2004 Joint Services Open
Andrews AFB, MD
May 15-16, 2004
Airshow report written on May
Every year on Armed Forces Day (and weekend), the folks at Andrews AFB in Camp Springs, Maryland put on an impressive airshow featuring military aircraft from all branches of the armed forces, or at least they try to put on that impressive show. I am saying that because starting in 2000, Andrews AFB's show has been ruined by the forces of nature. The 2000 show featured both US jet demonstration teams, and it was cold and a lingering mist cancelled 95% of the flying display for the weekend. The 2001, 2002, and 2003 shows received a similar fate, with some flying taking place but everything was grounded because of the bad weather. You could say that Andrews has been cursed with bad weather. The open house held at Andrews is appropriately named the Joint Services Open House, as all branches of the armed forces are in force, both in the flying display and in the static display.
The 2004 Joint Services Open House was my first airshow at Andrews since 2000, mainly because of the weather in the past years' shows. For the second year in a row, the Joint Services Open House was held on the same weekend as another show site closer to my home. Last year it was Millville, who featured the Blue Angels and Snowbirds while Andrews had the Thunderbirds. This year the Joint Services Open House was going against Dover AFB's show. Andrews had the Blue Angels and the Snowbirds while Dover had the Thunderbirds. I was smart last year and went to Millville both days, rather than Andrews one day and Millville the next. This year, the original plan was to go to Dover only, but after thinking about Andrews over and over, I decided that I had to attend Andrews one day and Dover the other.
As I mentioned about the weather, this year's show at Andrews seemed to break that long curse of bad weather. It was a beautiful day, with some clouds hanging over the show area, helping out to block the sun in the morning because Andrews is terrible for photography before 1:00 pm. As you face towards the show area, the sun is directly in front of you until in the afternoon, when it moves behind you. I had attended the Saturday show, which had the best weather of the two days. Our day ("our", since it was my dad, my friend Keith, and myself heading down to the show) started very early, since we left Marlton at 4:30 am and arrived at FedEx Field around 7:15 am. It was a 2½ hour drive, if you don't count the rest stop, which seemed reasonable since it used to take us 2½ hours to get to Baltimore, where that would take 90 minutes at most. After going through security - who wouldn't allow bottled water, might I add - we waited in line to board a Metrobus to Andrews. I can understand beverages but water is a necessity and it is the easiest to check. Metro had screwed up bigtime, as far as where to drop off the spectators onto the show site, so our bus and all of the buses in front of us and behind us had to turn around and re-enter to drop us off by bomber row.
Now, on to the static displays. Rare aircraft included an F/A-22 Raptor from Nellis AFB (tailcode OT), an F-15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon from Nellis (OT tailcode and probably support and chase aircraft for the Raptor), an MV-22 Osprey from MCAS Cherry Point, a mockup of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a re-engined RC-135V Rivet Joint, and an E-3 Sentry from Offutt AFB. Fighters included an F-117 Nighthawk, F-16 Fighting Falcon from the DC ANG, a pair of F-15E Strike Eagles from Seymour-Johnson AFB, the Marines' CAG F/A-18 Hornet from VMFA-321, AV-8B Harrier II+ from MCAS Cherry Point, F-4F Phantom from Holloman AFB, EA-6B Prowlers from VMAQ-4 and from Whidbey Island. Trainers included a pair of T-38 Talons from Columbus AFB, a pair of T-38 Talons from Holloman AFB, T-37 Tweet from Laughlin AFB, T-6A Texan II from Randolph AFB, T-1A Jayhawk from Laughlin AFB, T-34C Mentor from Pensacola, T-2 Buckeye from NAS Meridian, and a T-45 Goshawk from Meridian. Transports included a C-141C Starlifter from WPAFB, C-130 Hercules from Dyess AFB, C-130T Hercules from NAS Patuxent River, HC-130J Hercules from CGAS Elizabeth City, KC-135R Stratotanker from Andrews, KC-10 Extender from McGuire AFB, C-5A Galaxy from Travis AFB, C-17A Globemaster III from Charleston AFB, C-40C Clipper from Andrews, C-38 from Andrews, and a C-21 Learjet from Andrews. Off in the distance was a C-32 that was parked, but not on the hot ramp or the static display. A B-1B Lancer from Dyess AFB and a B-52H Stratofortress frmo Minot AFB represented the bombers.
