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EAA AirVenture Oshkosh RSS Feed Historical paint schemes adorn Navy planes at AirVenture

Story and photos by FREDERICK A. JOHNSEN
A Hornets’ nest at AirVenture 2011 includes a modern digital camouflage-inspired scheme, foreground, and a classic tri-color blue-and-white World War II rendition on another F/A-18, rear.
Capt. Mark Hubbard
Navy Capt. Mark "Mutha" Hubbard mugs with a centennial F/A-18C Hornet on ConocoPhillips Plaza.

It is history in living color on ConocoPhillips Plaza as 15 different vintage Navy paint schemes rotate all week long for the art appreciation of AirVenture 2011 attendees. The U.S. Navy is celebrating the Centennial of Naval Aviation all year and part of that celebration are these aircraft that were slated for repainting and earned the vintage scheme instead. These legacy birds will not change their feathers back right away, at least not until the next painting cycle.

On the ramp, Capt. Mark A. Hubbard (call sign Mutha, of course) is at the crossroads of it all.

His profession—commander, Strike Fighter Wing Pacific—nicely overlays with his membership in EAA and his avocation of flying the Commemorative Air Force’s F6F Hellcat in California.

And on the side, he owns two vintage Navy training warbirds—a genuine Stearman N2S-3 and a North American SNJ-6.

Capt. Hubbard revels in flying anything from antiques to supersonic F/A-18 Hornet jet fighters. “It’s my golf game,” he explains. “I don’t have an athletic bone in my body.”

But he gets to fly.

He’s letting some of the younger sticks have a chance to fly the centennial jets during AirVenture. Yet at a self-confessed 50 years old, Hubbard easily carries the fighter-pilot swagger.

And then he starts talking about engaging the next generation in flying, in the Navy, in the world of tomorrow, and you see the fighter pilot become the mentor.

An inside loop
Hubbard recalls how his father, a former Air Force enlisted troop, took him to an air show when he was a boy and urged him to follow a career that would let him “be on the inside of the airplane instead of the outside.”

Hubbard followed the dream. But he’s not heady about it.

“It’s not just about becoming a fighter pilot; it’s about finding your niche.”

He has nothing but praise for the enlisted navy personnel, some as young as 18 years old, who have responsibility for keeping shipshape the F/A-18s he flies. “I ride to victory on the backs of my sailors every day,” he says with deference.

“I’m just a stick monkey; you could train anyone to do this.”

And that’s why he’s so happy to engage the public at AirVenture 2011. He likes to share what he does—what the Navy does—in a way that invites young people to participate wherever their strengths and interests point them.

Hubbard says the operations tempo in the Navy is such that he has to work his people 12 hours on duty, 12 hours off.

That can work out to a paycheck lower than minimum wage for some of his enlisted members, so he knows his people are in it “to be part of something bigger than themselves,” and not for the money.

And that spirit obviously animates Mutha Hubbard as he chats with visitors and mugs with them for photos beside the triple-tone F/A-18 that carries his name on the fuselage.

Marked for history
He had a hand in its markings, requesting the World War II geometric symbols that represented the aircraft carrier USS Hornet, homage to the past as well as to the Hornet jet that carries the wartime paint and markings this year.

The colorful array of historic Navy paint schemes at AirVenture 2011 owes its genesis to another Navy captain here this year, Capt. Rich Dann.

He’s the official director of history and outreach for the Centennial of Naval Aviation.

With a background as a graphic artist, Dann drew about 23 of the 27 paint schemes for this centennial year.

Pretty ambitious for a project with no budget.

The frugal Navy simply looked for aircraft that were coming up on their normal cycle for periodic repainting and selected them to receive vintage paint jobs instead.

One brand-new Hawker Beechcraft T-6 Texan II trainer was delivered from the plant in a vintage yellow training scheme, courtesy of the builder at no charge to the Navy, Dann notes.

Which also means the gorgeous artwork won’t disappear at the stroke of midnight this New Year’s Eve.

The legacy birds will keep flying in their special warpaint until their next regular painting cycle, which in some cases is seven years out.

“Some will go to the boneyard this way,” Dann says. “There has been some interest expressed by museums in getting some of these birds,” he adds.

The oldest era represented in the centennial paint schemes is a 1916 anchor insignia replicated on a Bell H-57 helicopter that visited AirVenture 2011.

Dann says the “newest” old scheme, on a jet not present, depicts test markings from the Navy’s vast China Lake weapons testing facility, circa 1962.

Dann is quick to point out his source for getting the colors and markings correct is from the “spec”—the government paint and markings specification known as 595b.

Modelers and restorers rely on the actual paint chips contained in the 595b to accurately match colors.

And it shows, especially on the World War II triple-tone camouflage applied to Hubbard’s F/A-18, or the 1942 Catalina sea camouflage carried by a P-3 that visited AirVenture earlier this week.

“I’m glad the Navy has had such a large presence here,” Dann says. “I think the middle of the country needs to see their Navy.”

Dann is right at home here—he grew up in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.

Then again, for anyone with aviation leanings, AirVenture feels like coming home.


FUTURE AIRVENTURE DATES: 2014: July 28-Aug. 3; 2015: July 20-26; 2016: July 25-31; 2017: July 24-30
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