2004 AirPower Over Hampton
Langley AFB, VA
May 21-23, 2004
Airshow report written on May
The area around Hampton Roads, Virginia is noted for its beaches and its military hospitality, as there are a large number of military facilities within a half hour of each other. I spent time on or near two major bases - NAS Oceana in Virginia Beach and Langley AFB in Hampton. Langley AFB is the host of the AirPower Over Hampton Roads airshow, while NAS Oceana plays host to the NAS Oceana Regional Airshow, which would be held in September. NAS Oceana is home to almost all of the F-14 Tomcat squadrons (which there are only about seven left, and Oceana does NOT have the two special Tomcat squadrons, which are at Point Mugu) and the entire Strike Fighter Wing Atlantic's element of Hornets. There are other types that are based at Oceana but they are rarely ever mentioned and they won't be mentioned here either. Langley AFB is home to the 1st Fighter Wing, which is comprised of the 27th Fighter Squadron, the 71st Fighter Squadron, and the 94th Fighter Squadron, all flying F-15C/D Eagles. There are also a few C-21A Learjets based at Langley, operating outside of ACC.
My original intention was to head down to Hampton Roads early Thursday, spend the day at Oceana, and be at Langley AFB on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, head up to the new Udvar-Hazy center on Monday, and drive home, thinking it was Memorial Day weekend. However, it was not Memorial Day weekend, and I had to drive home after the show on Sunday. The drive down to Virginia Beach on Thursday morning took about 5 hours and 10 minutes, not counting the two stops I made (one for gas and one just to walk around on the CBBT). I was offered a tour of NAS Oceana by the Assistant Air Operations Officer at Oceana, whom I met at Dallas back in December. Thursday's weather was horrible, as it was foggy the entire day, hampering operations at the base. The base tour consisted of visiting the various ramps full of Tomcats and Hornets, as well as heading out to Runway 5R to catch a takeoff and landing of a Tomcat and Hornet, respectively, and an F-14 simulator. My only complaint was with the weather, but I enojoyed being on base on a time other than the airshow.
After the base tour, I spent several hours outside of Oceana watching the operations from Runway 5R. If the active runway is 5R or 23L, park on a dirt turnoff from Oceana Boulevard as the takeoffs are several hundred feet over your head and the approaches are MUCH lower. Virginia Beach Police shouldn't bother you at all, but I have heard that people have been chased away from the spot in some instances. I took note of some Tomcat and Hornet operations, as well as an F-21 Kfir, a Beech 1900, a P-3C Orion, and a C-2 Greyhound loitering in the area. I called it quits around 5:30 pm and decided to check in at my hotel. Big mistake - rush hour traffic on I-264 heading west wasn't too bad, but 64 was stop-and-go the entire way to the tunnel.
My intentions on Friday were to just head over to Langley to watch static display arrivals, but that got pushed back to later on in the day as I went to Oceana to watch aircraft. The weather had improved slightly over Thursday, as there was fog but it was clearing as the day progressed. I sat at the same spot as I did on the previous day, with the aircraft using 23L as the active runway, meaning I would be watching final approaches. There was slightly more going on that day, as takeoffs were plentiful for a 2½ hour period, and landings were nearly as plentiful. Hornets, Tomcats, and a Prowler orbited Oceana when I was there.
