The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is the National aviation authority of the United States.
  • Classic Jet Aircraft Association (CJAA)

See also


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 Warbird Museum Links Access date: 2009-01-27
  2. Spick, Mike. Classic Warplanes. New York: Smithmark, 1991. ISBN 0-86101-622-X.

External links

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