2009 Dover AFB Open House & Airshow
Dover AFB, Delaware
Airshow report written on July 1, 2009.
The 2009 airshow season featured a rare airshow at Dover AFB - the first show at the base since 2006. There was a show proposed for the 2008 airshow season, but due to the reconstruction of Runway 14/32, no show was going to take place until the runway was finished. In addition, two new aircraft made Dover AFB home since 2006 - the C-17 Globemaster III and the C-5M Super Galaxy - both of which performed a demonstration each day. The show lineup was similar to that of the 2006 show, with the Thunderbirds headlining, a Super Hornet demonstration (with a Legacy Flight featuring a Corsair), warbird flights (one with a P-47 and P-51, one with a paid of L-Birds, and the B-25 Mitchell Panchito), Matt Chapman representing the only performer flying aerobatics in an airplane designed for high performance aerobatic flight. The other aerobatic performers - Herb & Ditto, Josh Wilson, Julie Clark, Matt Younkin, Sean Carroll, and the Aeroshell Aerobatic Team - flew their performances in aircraft that are considered as warbirds. The Wings of Blue Parachute Team were also in attendance, jumping from a UH-60 Blackhawk operated by the Delaware Army National Guard. Bill Braack also was in attendance with the Air Force Reserve Jet Car.
One of the highlights of the Dover show, besides the Thunderbirds, was the newest version of the C-5 Galaxy. Prior to 2007, there were three versions of the C-5 flying with the Air Force. The C-5A, of which approximately fifty-five or so remaining in service, made its first flight in 1968 and entered service by 1970. The C-5B made its first flight in 1985 and fifty were built. The C-5C is essentially a highly modified C-5A, featuring a two-fold cargo door and the rear passenger compartment removed so that larger pieces of equipment can be transported (think NASA rockets and components, since NASA utilizes the two C-5Cs). One C-5C was actually a C-5A that was involved in an accident many years ago. The newest version of the C-5 is the C-5M Super Galaxy, which is a highly modified C-5B, featuring a brand new glass cockpit and brand new General Electric CF6 engines, which generate 20% more thrust per engine than the old TF39s. The CF6s make the C-5M's takeoff roll shorter, makes the aircraft quieter (and gets rid of the distinctive whine that defined the C-5), improve fuel efficiency and range, and cruise at a much higher altitude. As of this writing, there are only three C-5Ms, and plans are set to modify the remaining 49 C-5Bs and the two C-5Cs into C-5Ms. Two modification programs make a C-5B/C into an M - the Avionics Modernization Program (AMP), which brings the glass cockpit, and the Reliability Enhancement Re-Engining Program (RERP). One C-5M flew during the show on Saturday and Sunday, and put on a spectacular takeoff performance and showed off just how quiet the airplane is. It sounds more like a C-17 than a C-5A/B!
In addition to the C-5M, the Dover crews also put a C-17 into the sky for a demonstration. Like all other C-17 demonstrations, this included the standard C-17 demo profile: a maximum performance takeoff, high speed pass, slow speed pass, minimum radius turn, and an assault landing. While this wasn't the most aggressive C-17 demo, it was still a treat seeing a Dover C-17 perform a demonstration. The demo aircraft was also one of the newer C-17s, having been delivered in November 2007. The 3rd Airlift Squadron at Dover had transitioned from the C-5 to the C-17 in 2007, and now carries thirteen C-17s to its name. The base once had up to 36 C-5s based, and because of the movements of BRAC, that number has been cut to half to approximately eighteen C-5s based at Dover. Many of the Bs that were stationed at Dover went to Westover AFB in Massachusetts (whose As went to Martinsburg, WV and to retirement at the Boneyard). It's going to take some time getting used to seeing C-17s based at Dover, as for decades the base has been exclusively a C-5 base.
Among the highlights of the aerobatic performers were the Aeroshell Aerobatic Team. For me, it was rather bittersweet seeing the team perform at Dover that weekend because it's the first time I've seen them perform without Alan Henley leading the team. If you are unaware of the circumstances around Alan, I will do my best to explain it. Last year, Alan suffered a severe neck and spinal cord injury while playing with his kids. It has left him without the use of his arms and legs and as the months go by after the accident, Alan is very slowly regaining the strength back in his arms. The progress has been very slow and has resulted in many setbacks, but Alan keeps fighting and keeps his spirits well throughout his recovery. His wife Jennifer has kept strong in the face of adversity and we all have been saying our prayers for the best of everything for the Henley family. The airshow industry as a whole, mourning the news of Alan's injury, had set up and planned a once-in-a-lifetime benefit airshow for the Henley family. The airshow was held in the middle of April at Cecil Field in Jacksonville, Florida, and featured dozens of aerobatic and military performers. Every performer at that show volunteered their time, effort, and covered all of their expenses to fly this show to benefit one of their own, and the weather that weekend was absolutely spectacular. Unfortunately for me, it was one of the few airshows I wanted to get to this year but was unable to do so because of circumstances beyond my control. Alan and Jennifer did make it out to the airshow - flown to the show site via a C-47 which was escorted by the Aeroshell Aerobatic Team (you could say that once again, Alan was back in the lead position with the team). It was a huge success for Alan - especially in terms of his health - so much so that the entire family even got to go to Disney World after the airshow!
The weather that weekend at Dover wasn't the best for an airshow. Friday's weather was mostly cloudy, but still allowed for the Thunderbirds to fly a high show. Saturday's weather was the worst I've experienced at an airshow this season, with rain and thunderstorms all morning and early afternoon. The storms did clear out in time for some flying to take place, but the Thunderbirds could not fly their show because of a threat of tornadoes approaching the Dover area. The rainfall totals on Saturday must've totaled to at least three inches, since the car parking lots for the public and for the media looked almost like the Florida Everglades (as did the crowd area at show left, which was on grass). Sunday's weather was cold, breezy, and overcast, with a cloud deck at about 3,500 feet the entire day. The Thunderbirds did start out flying a low show, but switched to a high show, since the clouds started lifting towards the end of the day. However, the show was a good one, and if the weather had cooperated the entire weekend, it would have been absolutely spectacular. I would like to thank the Dover AFB Public Affairs department for their hospitality during the entire weekend and especially during the thunderstorms on Saturday.
And for the record, I think I heard a small sonic boom during the last high speed pass by the Super Hornet on Sunday (this was when the Corsair was doing a touch-and-go). It was not a full-fledged sonic boom because only parts of the airplane were going faster than the speed of sound and I know I heard a distinctive boom that I've never heard before at an airshow.
Military Demonstration Teams
USAFA Wings of Blue
Military Aircraft Demonstrations
C-5M Super Galaxy Demonstration
C-17 Globemaster III Demonstration
F/A-18F Super Hornet Demonstration - VFA-106
Aerobatic Performances, Warbird Performances, and Others
Aeroshell Aerobatic Team
Matt Younkin - Twin Beech
Herb & Ditto
Air Force Reserve Jet Car
B-25 Mitchell Panchito
US Navy Legacy Flight
Warbirds Over Long Island
American Airpower Museum