Preparing for Massive DC Fly Over on 75th Anniversary of End of WW2


Pete Bunce, the president and CEO of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, and John Cudahy, the president of the International Council of Air Shows, discuss plans to stage a massive “2020 Arsenal of Democracy Fly-Over” Washington, DC, on May 7-8, 2020, with vintage US, Canadian and British warplanes to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II with Defense & Aerospace Report Editor Vago Muradian. To organize and execute a fly over involving more than 100 World War II-era aircraft, GAMA and ICAS have partnered with a number of organizations, including the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, the Commemorative Air Force, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association and the National Defense Industrial Association.

Pete Bunce

General Aviation Manufacturer’s Association


John Cudahy

International Council of Air Shows

National Press Club

January 2019

Vago Muradian:  Welcome to the Defense and Aerospace Report.  I’m Vago Muradian here at the National Press Club in Washington, DC for the announcement of the Arsenal of Democracy Flyover, the largest flyover of World War II aircraft since 2015 for the last major flyover commemoration of the 70thanniversary of the end of World War II. On May 7 and May 8thof 2020 there will be more than 100 aircraft that are to fly over Washington, DC to commemorate the 75thanniversary of the greatest war in human history.

And joining us to discuss this new endeavor are Pete Bunce, who heads the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, GAMA.  Anybody who’s got a commercial aircraft should know the organization as well as some of the historic manufacturers that you represent.  And John Cudahy of the International Council of Air Shows.  I’ve always thought you have one of the coolest jobs on the planet as an air show fan.

Pete, let’s start with you.  Talk to us about the genesis of the idea of the announcement, the partners and what you guys are trying to achieve.

Pete Bunce:  Well, back in 2014 I was approached by Carson [Sandbridge] to talk about flying a TVM, [Towner] Veterans down Independence Avenue.  From that I got together with John, and we started throwing around ideas of how we could really do that and it culminated a year later with being able to give the tribute in 2015 on the 70thanniversary.

It just so happens that in 2020, May 8th, VE Day, happens to be again on a Friday, so we can just replicate exactly the time sequence that we did back in 2015, but we want to make it about twice as big, add the allied aircraft.

And really, as you mentioned, the 75th, this will probably be our last real chance to be able to have live veterans be able to participate in the tribute to them. So that’s why we’re so excited to be able to do it.

Mr. Muradian:  It was an extraordinary event.  I remember 2015.  It was very exciting.  There were school kids from all over who watched. My son got out of school and was on the parking deck of the Watergate as he watched the airplane formation go over.

John, talk to us a little bit about what some of the lessons learned are that’s going to make this year’s event even better.  Excuse me, 2020’s event even better.

John Cudahy:  There are a lot of logistical challenges with airspace, law enforcement, federal agencies of many different kinds.  We’ve got that under control now, and did quite well.  So that will be a big challenge that we will not face this year that we had.

We still need to check those boxes and make those accommodations, but we’ve done it now.  So a lot of our effort now will be focused, as Pete said, about making it bigger and making sure that it’s accessible to more people.

We put it together in fairly short order last time, so this time we will spend more time reaching out to the people who could participate, would be interested in participating, and we’re planning a much more aggressive educational angle for this year as well so the children, the students, some of whom don’t know that much about World War II, we’ll use the Arsenal of Democracy Flyover as a way to tell them not just about the war, but the hometown effort, all that happened in the United States to make the country in a position to win the war.

Mr. Muradian:  You mentioned, Pete, the commemoration and the thanks to veterans, but this is also a youth education effort which is pretty profound.  John, you mentioned that it was a hometown effort, but as you were saying the Arsenal of Democracy, I think many Americans would be stunned to learn that there were 18,000 B-24s that were built.

What are some of the things you guys will be doing  to get a whole new generation — our generation group up with veterans talking about the airplanes, building models.  The younger generation aren’t doing that as much.  But I think that you also have a strategy about how to engage kind of the younger generation.  Talk to us a little bit about that part of the equation.

Mr. Bunce:  Being as involved in aircraft manufacturing as I am with our member companies, if you look at World War II, the rapid pace of technology and the innovation that happened because of the necessities of the war really brought on the jet age.  We had our first jets that were produced during that period of time.

Right now we’re on the dawn of electric and hybrid propulsion for air transport, whether it’s urban mobility in what people call flying cars, or all the autonomy that we have out there, it’s truly one of the most exciting times that I have ever seen in aerospace.  And that’s one of our challenges is to get young people to realize that this is the next revolution in aviation, and to get them excited about what was done 75 years ago and now this is the next big leap.

Mr. Muradian:  John, talk to us about engaging and connecting with a younger generation who some of it are self-selecting.  It’s guys like us who have kids who drag their kids to air shows and then they think it’s cool.  But the number of — it’s a different dynamic.  Talk to us about engaging this new generation.

