2002 Wheels and Wings Airshow
May 4-5, 2002
Review written on May 7, 2002.
As the first airshow of my 2002 season, Millville is also the first airshow that I have attended both the Saturday and Sunday shows. This review will incorporate both the Saturday and Sunday shows in one batch.
Static displays this year were everywhere. The entire static ramp was spread over from the fly-in aircraft and performer's aircraft towards show center (and where the C-97 and C-54 were parked) over to the 5,000-foot runway, where all of the military statics were parked. Some of the military statics included a C-130H from New Castle, DE, a PA ANG A-10, Lemoore-based Hornet from VFA-125, a Texan II from Moody AFB, a pair of C-12 Hurons (one was from Oceana), a T-37 Tweet, T-1A Jayhawk, and a Gulfstream C-20. The Mid Atlantic Air Museum was represented by its B-25 Mitchell "Briefing Time". There were two designated hot ramps - one stored the T-34s, C-31, T-33, T-28s, Apache, TBM, B-25 Panchito, and P-51. The other was on the static runway and was home to the Red Barons, more T-34s, the T-6s, Mike Mancuso, Kevin Russo, Roger Lehnert's Cub, and included the P-51 at times.
Also in abundance were hundreds upon hundreds of classic automobiles. I counted at least 50 cars in each row, and there must have been at least 8 rows of cars! I am not the auto expert, but some cars I were able to point out were the Corvettes, the oldies (pre-1940), and the Chevrolets from the 1955-1960 period. I'll tell you what... there were as many cars there, maybe more, than the display I saw last year in Reno's Hot August Nights!
The airshow started off each day with an invocation and a gathering of hellos from top political officials and museum staff, and the singing of the National Anthem. As the anthem was being sung (she even sang the not-so-well-known second verse), one of the members of the Golden Knights jumped out with the Stars and Stripes. In a world after September 11, seeing the flag being flown by a member of the Golden Knights brings tears of joy to your eyes. Sunday's show opener featured the flag jumper being circled by the Red Barons. On Saturday, the flag jump was immediately followed by the opening demonstration of a B-2 Spirit flying three photo-perfect passes. That aircraft is just incredible. At times, it can be super quiet and there are those times where it is as noisy as a B-1 without its afterburners (when he doesn't sound like a fighter). Sunday featured the Red Barons doing a little teaser before letting the Golden Knights perform their mass exit.
After the Golden Knights performed the mass exit, some old guy on a tractor was prancing around the airport and eluding the Split Image Team as they were setting up to take off and when the C-31 landed. Turns out the farmer, being Roger Lehnert, wanted a ride in the Cub and flew the usual off-the-wall performance that's breathtaking. Sunday's show featured the Apache demonstration in the morning to give the crew time to depart early. The Split Image Team then took the show in front of the crowd to perform their precision formation aerobatics. It seems they added some more maneuvers compared to the way they were flying in 2000.
The HH-65A Dauphin from CGAS Atlantic City had to fly in to perform the Search and Rescue demonstration on Saturday. I have seen this demonstration at Rotorfest in 2000 and 2001, but I wasn't pleased as to where they decided to demo, since for us sitting at show left, we couldn't see it. The Dauphin came by on Sunday to perform one pass and left. The C-5 was still way out in the distance when Jim Beasley, Jr. took Bald Eagle, a P-51D Mustang, into the air. The C-5 was ready for its flyby by now. The crew from Dover AFB brought him in from the right for both passes, the first being in the dirty configuration and the second in the clean configuration, at about 250 knots. I must say, it's a HUGE plane!
