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EAA AirVenture Today is published by the Experimental Aircraft Association for EAA AirVenture from July 27 - August 3. It is distributed free on the convention grounds as well as other locations in Oshkosh and surrounding communities. Stories and photos are copyrighted 2008 by EAA AirVenture Today and EAA. Reproduction by any means is prohibited without written consent.


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The official daily newspaper of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh

Volume 9, Number 3 July 29, 2008     

Warbirds program developer to receive President’s Award
By Barbara A. Schmitz

Connie Bowlin

It’s an understatement to say that Connie Bowlin likes warbirds. But it does help to explain why she’s given countless hours of her time to develop and maintain a program at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh that matches some of the most storied military aircraft to the pilots and others who have flown and cared for them.

Called Warbirds in Review, the program has grown in popularity and number of presentations since beginning in 2002.

Bowlin said she came up with the idea for Warbirds in Review after years of watching people walk among the military airplanes at Oshkosh. "If someone removed a cowling, or someone started talking about their plane as they were getting ready to fly, people would gather around. It was obvious that people liked hearing about the airplanes as much as they enjoyed seeing them."

Warbirds in Review allows aviation enthusiasts to not only see a plane, but also hear about how it flies or how the owner restored it, all in a central place near the Warbirds Cafe. Over the years, it grew to include veterans’ stories about the planes, too.

Bowlin said it hasn’t been hard to come up with airplanes and people willing to talk about them. The first year she organized seven presentations, or one each day of the fly-in convention. This year, people can chose among 14 presentations.

"The owners and veterans are very honored and willing to provide their airplanes and their time," she said. "A lot of these people are my friends, and they are enthusiastic and enjoy telling their stories. I just have to make a phone call."

However, she credits the program’s success to her volunteers as well as her moderators, Sam Bass and her brother-in-law, Dan Bowlin. But although all programs have been successful, some programs stand out more in her mind.

"Tex Hill is one of my favorite people, the greatest gentleman and leader ever," she said. "Two years ago Tex wasn’t able to make the event, so instead we did a tribute to Tex. You think of a program gone bad, yet it turned out to be one of the best."

Then in 2007, Gunther Rall, the Luftwaffe pilot who is the third leading ace of all time, appeared with WWII Ace Bob "Shorty" Rankin. "The two were enemies in World War II and fought in the same battle and now are good friends," Bowlin said. "The presentation showed the values of the people are very similar, regardless of what country they are representing."

While she makes it sound simple, the logistics of getting the planes and people to Oshkosh and then to the right place are anything but simple. For her work and dedication to warbirds, Bowlin will receive the President’s Award Tuesday at Theater in the Woods.

"Connie developed Warbirds in Review in 2002, and since then it has become one of AirVenture’s most popular daily features," said EAA President Tom Poberezny. "She also has been very involved in the warbirds air show over the years, and has served as a liaison between EAA and the warbird community."

Bowlin said many people exhibit the EAA spirit and are deserving of the award. "I marvel at the other people who are so dedicated…and wonder why we do this. But when I think about it, I know. We are pilots, and pilots are just different."

Bowlin herself is an accomplished warbird pilot. She has more than 18,000 flight hours in more than 70 types of aircraft and is currently the only woman flying the B-17. She holds various type ratings and is authorized to fly a wide range of high-performance single- and multiengine aircraft, including the P-51 Mustang, Republic P-47 Thunderbolt, North American T-28 Trojan, Lockheed T-33, and British Aerospace Jet Provost.

Bowlin said her love for warbirds started with flying the planes. But as she’s met the people behind the planes, she has become more and more enamored with the planes. "These people have such a sense of duty. You get pulled into it by the history and their dedication…."

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