2023 Leesburg, VA Airshow

"Virginia is for lovers"...of aviation!

Chaz J.T.

10/5/20234 min read

Scott Francis performing acrobatics
Scott Francis performing acrobatics

Virginia's state motto is "Virginia is for Lovers." That may or may not be the case, but if you put "of aviation" behind it, that one I know is true. This was my second time attending Leesburg, VA's annual show, and I can say it keeps getting better every year. Hosted by the Leesburg Executive Airport and run by Schultz Airshows, this year featured some of the best weather you could ask for: high temperatures in the 70s and blue skies with puffy clouds abounding, making for a dramatic background for flight.

This is undoubtedly one of the best free attendance airshows you can go to. Parking is off-site at a local high school as well as a nearby sports complex, with shuttle buses taking folks to the airport from both locations.

Static displays included the DC-3 "Yukon Sourdough" with its iconic green and yellow paint scheme, plus the Air Heritage Museums C-47 "Luck of the Irish," a visitor of this past June's WWII Weekend in Reading, PA too. A large draw for the static display section was Liberty Warbirds' UH-1 Huey helicopter, a machine that served in the Vietnam War.

The flying portion of the event kicked off with two Boeing Stearman biplanes from "The Flying Circus," based in Bealeton, VA. Both aircraft carried a skydiver, one with the American flag and one with the Virginia state flag. After the skydivers initiated their jump, the national anthem was performed, and the show was officially underway.

Next up was Chris Thomas flying a SNJ-2 (US Navy trainer version of the T-6 Texan), performing his solo routine. Chris flies as part of the two-ship Warbird Thunder act, which flew later in the show. The distinct growl of the SNJ-2 is something I could listen to all day at an airshow, so this was a great opening demonstration.

RJ Gritter was the next pilot to take to the skies, putting on quite the show with his SJ3 Cub comedy flight. It takes skill to fly a plane well; it takes phenomenal skill to pretend to fly a plane badly! The diverse crowd of all ages ate it up and loved every bit of it.

"Chef Pitts," the nickname of professional chef-turned-aerobatic pilot Clemens Kuhlig, took to the skies next, flying his Pitts biplane in a striking red paint scheme. Loops, rolls, hammerhead stalls, you name it, he flew it. In addition to having the usual white smoke commonly seen in aerobatic acts, he also had red and blue smoke canisters on the wingtips. This led to some great photo opportunities! He also wowed the crowd with an upside-down ribbon-cutting pass low to the ground, which he performed perfectly.

Following Chef Pitts, a Stearman biplane from "The Flying Circus" took to the skies again, this time with a daredevil passenger! For the next few minutes, a wing walker held the crowd in awe as she hung from the airplane by her feet for one pass before climbing up onto the top wing of the airplane and thrilling the crowd some more. This demonstration of the barnstorming era of aviation was a big hit with the crowd.

The next performance drew the loudest reaction from the crowd as Scott Francis and his MSX aerobatic airplane tore up the skies with raw power and speed. Scott put on moves that seemed to defy the laws of physics and drew oohs and ahhs from both kids and adults in the crowd with every pass.

Pulling double duty, RJ Gritter hopped into his Decathlon airplane and pulled off stunts that a high-wing aircraft shouldn't be able to do, with one of the highlights being a long upside down pass above the runway.

Chris Thomas and Mike "Buick" Eberhardt, the duo known as "Warbird Thunder," roared into the skies for the final aerial demonstration of the day. Their SNJ-2 aircraft glistened in the bright sun as they put on a show worthy of the finale. I personally loved the opposing passes, something you usually only see with jet aircraft team demos. After their flight, it was time to head to the exits. I would like to thank all the pilots and crew, Schultz Airshows, the Civil Air Patrol, Leesburg Executive Airport, and all other folks who helped to put on a great afternoon of flight! Looking forward to next year!