Helicopters included an AH-1W Cobra, VH-46 Sea Knight, VH-47 Chinnok, UH-60 Blackhawk, MH-60 Pavehawk, MH-53J Sea Dragon, MH-53E Pave Low, VH-60 Blackhawk, OH-58 Kiowa, AH-64A Apache, AH-64D Apache Longbow, TH-57 JetRanger, UH-1 Huey from Andrews, HH-65B Dauphin from CGAS Atlantic City, and an HH-65 Dauphin from the Maryland State Police. Warbirds included a P-51D Mustang, C-45, Val replica, B-25J Mitchell Panchito, SBD Dauntless, a pair of CJ-6As, and the Berlin Airlift Historical Foundation's C-54 Skymaster. I think thats everything.
While I was touring the static displays, the show had started. Andrews was nice enough to not give us an accurate schedule of events, since the show started at around 9:15 instead of the said 10:00, which made me miss out on the Army helicopter demonstration. I did, however, watch the demo, which consisted of an AH-64A Apache, an AH-64D Apache Longbow, and a UH-60 Blackhawk, demonstrating troop delivery and recovery in a hostile area, with the Apache and Longbow providing close air support. The Longbow was putting on the more spectacular display and even repositioned in a manner where its main rotor barely had room to recover! I didn't actually see it happening but I did see the maneuver he was performing, and no, I did not get it on video.
New to the Joint Services Open House is announcer Rob Reider, who took over the duties from Frank Kingston Smith. I have no idea why Frank wasn't invited back, but the fact that I'll see Frank at Langley is good enough and Andrews is the only show where I'd see Rob is good enough for me. After the helicopters performed, Sean Tucker took to the sky in a teaser performance. Sean added a maneuver or two in his show and I like what he added. I won't say what was added because you need to see it for yourself. In my opinion, he's still the best solo aerobatic performer in the country. As Sean was performing, several aircraft had their engines running and/or were taxiing to hold short. Those aircraft included the Golden Knights' C-31, Dan McCue in the Yak-9, the AV-8B Harrier, the L-39 Albatross, and the B-1B Lancer. The C-31 was the first aircraft to take to the air, and it did two flybys, with the last being a streamer drop before climbing to altitude. Dan McCue took the Yak-9 up in the air next to do a flyby before giving the show area to the Harrier.
As Dan exited, the AV-8B Harrier took off to perform its demonstration. This was by far the best Harrier demonstration I have ever seen because of the way he took off, which required a second high speed pass to reposition before hovering. During his high speed passes, he was pulling some vapor off the top of the wings. What made the demo more spectacular is that he performed a vertical takeoff rather than a super short rolling takeoff. His second hover was rather clean, before putting the gear down and performing a vertical landing. After the Harrier landed, Allen Smith departed with his L-39 to set up for his performance as Dan McCue returned to fly the Yak-9 in a demonstration. Dan has an L-39C Albatross that he flies regularly, usually at the RI ANG airshow. He flies the Yak a lot lower to the ground than when he flies the L-39, and it makes for some hair-raising points during the show, one of which I will describe later on.
After Dan landed the L-39, Allen Smith returned to perform a sneak pass from behind to start his performance. I had absolutely no idea that Dan and Allen would be performing at Andrews this weekend, so seeing them was a nice addition to the lineup. Allen flew a nice performance as he usually does. After he landed, the Golden Knights took to the stand. The first jumper, their announcer, came in with the POW/MIA flag while another lingered up for quite some time. I figured he would be the one with the flag, but it wasn't him. After he came down, the rest of the team was already in the air and had formed up a formation before breaking and performing individual landings. It seemed weird that there was no American flag jump and no national anthem being played, but I suppose the final flyby of the C-31 made up for that.
As the C-31 was rolling down the runway on its landing, the Air Force Reserve Above & Beyond Jet Car had its engine running and made its way down the taxiway and onto the show runway. His run clocked in at 318 mph. I should note that he didn't use the power all that much at Andrews, maybe a hair more than the amount of power he used at Millville. However, when the parachute pops out, he does slow down really quickly! Frank Ryder taxiied by and went up into the air for his performance. Frank has a good performance, but he's nowhere near as good as anyone like Sean Tucker or Patty Wagstaff or Jim LeRoy, and to see him fly in the morning was a good move by the JSOH team. As he was performing, Captain Ed Martin taxiied by in the T-6A Texan II to hold short of the runway. Frank put on his usual ground show by smoking up the area and taxiing by on the main wheels down show right and show left - where I was.