Mr. Cudahy:  It is.  And we know that we need to come to them where they live, which is often on their screens.  So mobile apps and live streaming video will be a big part of this, as will be the experiential aspects of it.

These generations, the younger children and students, are very interested in actually getting into the middle of it, not just reading about it in books.  That’s a lot of what this is about.  We’re going to bring nearly 100 World War II war birds to the nation’s capital and put them right in front of the public.  That’s a big part of our strategy, to engage with younger generations and students.

Mr. Muradian:  I think you need a smell app to give you the smell of av gas, hydraulic fluid, and an old military aircraft.

Pete, talk to us about milestones.  You’re all aviators.  You guys run on a timetable.  You have a commemorative air force that’s going to be part of it.  We had somebody contact, asking hey, how do folks in Canada and other people who are not registered now for the hundred some-odd aircraft that are going to be participating, talk to us a little bit about logistics and what the schedule’s going to look like now as we count down to the great event.

Mr. Bunce:  We want to be able to have the air crews locked down about a year out so that we can start — and we’re obviously going to have more air crews than actually will be able to fly because there are things that happen maintenance wise that can take aircraft out as we get closer to the event.  So we want to get to spool and start vetting the aircraft and the air crews very early on in the process.

But one of the big challenges for John and I and the rest of the executive committee is to be able to go and be able to reach out to corporate America and corporate Canada and the UK and be able to say okay, be a part of this big effort. And how we package that, and putting it together.  Because it’s just not the Arsenal of Democracy Flyover or the event the night before.  We have the bookend with what’s happening on the USS Missouri, but also we want to be able to tie in a STEM component to this to be able to package it together. So really, our big focus will be to go and put that piece together, that STEM piece together to be able to go then to solicit different corporate America entities to be able to contribute to the program.

Mr. Muradian:  And because you were also talking about, for example, an Honor Flight where we can get some of those veterans over here to  Washington to be able to do that.

Talk about some of the other component parts and how people can get, whether they’re companies or individuals, can get involved.

Mr. Bunce:  We want to be able to work with folks like the airlines and the hotel industries to be able to provide opportunities for veterans to get to DC to be able to honor them.  So I think that will be a very important component.

We hope to have a crowd funding capability so that people can just click on an icon and be able to say yeah, I just want to throw a few bucks at it to be able to say let’s honor this generation out there.  So we’re hoping that that also has an element to it.

Mr. Muradian:  And from an organizational perspective, John, seeing as how this is your business.  What are some of the things — and just a shout-out to the other partners, right? It’s the National Air Traffic Controllers Association and the National Defense Industrial Association and the Commemorative Air Force are among those participating on this.

But talk to us a little bit about from an organizational standpoint, what’s the best way to increase that public awareness and get as many people out on the Mall.  The last time you said it was roughly eight months you guys had to organize it.  This one you’ve got about 18 months out that you’re working.

What are some things you can do to drum up that interest and get those people out on the Mall?

Mr. Cudahy:  One of our other partners is the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. They’ll play a big role because they reach out to so many in the aviation community generally.

But as we mentioned earlier, there’s new technology since we did this and there’s not so much new but more mature technology in the form of mobile apps/streaming video.  And the STEM initiative is going to be really important to generating the interest not so much among the students but among the people who interact with the students.

So when we turn it into less of a spectacle, or every bit as much of a spectacle but also an educational program, we think the dynamics will change quite a lot.  It will go from being wonderful to watch, but wonderful to watch in a strong educational program.  And that helps with the time and the fact that we’ve already done it once.

So our expectation is that with 15, 16 months to plan and conduct this, we’ll have the ability to both plan it and conduct it, but also to have some supplementary, complementary activities going on that will be of interest to the younger generation.

Mr. Bunce:  And I think in the lead-up to this just in the last week we have over 20 supporting organizations.  We hope to grow that number.  But when we have folks like the Air Force Association and veterans groups that are out there that want to be able to be part, participatory in this.  The National Defense Industry Association.  That’s going to help spread the word and build the excitement.

Mr. Muradian:  And my apologies to everybody at AOPA, you guys do a terrific job and I’m sorry that I, of course it was a key part of the discussion.

Let me ask you about some of the cool airplanes folks are going to see.  Right now the bombers are going to be operating from one place; the single engine airplanes.  But give us, Pete, kind of an overview and what are some of the aircraft that we’re going to see?  Once upon a time I remember that there was not even one flying B-29, and then we had one flying B-29, now we have two flying B-29s.  Talk to us a little bit about what folks or what you hope folks are going to see on the 7thand the 8thhere in Washington.

