Millville Municipal Airport to host Aviation Celebration featuring Rare Tom Duffy-owned Warbird

Published in The Press of Atlantic City on Saturday, September 18, 2010. Story by Edward Van Embden

Among the planes at the event will be Tom Duffy's P-47 Thunderbolt 'No Guts, No Glory,' which flew out of the airport sometime during 1941-1945. The plane is commemorated to this day by the Millville Senior High School Thunderbolts and by the New Jersey Motorsports Park's Thunderbolt Raceway.

The thrill of watching the U.S. Navy's Blue Angels is something fans of the team will have to wait for until next year. But even without an aerobatic jet show over Millville Municipal Airport, organizers of the Aviation Celebration say there are plenty of reasons to come out this year.

The Millville Army Air Field Museum is hosting the celebration next weekend. It will feature between 60 and 70 planes, many of them from the World War II era, on a site known as America's first defense airport.

Lisa Jester, executive director of the museum, said the Aviation Celebration is similar to last year's effort. Without a proper air show -- there will be flying at the event, although no aerobatic stunts -- the museum sought a way to keep what had been an annual tradition alive.

The result was a grassroots campaign to bring some of the planes that help define the United States air arsenal from the last 80 years out of personal collections and put them on display.

Unparalleled public access to most of these planes, which are still operational, will be granted to attendees. From pictures next to planes to discussions with pilots and a chance for an up-close look at what makes the planes special is a chance not afforded at most air shows.

"I think what's neat about this event is that you can get up close and personal with these aircraft," Jester said Friday. "There are events all over the country, but most of the time you are kept at a distance."

The event features rare World War II warbirds, military aircraft, classic airplanes and home-built planes during a day dedicated to honoring the history and technology of flight.

Museum President Russell Davis said he is proud to be a part of the event.

"Airplane enthusiasts, young and old, will have an opportunity to see more than 30 extremely rare WWII airplanes as well as experimental and classic aircraft -- all up close on the ramps at Millville Airport," he said.

Davis also said that even though the event is not technically an air show, it will feature flying by both classic airplanes as well as from an Experimental Aircraft Association Fly-in hosted by EAA Chapter 1376. The group will bring dozens of planes to the event, most of them home-built.

Jester said the history on display should not be overlooked. The museum includes several buildings, most of them built as part of the original airport.

"Now that we're recognized as a national historic district, to be able to come on to our airport and see buildings how they were and how they are now, to see that preservation, I don't think there's anything like this in the country," Jester said.

The jewel of the event is likely the planes of warbird collector Tom Duffy, who is sharing many of his historic craft with the public Saturday, including his P-47 Thunderbolt "No Guts, No Glory," which flew out of Millville's airport sometime during 1941-45.

The plane, remembered to this day by Millville Senior High School -- student athletes are called Thunderbolts -- and by New Jersey Motorsports Park's Thunderbolt Raceway, is rare. Davis said there are only 10 Thunderbolts still flying today.