After leaving Virginia Beach, I made the trip up to Hampton and to Langley AFB to catch static display arrivals. Unfortunately, the large majority of static aircraft were already on display, and I wasn't able to get aerial shots of the Phantom, B-52, among others. I did, however, catch a pair of F-16A Fighting Falcons from the North Dakota ANG do a break to land, caught Glacier Girl landing, a trio of Kfirs shooting low approaches (with one landing and going on static display), a KC-135R Stratotanker from Grissom ARB, IN on arrival (he was parked in the static display by the time I got on base), C-17 Globemaster III 96-0005 from Charleston AFB, SC. The static displays included a KC-135R Stratotanker 60-0353 from McConnell AFB, KS, KC-10 Extender 87-0120 from McGuire AFB, C-5 Galaxy 84-0061 from Dover AFB, C-130H Hercules 66-0418 from Pittsburgh with Let's Roll nose art, a trio of T-38s from Laughlin AFB, Columbus AFB, and Holloman AFB, F-16A Fighting Falcon from the North Dakota ANG, F-16C Fighting Falcon from the Virginia ANG, a trio of 1st FW F-15 Eagles, E-3B Sentry from Tinker AFB, B-1B Lancer from Dyess AFB, B-52H Stratofortress from Barksdale AFB, QF-4 Phantom from Tyndall AFB, T-1A Jayhawk and T-37 Tweet from Columbus AFB, C-21 Learjet from Langley AFB, CH-47 Chinook, F-21 Kfir, Panavia Tornado from Holloman AFB, NASA's Cirrus and OV-10 Bronco, F-117A Nighthawk from Holloman AFB with Let's Roll nose art, F-35 JSF mockup, Berlin Airlift Historical Foundation's C-54 Skymaster, P-38 Lightning Glacier Girl, the Red Tail P-51C Mustang, B-25J Mitchell Panchito, a couple L-birds, C-60 Lodestar, Cessna 182, a pair of CJ-6As, Yak-9, Poosemouth, Beech Staggerwing, a pair of O-2A Skymasters, an LCAC, Yak-52 taildragger, WAVY-10's Bell JetRanger, and a Beechcraft Baron.
As far as Friday's airshow report is concerned, I wouldn't know where to start, so I'll start with the Airborne Red Horse Demonstration. This demonstration shows how ground forces can secure an airstrip that has been damaged by enemy or coalition forces, making the runways unusable by any aircraft. Air raid sirens were included as explosions across the field simulated a battle-damaged runway at Langley AFB. Two aircraft brought in Red Horse teams, with a team of eight members jumping out of a Delaware ANG C-130 Hercules (64-0206), and a team of twelve members jumping out of a Charleston-based C-17 Globemaster III (96-0005). The teams on the ground secured the airfield by decimating enemy forces before calling in the C-17 to perform a short-field landing and offload equipment to fix the airfield. A mound of dirt was placed on the taxiway to simulate runway damage, and the C-17 loitered around in the area before it was "safe" for him to land. When it was time for the C-17 to land, he performed a short-field landing, taxied to the taxiway in front of the crowd and came around to the mound, backed up several feet, before offloading what looked like a couple all-terrain vehicles looking like golf carts, a backhoe, a dirt transporter, and a front-end loader. Right before the offload, the Golden Knights' C-31 Friendship departed to get ready for their jump. That really wasn't very realistic, if you ask me. Those vehicles prepared to move all of the dirt from the taxiway and dumped it in a location that was out of the way of anything. The C-17 then taxied out to its parking spot on the ramp - very quietly, might I add, as with the C-130, which had just landed when all of the equipment was being offloaded from the C-17.
The Golden Knights were next up and I believe this was a jump where the public was actually able to get onto the base for the night show and concert. The weather was somewhat ideal, as it was somewhat cloudy and foggy over at one end of the base while the other end was relatively clear. After the first jumper landed, a second jumper exited the C-31 and loitered on parachute for quite some time while the team exited from above. As the second jumper landed, it became apparent that this was a tandem jump, with a member of the local CBS news affiliate on the same parachute as the Golden Knight himself. The rest of the team performed a showline spread with several of the jumpers fixed on landing near show center.
After all of the Golden Knights landed, the Red Tail P-51C Mustang and the P-38 Lightning Glacier Girl taxied out to the runway and took off to set up for the Heritage Flight, as well as the A-10 Thunderbolt II and Dale Snodgrass taxiing out in the F-86 Sabre. The C-31 returned to make a flat pass before landing, as two elements of two F-15C Eagles from the 27th Fighter Squadron took off and departed, with a fifth F-15, a D-model, taking off afterwards to do a photo flight with the four F-15s. After the five F-15s departed the area, it was time for the hometown F-15 Eagle East Coast Demo Team to take the stage. I don't recall when it happened but it seems like the demo pilot, Major Bret Anderson, received a nice promotion sometime between August 2003 and May 2004. Because of the cloud cover, Slam had to perform the low show, but it seemed like a real good demonstration, until midway through where he had some sort of problem and had to terminate the rest of the demonstration. Something I also noticed was that Slam was not using a demo jet, as the F-15 he was flying the demo in on Friday had missile rails! All of the external stuff that isn't needed during a demonstration is removed from the aircraft to make it cleaner.
