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Hawker Hurricane and T-6 Texan warbirds in flight over Finland

A warbird is any vintage military aircraft now operated by civilian organizations and individuals or, in some instances, by historic arms of military forces, such as the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, the RAAF Museum Historic Flight or the South African Air Force Museum Historic Flight.

Restored warbirds are a frequent attraction at airshows. Highly modified as well as "stock" warbirds can also frequently be seen at air races, since World War II-era fighters are among the fastest propeller-driven airplanes ever built. Some of the most popular warbirds for races are the North American P-51 Mustang, the Hawker Sea Fury, the Grumman F8F Bearcat and the North American T-6 Texan.


Although the term originally implied piston-driven aircraft from the World War II era, it is now often extended to include all airworthy former military aircraft, including jet-powered aircraft. Vintage jet aircraft in airworthy condition, however, are much rarer due to technical complexity.

Sometimes, modern production aircraft such as Allison V-1710-powered Yakovlev Yak-9s from Yakovlev and replicas and reproductions of vintage aircraft are called "warbirds", such as Messerschmitt Me 262s built by the Me 262 Project and Focke-Wulf Fw 190s by Flug + Werk; this can include any one of a large number of different aircraft designs from between World War I and the late 1930s, when military aircraft design was less complex. Such replicated warbirds may even be powered by vintage engines from the era of the aircraft design being flown, as Cole Palen and others associated with his institution did at Palen's Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome aviation museum with accurate and airworthy reproductions of the Fokker Dr.I, Fokker D.VII, Fokker D.VIII, Sopwith Camel and Sopwith Dolphin World War I aircraft.

Major operators of historic aircraftEdit

Restoration processEdit

Restored de Havilland Vampire warbird

Vintage warbird restoration, or classic aircraft restoration, is the process of taking aircraft from the previous era, and performing processes such as maintenance, repairs and refurbishments in order to restore these military aircraft to their original wartime state (minus any working weaponry). According to Classic Warplanes, some of the tasks performed on these vintage aircraft include:[2]

  • Structural repairs
  • Standard maintenance
  • Interior and exterior paint
  • Decals and stamps
  • Upholstery replacements
  • Control heads and radios
  • Parachutes, ejection seats, and ejection seat cartridges
  • Rewiring
  • Replacement of real weaponry with non-operating replicas

Air showsEdit

A Douglas SBD-5 Dauntless dive bomber is salvaged from the depths of Lake Michigan

There are several different types of warbirds such as the fighter, trainer, bomber, jet, transports, utility, etc. Examples of aircraft types include the North American P-51 Mustang, Vought F4U Corsair, Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, North American T-6 Texan, Beechcraft T-34 Mentor, Messerschmitt Bf 109, Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire.

There are great warbirds air-shows all over the world annually. Warbird Alley claims that some of the best-known air shows in the United States that feature warbirds are:[1]

In Europe, one of the best known warbird air show is the annual Flying Legends arranged in Imperial War Museum Duxford in UK. La Ferté-Alais air show in France collects warbirds annually too. Warbirds fly also in most of the Shuttleworth Collection flying days in UK every summer.

Clubs and organizationsEdit

Some organizations in the United States are:

  • Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA). The primary focus of the group started with building individual airplanes, and it soon grew to include antiques, classics, warbirds, aerobatic aircraft, ultralights, helicopters and contemporary manufactured aircraft.
  • Warbirds of America (WOA) is a non-profit organization formed in 1964. A year after its start, it became a branch of the EAA.
  • Classic Jet Aircraft Association (CJAA)

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e Warbird Museum Links Access date: 2009-01-27
  2. ^ Spick, Mike. Classic Warplanes. New York: Smithmark, 1991. ISBN 0-86101-622-X.

External linksEdit