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Tampa Bay Airfest promises touching tales, dazzling aircraft

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Published:   |   Updated: March 21, 2014 at 12:27 PM

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Every airplane has a story, but when it comes to airshows such as MacDill Air Force Base Presents Tampa Bay AirFest 2014, no story is more poignant than the one behind the F4U-4 Corsair flown by Jim Tobul.

Tobul, whose father Joe was a Marine Corps pilot, began flying when he was nine and has flown many different warbirds, including the B-25, T-28, L-5, B-17, P-51, F-18 Super Hornet, and PBY-5, according to his website.

In 1981, the Tobuls found the old Corsair in a Florida orchard. Father and son purchased the plane, which had a distinctive gull wing and distinguished itself in the Pacific during WWII and again during the Korean War, and hauled it back home to Pittsburgh, where they spent a decade restoring it to flying condition.

In 1991, the Corsair named “Korean War Hero” flew again, according to the website, with father and son flying it at airshows all over the East Coast, until November, 2002.

While on the way to an airshow in Columbia, S.C., the elder Tobul developed engine trouble and died in the resulting crash.

“Onlookers said he made a heroic effort to steer the plane away from as many homes and populated areas as he could, ultimately crashing into a grove of pines,” according to Tobul's website.

But that wasn't the end of the story. Tobul stored the wrecked Corsair, restoring it once again, and now flies it himself.

He will perform twice each day at AirFest, once by himself, and once in tandem “Heritage Flight” with Scott Yoak, who flies a P-51 Mustang called “Quicksilver,” which Yoak built.

“It's a great story,” says George Cline, who will serve as the show's “Air Boss.” He takes over from Dick Cutshall, who helped launch AirFest in 1987 and ran every AirFest since until he died Christmas Day 2011 at the age of 62.

As Air Boss, Cline says he controls the airspace over MacDill, in close coordination with the tower at Tampa International Airport.

An Air Force veteran and long-time air traffic controller, Cline has been air bossing for 25 years, including a long stint at Sun 'N Fun.

The most challenging act to manage over the next two days?

“The Thunderbirds,” says Cline. “They take up more airspace and more altitude.”

The F-16s go up to 15,000 feet and fly close to the deck, approaching, but not exceeding Mach 1, or about 600 miles per hour, says Cline.

“The shows are easy,” says Cline. “The stressful stuff is getting all the moving parts together.”

AirFest “is going to be a great show,” says Cline, ticking off the rosters of performers that range from the husband-wife acrobatic team of Melissa and Rex Pemberton to flights of historic war planes such as a B-25 reenacting Doolittle's April 18, 1942 raid over Tokyo and a MiG-17.

“We are in the entertainment business,” says Cline. “We try to entertain the masses. One of my jobs is to put a schedule together and make sure it is entertaining.”

Gates open Saturday and Sunday at 8 a.m.

 

haltman@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7629

@haltman

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