WWII planes, pilots warm up for Friday flight over National Mall

WWII planes culpeper
World War II airplanes at Culpeper Airport, preparing to participate in Friday’s Arsenal of Democracy Flyover of the nation’s capital. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)

The growls and whines of World War II-era planes were loud and the flying precise as dozens of planes ranging in size from one-seaters to a restored DC-3 airliner Miss Virginia did a dress rehearsal for Friday’s Arsenal of Democracy Flyover, commemorating the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War.

At about 11:30 a.m. Friday, the planes will fly in highly restricted airspace, crossing the Capital Beltway near the American Legion Bridge, heading down the Potomac River, toward the National Mall.

High above Independence Avenue from the Lincoln Memorial to the U.S. Capitol, the planes will fly in historical formations past the nation’s monuments, before banking right and returning to the Manassas and Culpeper airports.

On Thursday, pilots and planes rehearsed their air ballet, drawing crowds to the two suburban Virginia airports.

Before taking off, pilots turned the propellers of their aging aircraft by hand as part of the safety inspection. Some older planes burped smoke as they first started, before settling into a rhythmic growl.

Some were inscribed with phrases from the 1940s: One read “Tuskegee Airmen,” the highly regarded group of African-American military pilots and airmen who fought in World War II.

After taking off Thursday, the planes headed toward D.C., but staged outside the Beltway.

On Friday, both Manassas and Culpeper airports will be closed to the public.

The flyover event will be livestreamed starting 10 a.m. Organizers hope people who want to see the flyover will wear face masks and find a vantage point along the Potomac rather than gathering on the National Mall.

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