Dale Snodgrass took off in the F-86 Sabre to set up for the Heritage Flight as Slam landed his F-15. Snort departed the area to give the CF-18 Hornet the stage. Captain Dave "Super Dave" Pletz flew the Canadian Hornet through a spectacular display, easily beating how the Navy flies the F/A-18C Hornet demonstration, but the CF-18 demo doesn't even come close to the Super Hornet demonstration. The CF-18 demo jet came out of 3 Wing Bagotville and is not painted up in a special paint scheme, as the Canadian Hornets have been in the past several years. However, the tail of the CF-18 demo jet is painted up to represent the 80th Anniversary of the Canadian Air Force. The high speed pass towards the end of the demonstration (after that vertical climb) was delivered by announcer Frank Kingston Smith as a sneak pass.
After the CF-18 landed, the F-117 Nighthawk that took off earlier (I didn't mention it since it was before I started shooting video) came back to perform three passes before landing. It seemed as if this F-117 pilot wanted to show off the aircraft more as he was pulling some vapor in some of those turns! After he taxied by my position, I was starting to worry that the Heritage Flight wasn't going to happen, but apparently it was a photo flight also. The Heritage Flight flew two passes before performing a break from behind the crowd. This was the finest Heritage Flight I had ever seen, as it consisted of the A-10 being flown by Captain Matthew Kouchoukos, the P-38 Lightning Glacier Girl with Steve Hinton at the controls, Dale Snodgrass flying the F-86 Sabre, and Ed Shipley flying the Red Tail P-51C Mustang. Prior to returning for the Heritage Break, the formation of four F-15Cs plus the F-15D make a high-altitude pass over Langley AFB. After the break, Ed Shipley performed a low pass in the Mustang while Captain Kouchoukos landed the A-10, with Steve Hinton making a low pass in Glacier Girl, overtaking the A-10 as it was landing, and Dale Snodgrass landing the F-86, followed by Ed Shipley landing the Red Tail P-51C and Steve Hinton performing a dirty pass in the P-38 before landing.
As each of the pilots taxied by my position on the ramp, the Shockwave jet truck was being towed out to far show left to be prepared for its run later on in the evening. Almost immediately after the Shockwave passed by, the B-25 Mitchell Panchito was inbound from the right in a flyby with a nice, hot wall of fire lit in front of the crowd. After the wall of fire cleared out somewhat, the F-15D Eagle photoship made a flyby and break to landing as the other four F-15s came back around in formation and broke the formation to land. The first of the Eagles to come around was the F-15D and he performed a regular landing with a long rollout to the end of the runway. The flight of four Eagles, now split up in single elements, came around to the runway and performed a missed approach. One by one, each F-15 approached the runway and with less than 100 feet of altitude, tucked the gear up and put on some power to go around. On the third go-around for the Eagles, the third Eagle in formation didn't seem to have a lot of power coming out of the missed approach, and extended the landing gear and retracted it immediately. The four Eagles then gained separation to form two formations of two Eagles, with the first and second Eagles in formation and the third and fourth Eagles in formation. The first two F-15s performed a tactical formation break over the crowd while the second two overflew the crowd in the same manner as the first two, but without breaking to land. As the first two F-15s landed, the second two F-15s came back from the right to perform a tactical formation break over the crowd and landing.
As the final Eagle was rolling out on the runway, two Nanchang CJ-6As came from the right to perform a low pass over the runway, which included several more passes in their show as they prepared for their race with Shockwave. The Shockwave got a huge head start and won the race with a huge advantage, as it clocked in at 222 miles an hour. As the two CJ-6As landed, Slam taxied by in his F-15 and a Cessna 152 landed. The Cessna, painted in an ugly yellow color, would be Manfred Radius' tow platform. Another aircraft that arrived for the static display was a nice blue Beechcraft Staggerwing.
