Dozens of historic planes from the World War II era are on display in Dubuque this week for training.
Through Sunday, pilots from the North American Trainer Association are in Dubuque from all over the country to train for the Oshkosh, Wisconsin airshow, one of the biggest airshows in the country. The training is happening at Dubuque Regional Airport where people can see the planes in action firsthand.
They’re flying AT-6 Texans, planes that were used to train pilots during WWII.
"What they’re doing is just preparing to give a great airshow in Wisconsin, so all of these beautiful aircraft just get together, practice, get into a proper formation and spend their time flying around Dubuque. Locking that formation in nice and tight, so that it looks absolutely perfect when they fly over a crowd of 100,000 people," airport manager, Robert Grierson, said.
The training was disrupted for much of Friday morning to afternoon, due to clouds being too low, which left the carriers grounded. To make up for that, pilots were running through the flight formations on the ground by walking through them.
Pilots said this year’s upcoming performance is extra special because it’s the 80th anniversary of the AT-6.
Flight leader, Todd Winemiller, said it’s important to recognize and remember the planes and the pilots that once flew them.
"Remember the people that gave their lives, and this is a free country and these aircraft were a piece of that history, so to just keep the young people alive. I didn’t have to experience a war," he said.
Winemiller was only a kid during the Vietnam War.
"We’ve had conflicts and wars since then but hasn’t really impacted our lives. When we don’t have that, we kind of forget to thank those men and women who gave their lives and those that are still serving our country," Winemiller said.
To celebrate 80 years of the AT-6, the pilots are trying to create a special formation of the number 80 in the sky. Winemiller said it will require 28 of the planes in formation to do so.
The airport expects 60 of the carriers to be in by the weekend. This is the 13th year that the training has taken place in Dubuque.
Grierson said, each year, the training pumps in thousands of dollars into the Dubuque economy.
The public is invited to watch the training from the airport’s observation area by the terminal building from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. this weekend. The airport suggests those interested bring a lawn chair, sunscreen, and plenty of water to watch.