Guests from all over make their descent into annual French Valley air show

Ryan Laplan, a pilot himself, views the vintage warplanes on display during the French Valley Wings and Wine Air Show. Shane Gibson photo

Lexington Howe


A 1961 Piper Comanche with the name ‘Lil Gunfighter sat out for guests to view at the second annual French Valley Wings and Wine Air Show, Saturday, Nov. 9, at the French Valley Airport.

The paint, a dark green hue, had a thin red stripe that stretched from the tip of the nose down the side that glistened against the sunny, clear sky. Robert Martinez bought the plane with his partner, and at first they hated the paint scheme until they found out the history behind it.

The airplane had originally been flown by a general who had painted it in the same scheme as the P-51 Mustang Gunfighter from World War II, Martinez said.

“I’ve been flying for seven years,” Martinez said, now a retired firefighter. “It’s always been a passion of mine to fly, and before I couldn’t afford it. I’ve got three kids, four grandkids now and life gets in the way, financially, so I learned to fly when I was 55 years old but I love it. I enjoy it.”

The French Valley air show attracted thousands of guests, and among the lineup of planes were helicopters and classic cars, food vendors and a lineup of flight performances that ended with Kent Pietsch landing his Jelly Belly-sponsored plane, an 800-pound Interstate Cadet on top of a moving truck going 65 mph.

Kirk McQuown has been flying for 57 years and started when he was 11 years old. He stood beside a Lockheed C-40, the first all-metal airplane owned by the Yanks Air Museum in Chino.

“I was trained by a woman pilot that flew in World War II as a Women Airforce Service Pilot, a WASP, and I’ve been flying ever since,” McQuown said. “This plane is the only one of this model left in existence.”

It displays ‘U.S. Army’ underneath its wings. McQuown said that this plane gets confused with a Twin Beechcraft model.

“Lockheed gave up building the C-40 because they were going to build the P-38 Lightning, which is being flown by Steve Hinton today,” McQuown said. “They’re beautiful planes, absolutely beautiful.”

While guests came out to take pictures and learn the rich history of some of the historic planes, many came out to see the demonstrations. Pietsch, who flew the Jelly Belly-sponsored aircraft, flew several times across the runway before landing the plane on the moving truck. Before this flight, the Red Eagles Formation Team, a Warbird aerobatic formation team, flew side-by-side to draw a heart with white streaky contrails across the sky.

Jeff Goodwin, a chief pilot for the Executive Flight Institute, has been flying since he was 5 years old.

“My father was a flight instructor. It scared me to death at first, but I got used to it, and then pretty soon I got used to flying and that’s all you ever really want to do,” Goodwin said.

For more information on the annual event, visit

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