After the Staggerwing landed, the B-1B Lancer came around from the right to perform his first pass of the demonstration. The first pass was at about 310 miles an hour with the wings fully swept forward. This B-1B was from the 7th Bomb Wing in Dyess AFB, Texas and performed a second pass was from the right with the wings swept back and burners going for a high speed pass. He didn't pull off any vapor cones as he did at Dover but with the setting being around dusk, it was nice to see vapor trails coming off the wingtips as well as clearly seeing the burners. The B-1 came back around from the right to land at Langley AFB and eventually be towed from the taxiway in front of the crowd and into the static display. It was the conclusion of the evening flying display, as it was time for the Aaron Tippin concert to begin.
I spent the time during the concert talking to many of the pilots, touring the static displays, and watching a little of the concert from a distance. I wasn't there for the concert - I was there for the planes... and the hotties that frequented the chalet area... but that's a different story. I have to admit, there were some gorgeous young ladies in the chalet area and if I had to guess their ages, I would pin it between seventeen and twenty - pretty much my age range, although I don't think I'd get out of the base if I hooked up with a seventeen year-old hottie without getting in trouble.
After the concert, it was time for the airshow to resume. The Golden Knights had the airspace and performed another mass jump, but this time their target was not in front of the crowd, but behind the crowd. This pissed me off, but after remembering stories from Andrews AFB the previous week, they probably landed outside the Officer's Club at Langley AFB. I should also mention that the Golden Knights are the most difficult parachute team to shoot video of at night, since all they wear are blinking strobe lights underneath them.
After the Golden Knights' C-31 landed, it was time for Manfred Radius to take the stage in his Salto sailplane. Manfred puts on a very nice night show performance, but the only gripe I have about it is that there isn't enough wingtip pyrotechnics, especially for the altitude that he starts at. But he still puts on a good nighttime performance, as does everyone who flies nighttime airshows. After Manfred's glider was recovered, it was time for Eric Beard to take the Russian Thunder Yak-54 into the air for his nighttime display. Eric flies one of the best nighttime acts in the airshow industry accompanied with theme music from, I believe, The Right Stuff. After Eric landed, it was time for Pyrotecnico to begin their fireworks display. It was a good display but it didn't quite beat the fireworks display at Millville in the beginning of the month.
On Saturday, I was able to get onto Langley AFB about fifteen minutes before the public was able to get on, and toured the static display - getting shots I couldn't get the previous day and more shots of the same viewpoints. The weather was much better than on Thursday and Friday as there was ample amounts of blue sky and some scattered cirrus clouds over different parts of the base. A CF-18B Hornet from 3 Wing Bagotville had arrived at Langley as it was the backup jet for the demo aircraft. The Saturday show started off with the Airborne Red Horse Demonstration. It shows how ground forces can secure an damaged airstrip (by enemy or coalition forces), making the runways unusable by any aircraft. Air raid sirens were included as four explosions across the field simulated the battle-damaged runway at Langley AFB. Two aircraft brought in Red Horse teams, with a team of eight members jumping out of a Delaware ANG C-130 Hercules (64-0206), and a team of twelve members jumping out of a Charleston-based C-17 Globemaster III (96-0005). The teams on the ground secured the airfield by decimating enemy forces before calling in the C-17 to perform a short-field landing and offload equipment to fix the airfield. A mound of dirt was placed on the taxiway to simulate runway damage, and the C-17 loitered around in the area before it was "safe" for him to land. When it was time for the C-17 to land, he performed a short-field landing, taxied to the taxiway in front of the crowd and came around to the mound, backed up several feet, before offloading what looked like a couple all-terrain vehicles looking like golf carts, a backhoe, a dirt transporter, and a front-end loader. Those vehicles prepared to move all of the dirt from the taxiway and dumped it in a location that was out of the way of anything. The C-17 then taxied out to its parking spot on the ramp - very quietly, might I add. As he was taxiing, the Golden Knights' C-31 Friendship took off to position for the team's jump a little later on in the morning. The Red Horse demonstration is an interesting demonstration, but outside of the aerial assets in the demonstration, everything else seemed to take my attention elsewhere.