After Frank put on his little ground show, it was time for the T-6A Texan II East Coast Demo Team to take to the stage. The Texan II demo was a lot better and a lot longer than the demo flown at Willow Grove last year, and it was flown by a new pilot. I was expecting the aircraft to be flown by Capt. Kerry Tidmore but it was Capt. Ed Martin at the controls of the T-6A. Compared to the demo at Willow Grove, the demo at Andrews really showed off the capabilities of the Texan II. It is a very maneuverable aircraft and Capt. Martin demonstrated that very well. It is also very quiet. During the demonstration, the C-17 Globemaster III 01-0192 was pulled out of the static display, backed up, and began to taxi out to hold short of the runway for its demonstration.
After Captain Martin landed, it was time for the B-1B to take off. This particular Bone was from Dyess AFB in Texas and was to put on a demonstration at two show sites that weekend - Andrews AFB and Dover AFB. It was the first time I had seen a B-1 in action since 2001 and I was really looking forward to seeing it in flight. He took off within 3,500 feet, which was very impressive for an aircraft its size. It is also loud. He came around from the right for a pass with the wings swept forward in a "quiet" pass before going in the pattern around the base, coming back around from the right with the wings swept back. This time it was a high speed pass and a maximum performance climb to 12,000 feet. He literally thundered down the runway and climbed to depart for Dover.
After the Bone departed, the C-17 Globemaster III was positioned on the runway to start its demonstration. The demonstration included a very short takeoff run, a high speed pass, a dirty pass, a minimum radius turn with the rear door open, and a short-field landing and backing up. It has been a few years since I last saw a C-17 demo at an airshow and even though this was flown by a Charleston crew, it was a very nice display. The crew repositioned using some very tight turns and it was nice to see a C-17 landing in front of the crowd rather than way out in the distance, as was with the case at McGuire AFB four years ago. I can't wait to see the 305th Air Mobility Wing when they're equipped with C-17s, which should be sometime before the end of 2004.
After the C-17 taxiied off the runway, the Canadian Snowbirds had started their engines and ground show. They taxiied out to the runway and took off in their usual fashion of three elements of three aircraft. Immediately after they took off, the Air Force Reserve Above & Beyond Jet Car was started up again and made several burner pops prior to taxiing out to the runway for its run. He was caught at 323 mph on this run, just slight faster than the first run. After he was recovered, control was given back to the Snowbirds. The Snowbirds flew a high show, which is a bit different than their show from last year. They flew a couple different nine-plane formations and repositioned many maneuvers in different parts of the show and included new music and music they've used in the past, but in different parts of the show. The team looked absolutely perfect at Andrews and if this is how they look in their third week of flying airshows, I can't wait to see how good they look two months from now! However, there is one aspect of the show that didn't sit real well and it was with the smoke systems on the Tutors.
Right after the Snowbirds landed, and I mean right after, six C-130 Hercules appeared over the horizon out at show right, carrying over 200 members of the 82nd Airborne Parachute Division. All six C-130s were set and spaced out about 2,500 feet between each aircraft, flying at an altitude of about 800 feet and at a speed of about 150 mph as the 82nd Airborne jumped out of the C-130s. It was a sight to behold and it was a huge uproar from the crowd as Rob Reider mentioned that these jumpers have returned from Iraq not too long ago. After the C-130s left to reposition, the Snowbirds returned to the flight line and taxiied in to their parking spot.
The six C-130s returned to do an individual break to land with their gear down. As they were landing, I took the time to look at where each Herc was from. The first three C-130s were from Pope AFB, the fourth was from Youngstown, Ohio, the fifth is from a Reserve unit that looks like it has a yellow band, and the sixth was from Martinsburg, West Virginia. There was a break in the action as the Hercs parked out on the far end of the base to pick up the members of the 82nd Airborne and send them back to Fort Bragg. As they were loading up the Hercs, the B-1 came back from its demonstration at Dover and performed a missed approach, hitting the afterburners and then landed.
