Community gathers to celebrate Warbirds over Salem

P-51 Mustang modeled after the old crow Bud Anderson fighter ace. Plane by Kevin Grapes
WW2 Hawter Hurricane part of the Royal Air Force. Plane by Andrew Phillips.
Stolen P-47 modeled after actual German pilot. Plane by David Crouch.
P-51 Mustang modeled after the Big Beautiful Doll. Plane by David Reynolds.

When Frank Willis went to bed on September 9 he thought that he would spend the following Saturday morning going for a ten-mile jog.

That plan changed once his neighbor told him about The Roanoke Valley Radio Control Club (RVRC). “I initially thought that RVRC was a 90s music group,” he jokingly said. “After doing some research, I quickly discovered just how much the organization has to offer. I was really impressed with their website.”

Nearly three hundred people – including Frank – gathered last Saturday, September 16, at the RVRC’s 525 McClelland St. location to experience the Second Annual Warbirds over Salem event. In addition to 20 pilots flying a variety of model aircrafts which included replicas of airplanes from World War I through the Korean War, several local veterans were also honored.

“My favorite part of Saturday’s show was performing in the Baa Baa Black Sheep and D-Day demonstrations,” RVRC Vice President Derrick Smith said. “I also enjoyed seeing the military vehicle static displays and the camaraderie between the guests, pilots, veterans and children.”

RVRC Secretary Richard Littleton teaching kids how to fly on the simulator.

Derrick added: “Last year the event was held in mid-October and ended up being rather cold with wind gusts up to 40 mph. It made it very difficult to fly and I believe also kept people away,” he said. “This year we moved it to mid-September plus added the full scale L4 Grasshopper and the F4 Phantom Cockpit.”

Attendees were entertained for nearly five hours. Arial demonstrations? Good food? Flight simulator games? Saturday’s event had it all. “I enjoyed the festive atmosphere. Although the planes were the main attraction, I had fun looking at all the military vehicles on display,” Katie Eggleston said. “There are things you see in movies and read about in books, but it’s so much more poignant to see them in person.”

Gary Jordan served as Contest Director for Saturday’s event. “It is always a good idea to remember our veterans who so bravely and proudly fought for our country,” he said. “I served in the US Navy on the USS Barbel SS581 and have a son in the USN who is currently in Bahrain.”

Frank Kingery echoed that sentiment. “I served in the Korean War and could tell stories for days. We have a great military now, but back in those days things were a lot different,” he said.

Visitors are always welcome at RVRC. There is usually flight activity any day temperatures are above 50° and wind is less than 10mph, according to Derrick Smith. “The public is always welcome to come watch us fly, or to gather more info about the club. Please visit our website at or on Facebook page for more info,” he said.

Derrick Smith and Gary Jordan.