After the Red Horse Demonstration, four F-15 Eagles from the 71st Fighter Squadron took to the skies in two elements of two aircraft to set up for their flyby and demonstrations a little bit after the Golden Knights were to jump. As soon as the F-15s departed the area, the F-117 Nighthawk took off in the opposite direction and departed for Charleston AFB to do some flybys at their airshow. After the F-117 departed the area, the four F-15s returned from the right - sooner than I expected, and did a formation break to land. The four aircraft came back around from the right to perform individual missed approaches. The fourth aircraft of the group seemed to have some sort of gear problems, as the main gear doors did not seem to go up. The first two aircraft came back around for a second time, while the third F-15 joined up with the fourth F-15 (the one with the gear problems) as the first two continued to perform missed approaches. The first two F-15s ended up performing a total of eight missed approaches before forming up in a two-ship formation while the third and fourth F-15s came around, with the third F-15 performing a missed approach and the fourth F-15 doing a nose-high landing.
The Golden Knights were now inbound for their morning jump from 12,500 feet and the first jumper came down carrying the Stars and Stripes on the way down, with the National Anthem being played. As he landed on target, the three remaining F-15 Eagles made a flyby in the delta formation, with the third F-15 breaking away from the formation. The third F-15 landed as the Commander of the 1st Fighter Wing, as well as the first two F-15s, all landing in a nose-high fashion. As soon as the last F-15 exited the immediate area, the Golden Knights took the stage and performed a mass jump and were to perform a showline spread. The Golden Knights jumped with three different flags in their mass jump - one carried the POW/MIA flag, another carried the team's flag (and on Sunday, one member came down with the Thunderbirds flag), and the other jumper coming down with the Virginia state flag. I have more respect for the Golden Knights now for two reasons - the first being that they have their C-31 Friendship doing a flyby to close out their display, and the second reason being...well, I'll mention it a little later on in the report.
After the C-31 landed, a pair of Nanchang CJ-6As took to the air to perform several low-altitude and somewhat formation flybys as well as playing chase. One of the CJ-6As was being flown by Sean Carroll, who was to have flown a demo in the Yak-9 during the show, but he didn't fly it. Heck, with him and the other guy (I'm not sure who flew the other CJ-6A) flying those CJ-6As kind of made up for no Yak-9 display (there was one on static though). I'm not in favor of the CJ-6A since it tends to be a very quiet airplane, but Sean and his wingman put on a very nice display.
The CJ-6As exited the area and Jimmy Franklin took to the stage in his highly modified Waco bi-plane. If you haven't seen Jimmy fly before, you have to see him because he flies one of the most unusual aircraft in the entire airshow industry. Jimmy has modified the Waco to include a J69 turbojet engine slung underneath the fuselage. It is an act that's hard to describe because if you haven't seen it, you should go see it. Jimmy can perform three separate acts with the Jet Waco - the first being a solo act, which was being performed in the morning/afternoon, a wingwalking act with his son Kyle Franklin, and with the X-Team, all of which were shown at Langley AFB.
After Jimmy Franklin landed and did some smoking doughnuts on the taxiway, the CJ-6As were back inbound for several more passes as they prepared for a race with Kent Shockley and the Shockwave Jet Truck. It seems like the CJ-6As got a huge advantage over the race, but the Shockwave's run was up to 213 mph, which was impressive, but he can go faster. After the Shockwave was towed off the runway, the Delaware ANG was inbound to land the C-130 Hercules from earlier in the morning. The C-130 came to a full stop on the runway, performed a 180 and proceeded to taxi in front of the crowd to the hot ramp, with the two CJ-6As following closely behind as Bobby Younkin proceeded to take off in the Beech 18. Bobby kept it nice and low on takeoff before performing a graceful roll after takeoff. I have seen Bobby fly the Lear 23 at the 2002 AirPower Over Hampton Roads and it was an interesting performance and the Beech 18 falls into the same category. Like the Lear 23, the Beech 18 is an aircraft that really wasn't meant for aerobatic flight, which makes the performance more enjoyable. It also makes some noise, too.