After the B-1 landed, the six C-130 Hercules all lined up on the show runway and performed individual departures back to Pope AFB/Fort Bragg. It was pretty much a mass C-130 departure, to say the least. After the six C-130s departed, Dan McCue took to the air once again in the Yak-9. Dan flew the Yak better than Sean Carroll flies his Yak, but I prefer Sean's Yak over Dan's, in terms of paint scheme. As I stated earlier, Dan flew the Yak very aggressively - coming down on the deck numerous times, with one that was a little too low. From my vantage point, Dan came out of a looping maneuver as if he did not have control of the aircraft and recovered with merely inches to spare between the plane and the ground. However, that's not entirely true, since Andrews has a drainage ditch between the two runways and by the altitude that Dan came in at, he still had at least five feet working for him. After that close encounter, Dan landed the Yak.
Sean Tucker was up next. As he was about to begin his performance, the F-117 Nighthawk departed on the far runway for its demonstration at Dover AFB. Sean's performance is a tiny bit different this year as he has added a new maneuver or two to his already supurb performance. Believe it or not, Sean's performance is the only aerobatic performance I have memorized. One of his newest maneuvers is the inverted high alpha pass and he does it real well! After Sean landed, it was time for the A-10 East Coast Demo Team to take to the stage. Captain Matthew Kouchoukos took the A-10 through a very nice demonstration, which was heavily modified for the 2004 airshow season. The new A-10 demo is longer, includes more vertical maneuvers, as well as displaying the A-10 in both the conventional role (the attack passes) and in its maneuverability and capabilities. I was really impressed with the demo and hope this is the standard for the A-10 demos for the rest of the year and into next season.
After the A-10 landed, it was time for the F-16 East Coast Demo Team to take to the skies. Captain Jeff Hickman put the Viper through a supurb display. He seemed to fly it a little further away from the crowd than Captain Ed Casey did last year. It seems like instead of a dirty pass into the muscle climb, he performed a high alpha pass into the muscle climb. After Captain Hickman landed, a pair of UH-1 Hueys from Andrews AFB were launched and performed several passes down the flight line with photographers on board taking pictures of the crowd. There was no Heritage Flight because Ed Shipley was stuck in the weather that was in the midwest.
After the Hueys landed, it was time for the F/A-18F Super Hornet demonstration to take the stage. This was the demo I was really looking forward to. I had seen the Super Hornet demo at Dayton last year and was impressed with it, even though it mirrored the "baby" Hornet's demonstration. Lt. Ted "Bunza" Steelman and Lt. Kim "Grace" Arrington (yes, there was a woman in the back seat!) put the Rhino (or Superbug or Super Hornet, however way you want to call it) through one of the most intense, kick-in-the-pants demonstration I have ever seen from ANY military airplane. The performance mirrors the 2001 demonstration routine flown by Super Hornet pilots but this time the performance is flown tighter and uses more outside repositioning maneuvers than inside maneuvers. The demo lives up to its expectations, but I believe it smashes those expectations. Maneuvers included are the dirty roll on takeoff, an inverted whisper pass, the square loop, to name a few. The only gripe I have about it is that I wanted to see Spanky fly it since he was the main pull for the performance. If the Super Hornet flies at a show site close to you or not close to you, go see it.
After the Super Hornet landed, the F-117 Nighthawk came back from Dover to perform its demonstration. Its first pass was from behind the crowd - something I've never seen an F-117 do in the past. Including the "sneak pass", the F-117 performed four flybys, with a very low approach included before landing and giving the show control over the Blue Angels. The Blue Angels overall show is different in the fact that they've added music to the performance. It's a nice change but it's something that I'm going to have to get used to. Fat Albert performed his JATO, along with the high speed pass and short-field landing. The Blue Angels took off under high show conditions, but were forced to fly the low show because of the positioning of some clouds. The team looked good for the most part but they still showed signs where improvement is needed.
After the Blues landed and parked, we took the time to check out the rest of the static displays that I was unable to go through in the morning. We also spent time with Rob Reider and a fellow photographer and good friend of mine, Tyson Rininger. It was great to see both Rob and Tyson (enjoying the humidity there Tyson?). While heading back to the buses, the lines did seem long but they had Metro buses running in a very nice order. The only gripe was that we had a little delay getting onto FedEx Field because of volume. Overall, the drive to Andrews was well worth it!
Under the new rating system, consisting of either Excellent, Very Good, Good, Okay, Eh, or Poor, with a Plus and/or Minus when necessary, the 2004 Joint Services Open House at Andrews AFB falls under the Excellent Minus category. It gets the minus because of the strategic clouds positioned during the Blue Angels' performance and the lack of smoke for the Snowbirds' performance. I will be back next year!
Tentative Military Demonstrations
Announcer: Rob Reider