Mr. Bunce:  Some very unique aircraft.  If you just start with the RAF or the Royal Canadian Air Force aircraft. When you look at the Lancaster. Very few people here in the U.S. got a chance to see that iconic aircraft.  We think of in World War II the big work horse, whether it’s the B-17, the B-24, the B-29, the Lancaster was theirs.  The Mosquito.  We have a Lysander which did a lot of the special ops type of activity that was over there.  The Swordfish. Early on, a biplane that was very vulnerable to anti-aircraft fire and enemy aircraft, but actually helped sink the Bismarck.  So those are amazing aircraft.

Then you look at some of the veteran aircraft that are out there.  We mentioned the [Atsal] Brother being the lead aircraft for the drops for the Normandy Invasion and Operation Overlord, but right now we have four C-47 sorts that were all D-Day veterans. I  mean how special does that get? So we’ve got some combat aircraft there. But all of the fighters that we have are unique.  Then if the restoration program for Columbine 2 is successful, we will actually have an aircraft that came out at the end of the war, the iconic constellation that flew transport missions toward the end but then served as President Eisenhower’s first Air Force One.  So just some of those — that’s why I’m so excited, because it’s a broader brush of aircraft and more aircraft in the formations together.

Mr. Cudahy:  Because it’s such a big and exotic collection, we have some things that we are now used to that are still very rare.  We will likely have three of four P-38 Lightnings.  There are not a half dozen P-38s flying in the whole world, and we will have more than half of them here.  The  P-39, the A-20, the PB-4Y Privateer.  We’re talking about planes that nobody since 1950 probably has seen flying.  And they are almost routine in this particular flyover because we will have so many exotic aircraft.

There are very few airplanes that saw combat in World War II on the United States side that won’t be represented in this flyover, and you can’t say that about — even our biggest events here in the United States don’t have this kind of wide spectrum of aircraft participating.

Mr. Muradian:  And to have the C-47 that spearheaded the paratroop landings on the 5th, the lead of 800 aircraft.  It’s just unbelievable that we’ll have an opportunity to see that again.  And the C-47 is one of my favorite airplanes.  So to know that that one is going to be here is going to be great.

And this coincides also with the opening of the Eisenhower Memorial downtown.  The airplanes are going to be making a trip over that aren’t they, Pete?

Mr. Bunce:  Absolutely.  That is actually our turn point going off of Independence Avenue as they exit out over the Potomac.  So they start their journey down Independence Avenue right at the Lincoln Memorial and then come down.

So we are so honored that the Eisenhower Memorial Commission picked this flyover to make it the dedication of the memorial.  And then to have the [Atsal] Brother leading that very significant formation to represent what, you know, we can just imagine in our mind’s eye what it must have been like for General Eisenhower to be able to talk to those paratroopers the night before, to be able to talk about what they were going to do. It just still gives me goosebumps when I think about what that must have been like.  And that’s one of the statues that is depicted at the memorial.  So it will be very special to have that as part of this flyover.

Mr. Muradian:  And as you mentioned, the USS Missouri’s going to be involved in this as well.  The ship on whose decks World War II ended.  And you guys, kudos to you for planning this in May and not in August which will be very, very hot and very sweaty.

So I’m going to ask each of you, how can folks get involved?  Is there a web site set up?  Where can people go to get more information, whether it’s to participate, whether it’s to volunteer, or whether it’s to contribute?

Mr. Bunce: We’re setting up the web site now, the Arsenal of Democracy web site, but we’re going to be able to get that information all out to the press to be able to go and contribute on a crowd funding site.  We’re still in the process of getting that set up and operational.

Mr. Cudahy:  One thing that we didn’t talk about that I think is worthy mentioning is how special it was to be at the National World War II Memorial with 200 veterans.  It was, professionally it was one of the most special moments I’ve had, period.  And as we mentioned during the briefing, the likelihood is that we’ll have a lot less but we’ll still have some.  Honestly, all this is largely about them and the opportunity to do something to recognize them so late in their life after all the sacrifice and heroic deeds they did for us, really, is pretty special.  And a unique opportunity for Pete and I and the rest of the group that’s putting this together.

Mr. Muradian:  And as you guys stressed during the press briefing, this is to commemorate veterans from all the services

— air, land, sea.  It’s not just an air commemoration.  Because armored vehicles, and you can’t drive, you can’t get Missouri back underway and get her over here and put her in the Potomac.

John Cudahy of the International Council of Air Shows, and Pete Bunce for the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, thank you very much for all your time.  Best of luck with this and we look forward to continually telling the story and help you guys tell the story of what you guys are trying to accomplish.  It’s an incredible event.  I’m already looking forward to it.

Mr. Bunch:  Thanks so much.

Mr. Cudahy:  Thanks a lot.


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