After Bobby landed, it was time for an F-16 Fighting Falcon flyby. Personally, I thought it would be the two F-16As from the North Dakota ANG that would be performing the flyby, as the Happy Hooligans (also referred to as "ladies who tend to get with every guy they see" - think of a four-letter word that begins with S and ends with T and has an LU in the middle - an inside joke my best friend and I came up with for that particular unit) had two F-16s arrive at Langley on Friday but after they landed, they were nowhere to be seen. The Virginia ANG, out of Richmond, had taken care of the flyby, with four F-16Cs in tight formation made a single pass from the right, slightly over the crowd line, before exiting the area. I suppose this would make up for the no-show of the F/A-22 Raptor, which was supposed to perform a flyby or two, but was cancelled due to software problems with the airshow-dedicated aircraft. I was really bummed by this, but if Nellis is going to have an F-22 in their flying display, I suppose its more of an incentive to head out to Vegas for the show. I would only hope that gas prices come down AND that air tickets to LAS are cheap!
Another F-16 was inbound - this time it was a specially painted F-16D Fighting Falcon from Nellis AFB. The F-16D was actually coming from Charleston AFB, SC and is part of the Thunderbirds. Captain Dave Haworth, who is a real good friend of mine, made several passes (I believe it was at least five passes since I was getting some lunch at the time) to check out the airfield before landing. After Dave landed, Doug Dodge took to the skies in the Yellow Book Pitts. Doug was not on the official airshow schedule and I believe he was a last-minute addition to the schedule. I suppose there could be a few surprises thrown in here and there. It was nice to finally get some good shots of the Pitts with the sun somewhat behind you, as it was almost impossible to do so at Millville and at Dover.
After Doug landed, the 7th Bomb Wing from Dyess AFB brought in a B-1B Lancer to perform a couple flybys. The B-1 came in from the right for all three passes, with the first pass being a slow speed pass at about 310 mph with the wings swept forward. The second pass was from the right, as stated before, at about 520 mph, with the wings swept back. He made some noise, but nothing that would fit the "thundering" category that the B-1 is capable of producing. The third and final pass was similar to the second pass, but producing a little more noise than before, pulling slightly into the vertical to create some vapor, but nothing very impressive. I was a little disappointed, since the crew could have thrown it in afterburner for the entire third pass and really beat the place up, and they could have arranged to have a tanker rendezvous somewhere. I suppose I could say that I miss the Georgia ANG and the Kansas ANG's Bone demos since those crews really loved to show off their aircraft. Dyess crews are conservative, for the most part.
Ed Shipley took the Red Tail P-51C Mustang up next for several low altitude flybys, including a photo pass to conclude the performance. This was a great addition to the schedule because of the rarity of the aircraft, as there are so few early model P-51s in airworthy condition. After Ed taxied the Red Tail back to the hot ramp, Jimmy Franklin cranked the Jet Waco up once again and took to the air with his son Kyle as well. To have a wingwalker on the wings of the biplane is just amazing and even though Kyle doesn't do too much "wingwalking", it's still one of the best wingwalking acts only because of the aircraft used! After Jimmy and Kyle Franklin taxied by, it was time for the A-10 East Coast Demo Team to take to the stage. Flying the A-10 was Captain Matthew Kouchoukos, and he flew a great demonstration that actually featured pyro! As I stated somewhere earlier, the A-10 demo seems to have been lengthened and Matt seems to have flown the demo a lot better than at Andrews AFB the previous week.
As Matt Kouchoukos taxied the A-10 past my position, Manfred Radius took to the sky under tow from the ugly, yellow Cessna 152 as Bobby Younkin took Samson into the air for his performance. It seems as if all three of Younkin's aircraft are painted in a similar paint job. As far as the performance is concerned, I had never seen Samson fly before and I really like it. He even does a really low inverted ribbon cut with the biplane! As Bobby Younkin landed and taxied Samson to the hot ramp, Larry Kelly took the B-25J Mitchell Panchito into the air for a short demonstration. He performed three passes before coming around from the right for a fourth pass, which consisted of the bomb bay doors open and a wall of fire, which did absolutely no help for anyone at the show since it was at least 90º. Larry took the B-25 around for several more passes, including two photo passes before landing. It was about this time that Frank announced that the F-117 would not be coming back to do a couple flybys. When I got home, I heard that the F-117 did make a flyby or two at Charleston, but had to make an emergency landing at the base, and was met up with fire and emergency vehicles at one end of the runway. He was to have returned to do flybys at Langley on Sunday, but it wasn't going to happen. Another F-117 was at Langley on Sunday, but he was relegated to static display, parked next to the E-3 (which sucked because I toured the E-3 and when I got out, there was a sign that said no pictures of the Stealth from the platform). I still don't understand why you can't take pictures of the F-117 from certain vantage points - its been flying for over twenty years from now, what's the problem of taking a topside photo of it if we've seen it for quite some time?
