The West’s Best Restorations at the California Capital Airshow

In Sacramento this September, the show’s on the ground as well as in the air.

Now there’s a seat with unlimited visibility. In 2014, Rick Clemens took top honors in the large-aircraft category for his highly polished A-26C, which was restored by the Sanders Lead Company of Troy, Alabama. Anybody who gets a seat in the nose of that A-26 wins the title of world’s luckiest aviation fan.
The late Neil Armstrong handed the trophy to Bill Allen in 2005 for his 1930 Stearman C3R, the “business sportster” of the biplane type, which won in the Antique category. At every Heritage event, superstars from the National Aviation Hall of Fame thrill the winners by presenting the awards.
In 2014, NTSB investigator and all-round nice guy Josh Cawthra won the Classic trophy for his 1947 Cessna 140. Owners like Cawthra make the Heritage event fun—and educational—because they’re always happy to talk about their airplanes. This one participated in a historic transcontinental race.
Many World War II warbirds flying today survived because they were built too late to see action. Not the Historic Flight Foundation’s Mk IXe Spitfire, which won in the military category in 2013. During the war, it served with the RAF, then flew with the Czech, Israeli, and Burmese air forces (in that order).
This shining star, a 1946 Beechcraft D-18S (Beech 18 to its friends) was the Grand Champion at the 2013 Heritage event. The recognition rewarded owner Matt Walker for the amount of elbow grease it must have taken to get that shine. Walker calls the airplane “kinetic art.”
In 2008, on the 90th anniversary of the first U.S. airmail flight, Addison Pemberton retraced the first coast-to-coast airmail route in his 1928 Boeing 40C, the only one of its kind still flying. Two years later, in a tough competitive year at the Heritage Invitational, the Boeing won the People’s Choice Award.
The 2015 Large-Aircraft Award went to Patrick Donovan of Washington state for his lovely Lockheed Electra, built in 1938. The first aircraft entirely designed by Lockheed’s Kelly Johnson, the Electra 12 had a star role in the film Casablanca, where a scale model backed Bogart as he bid farewell to Bergman.
In 2012, a 1965 Bell UH-1H Huey took the People’s Choice Award, possibly because it swung into action the year before, transporting the injured from the Reno air races to the hospital after a crash killed 10 spectators. America’s best known helicopter, the Huey also won the military category trophy that year.
A restored FG-1D Corsair is typical of the aircraft that participate in the National Aviation Heritage Invitational.

For 18 years, aviation fans have been able to walk right up to some of the most beautifully restored vintage aircraft in the country at the National Aviation Heritage Invitational. About 25 airplanes—like Brian Reynolds’ FG-1D Corsair, above, cruising over Pyramid Lake, Nevada—assemble each year to be evaluated by a panel of judges, all experts in aviation history and restoration, who pick the best restorations in five categories.

The Corsair, built by Goodyear Aircraft Corporation in 1945 and restored by Airpower Unlimited in Jerome, Idaho, won two trophies in 2014: for the best restoration in the military category and for the People’s Choice Award, a prize bestowed by fans who vote at the event. The voting, the judging, and the hanging out with airplane owners, restorers, judges, and aviation fans will happen this year in Sacramento, California, at the California Capital Airshow, September 8 to 10. (Earlier events had taken place at the National Championship Air Races in Reno, Nevada.) Eight more flying treasures that have won trophies appear in the gallery above.

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