Jim Beasley, Jr. then returned to fly the aerobatic routine in the P-51. While I have seen the P-51 fly numerous times, it still has a very beautiful sound coming out of the front of the plane. Two T-6s came by and broke to land, followed by the large take off of five T-34 Mentors, two T-28C Trojans, B-25J Mitchell "Panchito", and a TBM Avenger. It's always nice to have music from the 1940's playing when warbirds are flying. Sunday's trainer flight featured a couple SNJs as well. The T-34s came by in a 5-ship formation flyby, the B-25, TBM, and T-28s came by in photo-perfect passes. The T-28s broke from formation on Saturday to flyby separately. The T-34s came back around to fly a missing man formation in memory of two fallen heroes, one of which was a Hornet pilot who was supposed to attend Millville's show but was killed by a drunk driver. Panchito performed one pass simulating the Doolittle Raid Re-enactment. There was no pyro in the demonstration because of safety. The Mitchell departed for Atlantic City to pick up members of the Thunderbirds - something he did both Saturday and Sunday until about 3:00 PM both days. Each one of the T-34s then broke from formation to land as Kevin Russo took to the air in his SNJ. During his performance on Saturday, the Apache was getting ready to taxi out and set up for its demonstration. What seems interesting is that Kevin Russo's performance is almost like Dan Caldarale's original solo SNJ demo back in 1999.
Mike Mancuso took to the air next showing his incredible aerobatic performance in the Extra 300L. His crew chief, I must say, is really beautiful! I know it's not related to his performance but I just had to say it! On Saturday, an S-76 arrived carrying someone famous for the state of New Jersey - Governor James McGreevy. A podium was set up (it was used in the beginning of the show) and he gave a speech regarding the Millville show and regarding the United States after September 11. Roger Lehnert gave four attempts at landing the Piper J3 Cub on the Teenie Weenie Airport, a Ford pickup truck with a ramp on top. He somehow got it on top of the airport on the fourth attempt, this one in the opposite direction of the other three! Immediately afterwards on Saturday, the Apache came by for an incredible demonstration of raw military helicopter power. I have seen this demonstration at Rotorfest in the last two years - it's the same demonstration except it's much farther away than at Rotorfest. Still a great demonstration.
On Sunday, Fowler Carey flew the Vintage Thunderbird T-33 for an aerobatic display. To be honest, I was expecting too much from the T-33. I expected it to be a loud airplane like the F-86 and a lot of aerobatics, but neither was in the performance. Drew Hurley flew his Yak-55 next. His demonstration has changed this year - he no longer starts out with the inverted flat spins. He still has a great performance nonetheless, and it's one I always look forward to. The Golden Knights' C-31 departed to set up for their full show.
On Sunday, the F/A-18D Hornet from Lemoore departed with a lot of noise and made a ton more noise when he performed a flyby. The Red Barons were up and they looked great! Jerry van Kampen was unavailable this weekend and they had this announcer who sounds like a mix of Louie Anderson and Andy Richter. The Golden Knights were up next performing their full show. The Golden Knights performed under the sounds of patriotic music like Lee Greenwood's Proud to be an American. It's just some of the sights and sounds that make any patriotic American want to cry. So did the C-31 as it performed the trademark flyby.
And the headliners of the show haven't even performed yet! As the C-31 landed and parked, some local to-be Air Force cadets from the southern New Jersey area were sworn in to the United States Air Force. Both days saw a different group of young guys and girls being sworn into the Air Force. Panchito, the B-25J Mitchell, made rounds to and from Atlantic City International Airport carrying members of the Thunderbirds to Millville. The Thunderbirds started their flying demonstration at precisely 3:45 pm. The start of the show features the delta formation coming from behind the crowd and the solos splitting at the crowd line with the diamond going into the loop and exiting to show left. The Thunderbirds looked great on both days. However, the diamond formation flew too close to the crowd on Saturday during the diamond pass-in-review and Sunday's show had the team flying through a few clouds and switching from the high show to the low show. Both days were great days for the Thunderbirds and they ended their show in the delta formation flying from in front of the crowd to behind the crowd, and back to Atlantic City.
Overall Show Scale
Both days: 10
Announcer: Howdy McCann