Manfred Radius had the airspace next. He flew the quietest act in the entire airshow and is one of the finest glider pilots in the world. His signature maneuver in the show is the attempt at an inverted ribbon cut, which he successfully accomplished on Saturday, but didn't accomplish on Sunday because of the high winds. After Manfred's glider was towed off the runway, Steve Hinton and Ed Shipley took off in formation with the P-38 and P-51C, respectively, as the hometown F-15 Eagle East Coast Demo Team took the stage. Major Bret "Slam" Anderson put on a great demonstration, but he seemed to fly it a little further from the crowd line than the A-10 demo. After Slam performed a pitch-up, Dale Snodgrass took to the skies in his F-86 to set up for the Heritage Flight.
The Heritage Flight was another spectacular formation, with Slam flying the F-15 in the lead, Ed Shipley flying the Red Tail P-51 on the right wing, Dale Snodgrass flying the left wing in the F-86, and Steve Hinton flying Glacier Girl in the slot position. The Heritage Flight flew two passes before performing a break from behind the crowd. Ed Shipley flew a low pass over the runway prior to the F-15 and P-38 landing, as Dale set up for his performance. Speak of Snort, he was up next and he flew a spectacular performance in the Sabre. In fact, Dale has one of the prettiest F-86s in the airshow circuit. After Snort landed the Sabre, Chuck Lischer took to the air to fly and Chuck's performance is very good, but considering the acts that were lined up at Langley, he should have flown a little earlier than when he went up on Saturday, mainly because his is a little toned down than Younkin or Franklin, and because of the sun. I still need to get a good shot of the F-260 in the Newgold paint scheme!
After Chuck landed, it was time for the Golden Knights to take the stage once again. As I stated earlier, I now have newfound respect for the Golden Knights because they actually performed their full show, which I haven't seen for quite some time now. Their full show consists of the narrator's jump with the POW/MIA flag, a freefall baton pass, a cutaway pass - where the jumper demonstrates what happens if the main parachute fails and he needs to deploy the reserve, the diamond-track - where two jumpers trace a diamond in the sky before deploying their parachutes, and the diamond formation. During the cutaway maneuver, I actually thought he had deployed the first parachute way too low, but I imagine he did that for the sake of time. After all of the jumpers got on the ground and were being introduced to the crowd, Allen Smith took to the skies in his L-39C Albatross and the Golden Knights' C-31 Friendship performed a flyby and landed right as the Golden Knights' gave the stage back to the airshow.
Eric Beard took the Russian Thunder Yak-54 to the skies next. Eric's got one of the rarest of the Russian aircraft, as there are only seven Yak-54s flying in the world and he flies one great performance in a rare airplane. He is also getting a great deal of cross-country trips this year, as he performed at Millville in the beginning of May, at Langley, at Binghamton, NY in July, and in NAS Oceana in September, just to name a few. After Eric landed, Allen Smith took the stage with his nice performance in the L-39. Allen was another one of those performers that was probably a really late addition to the lineup and I remember Allen telling me the story that he "donated" his performance to the show, which was very nice of him. It seems that his L-39 just gets quieter and quieter every time I see him perform. Kinda weird, if you ask me.
Captain Dave "Super Dave" Pletz was up right after Allen Smith landed. Super Dave put the CF-18 Hornet in another great demonstration and it still beats the Navy's regular Hornet demonstration. The CF-18 demo jet is not painted up in a special paint scheme, as the Canadian Hornets have been in the past several years. However, the tail of the CF-18 is painted up to represent the 80th Anniversary of the Canadian Air Force. The change of pace from the special paint schemes is welcome, as the ACC and Navy single-ship demonstration teams fly with aircraft in the markings as you would see when the plane is "in the wild". Frank Kingston Smith delivered the second to last pass of the performance as a sneak pass, which wasn't very sneaky for those who were keeping a close eye on the Hornet!
