Class Of '45

Prose & Photography: Ryan Kelly, Ryan Tykosh, James Woodard

Showcasing two of the most iconic warbirds in history, a P-51 Mustang and F4U-4 Corsair, the Class Of ‘45 has been on the airshow circuit since 2014. Watching Scott “Scooter” Yoak artfully attacking the skies with his stunning P-51 Mustang “QuickSilver” is a sight to behold on its own, but add the gracefully flown Corsair “Korean War Hero”, expertly piloted by Jim “Torc” Tobul, and the experience ratchets up a few notches; clearly more than the sum of their parts. Jim and Scott have the only Mustang-Corsair formation act in the country. The team was built to honor the service personnel who flew and maintained these legendary American fighters. With both “Korean War Hero” and “Quicksilver” being built in 1945, it was natural that the team would be known as “Class Of 45”. 

We are thrilled to announce that after six months of working out schedules and logistics, Full Disc Aviation was granted the opportunity have the Class Of '45 in front of our lenses for an exclusive sunset/night photoshoot that included a simultaneous engine run up! Meeting up with Jim and Scott at Thunder Over Michigan was an honor. These two men come from warbird families, their fathers (Joe Tobul and Bill Yoak) both having a strong influence in their respective paths to flight, and their mission of displaying living history across the country while at the same time honoring veterans resonates strongly with us. 

Both aircraft have storied histories with deep meaning attached to each one; both historically and emotionally. Both restorations were performed by father and son, but "Korean War Hero" is a combat veteran, with more than 200 missions to her name. Flying from two different carriers, "Korean War Hero" performed her combat duties by a handful of pilots off the decks of the USS Boxer and the USS Valley Forge. After her US service, she was employed by the Honduran Air Force for a decade before coming back to US shores and finding the Tobul family. 

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Quicksilver is an entirely different beast; a P-51 Mustang painstakingly restored over 16 years from the guts of over 200 Mustangs. The paint scheme is steeped in tribute; each detail and adornment is purposefully added to the Mustang with a meaning behind each one. For instance, the bare metal on the aircraft's skin is polished to a high shine, and if you look closely into the metal, you can see for whom our veterans fought. On this night, the polished skin reflected our small gathering and the glowing Michigan sky.

We briefed, shifted the aircraft around (thanks to the ramp crew for staying late to help out), set up our lighting rigs and got to work manipulating camera settings. We could not have asked for a better sunset for the shoot. The colors in the Michigan sky begged to be photographed, and adding some classic warbirds in the foreground made it all the more spectacular. 

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Once the last bit of sunlight had faded, the moment of truth had arrived, and the Class of '45 fired up their steeds. During this 15 minute run, we were able to shoot from multiple angles, doing our best to capture the beauty before us. Before the run up was over, Jim kindly folded the wings up on the Corsair, inspiring some unique images showcasing this movement that the Corsair is known for. 

Before we knew it, it was time to take a breath, sit back and appreciate what had just happened; the first simultaneous night engine run-up with the only Mustang-Corsair formation flying team. Cooling off, the engines were ticking quietly after the roar of internal combustion fell silent, and I'm sure a few of our camera shutters were smoldering too. Of course, this would not have been possible without the hard work put in by all those involved. We would like to express our deepest gratitude to Jim and Shelley Tobul and Scott Yoak for giving us the opportunity to spend some quality time with them and their living, fire-breathing history. 

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