The Masters of Disaster closed out the Saturday show, with Bobby Younkin flying Samson, Jimmy Franklin being unable to fly because he and Kyle couldn't get the jet engine started, and Kent Shockley in the Shockwave Jet Truck. I was a little disappointed in it, simply because of the fact that Jimmy Franklin wasn't flying, but when Sunday came around the X-Team was up in full force and let me say this is an act to behold. Jimmy and Bobby, both flying biplanes, performing opposing maneuvers at ground level and in the air, and when you add the Shockwave to the mix, you throw controlled chaos into everything.
The Thunderbirds arrived late but when they arrived, only five of the six demonstration aircraft were on hand to check out the area, make notes of "landmarks" that could be used for reference points during the show, and flying a short practice. Even though the slot plane was not in the group because it was broken, the Thunderbirds' practice looked top-notch and it gave me renewed optomism that Sunday's performance by the team would be spectacular.
I spent Sunday watching the show and touring the static display one last time, getting the chance of a lifetime to tour the E-3B Sentry and getting some great interior shots of the aircraft, which I'm probably not allowed to show you but I'm going to anyway. The 94th Fighter Squadron provided the four ship formation to open the show, with the aircraft departing in two elements of two aircraft during the Red Horse Demonstration. The skies were very hazy, as the temperatures were expected to be near or just slightly above 90º. The F-15s broke formation and performed a single individual missed approach before reforming, making a formation pass with the Stars and Stripes, and landing towards the beginning of the Golden Knights' full show.
I feel bad for Allen Smith's performance on Sunday because he happened to be flying during the Thunderbirds' engine run. As quiet as the L-39 is, you really can't hear it over the sounds of six F-16 engines. At around the same time, Manfred Radius got a bike, a clown suit, and a giant fan put together and biked down the flight line in the "Fan Man" act. I must say, Manfred looks silly! Another act that I would mention is the F-15 demo flown by Major Bret "Slam" Anderson. Slam flew another great demonstration, but it seemed on Sunday it was a little tame than Saturday's demonstration. He formed up with Ed Shipley in the P-51C Red Tail, Steve Hinton in the P-38 Glacier Girl, and Dale "Snort" Snodgrass in the F-86 to fly the Heritage Flight. The Heritage Flight was formed up differently, with the P-51C flying lead, the F-15 flying left wing, the P-38 flying right wing, and Snort flying the Sabre in the slot position and with smoke on.
The Thunderbirds were the headliners for Sunday and had set up an enlistment ceremony just prior to their performance. What was unique was that family members of those taking the oath of enlistment were allowed to "crowd up" with their sons or daughters or brothers or sisters or nieces or nephews or granddaughters or grandsons or, well, you get the idea. After the ceremony, the six Thunderbird pilots took their positions in their jets for their ground show and taxied out to the runway. I should mention something about the music. The piece the team uses right before switching to the Legend of the Thunderbird sounds like something you'd hear in church. The team would be taking off from the right, which I haven't seen in years. Usually all of the demonstration pilots take off from the left, but this was a nice change of pace. Thunderbird #4 reported problems on the runway and he taxied to the hot ramp to switch to the #8 jet. Despite the haze, the Thunderbirds flew a high show and this ranks among the best Thunderbird displays I've seen this year. Captain Dave Haworth, Thunderbird #8, told me that they still need work on some of the maneuvers. That's true, but in my opinion, the team looked supurb.
After the Thunderbirds, I spent a few minutes hanging out with a couple of the Thunderbirds as they were signing autographs. I then took the time to exit Langley AFB and out of Virginia for the trip home, which, in some ways I wasn't looking forward to because of the amount of driving and the fact that the Flyers aren't going to be in the Stanley Cup finals. 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 AirPower Over Hampton Roads at Langley AFB falls under the Excellent category because the no-shows of the F/A-22 and the F-117 emergency and the surprise appearances of Allen Smith, Dale "Snort" Snodgrass, and the Yellow Book Aerobatic Team balance each other out. I will be back for the next AirPower Over Hampton Roads!
Tentative Military Demonstrations
Announcer: Frank Kingston Smith