2009 Greater Binghamton Airshow
Greater Binghamton Airport
Binghamton, New York
Airshow report uploaded on July 6, 2009.
This was one trip I had not planned on doing until about a month or so before the show weekend. I had planned on doing shows in Binghamton in years past but have never been able to get up there, since those times would have been one-day trips. I had planned on going to the show this year knowing that the Vintage Thunderbird would be there. However, plans had fallen through that prevented the Vintage Thunderbird (a Lockheed T-33 painted up in Thunderbird markings and flown by Jerry "Jive" Kerby) from attending, but I still wanted to see the Blues. The show, put together by David Schultz Airshows, featured a lineup that had a very good mix of aerobatic performers as well as military demonstrations. I even got to see what all the buzz was about with Viper West, and I'm going to highlight them along with two of the performers on the aerobatic side of things with this airshow report - as well as some of the general stuff about Binghamton that I happened to notice on my trip up and of the show site itself.
Binghamton was the second show I had seen Kendal Simpson fly, with the first being at New Garden. There was no airshow report with New Garden since it was literally a last minute decision to go to that show. Kendal flies a Pitts S-2S and has a very good aerobatic performance for a newcomer to the airshow industry. As a result of his "FNG" status to airshows (but not to aerobatic competitions!), his aerobatic hard deck is at 500 feet, meaning no portion of his performance can be flown lower than 500 feet, except for maybe a knife edge pass. I know he's going to be kind enough to clarify me on that since before I met him at New Garden, he was aware of who I am and of this site. His performance fits under the category of "I can't wait until he gets a surface card" and he flies a Pitts that has a special place in his heart. While at New Garden, I took note that he had "In loving memory/Erica Simpson" written by the canopy. I recognized the name and tried to put two and two together, but I did ask him to try and help me out, and he told me that Erica was his wife. She had lost her life while preparing for the Reno Air Races in 2008 and I think it's appropriate that Kendal is flying her Pitts in his aerobatic performances in tribute to her. As I stated, he flies in aerobatic competitions, and very recently came in first place in all three flights in the Unlimited category in an aerobatic competition held in Wildwood, New Jersey!
I can now finally add Third Strike Wingwalking to the list of my firsts for this year. Carol Pilon represents Third Strike, and owns a red 450-hp Stearman named Rhapsody, which she tows around from show site to show site. She even has a small pool of approved Stearman pilots that will fly her plane when she wingwalks. This weekend had Rob Holland at the controls of her Stearman. Rob flew three times at Binghamton - once with Jack Knutson with the Firebirds, with Carol in the Stearman, and again in his super high performance aerobatic act in the MX-2. Carol has a very nice wingwalking routine, which is similar to most of the other wingwalkers that have performed and still perform in the airshow industry, and I even got to see a little bit more of what wingwalking is about - not only from the rig on top of the Stearman but also with what Carol wears. There is a tether that she attaches herself to that can be seen from the air (when she poses and at the right angle and correct vantage point) and she is attached to it via a carabineer and harness. Outside of her act, she is one of the nicest ladies in the airshow industry. I had actually met her many years ago at ICAS but it took some four or five years to finally see her perform. After the practice show on Friday, she had wanted to get me up in a 172 to do some video work of her wingwalking, since her primary photographer was unable to get to Binghamton due to traffic. Unfortunately, things did not work out for me and the 172, but that's quite alright. She told me that there may be a redesign of her website coming, which will include videos of her wingwalking that will be linked from my videos - when they are uploaded.
Lastly, I'd like to highlight Viper West. I have seen many F-16 demonstrations in the last several years, but all of them were flown by Buzzer and Dog, who are with Viper East. Many of my airshow friends rave about Viper West and make fun of me and those from my area, since they believe we think Viper East sucks (Dog will probably be reading this - I hope you realize that I think your demos ROCK!). I had not seen a Viper West demo since 2006, when they were at Jones Beach and that demonstration seemed rather tame in the afterburner department. This year's Viper West demo pilot is Major David "Booster" Graham, who was born and raised in Horseheads, NY - which is not too far away from Binghamton - and put on one spectacular demonstration all weekend long. When the videos get uploaded, I'd like you to compare Viper East from Saturday at Rhode Island to Viper West from Sunday at Binghamton. The demo profile from Viper West is much different than Viper East, and although there is one maneuver removed from the Viper West demo routine, it is still full of afterburner. Their narrations are also different, as are the aircraft. I had spoken to Booster and asked him what Block the Hill AFB F-16s are, and much to my surprise, the aircraft are Block 40s. Both the Block 40s at Hill and the Block 50s at Shaw are powered by General Electric F110 engines (the GE is better than the PW engine in the F-16, in my opinion - both mechanically and in sound), but the designations are also different. The 40s are designated F-16CG while the 50s are designated F-16CJ. Engine-wise, the 40s have F110-GE-100s while the 50s have F110-GE-129s. To further go into details, read below, as taken from Wikipedia:
Entering service in 1988, the Block 40/42 is the improved all-day/all-weather strike variant equipped with LANTIRN pod; also unofficially designated the F-16CG/DG, the night capability gave rise to the name "Night Falcons". This block features strengthened and lengthened undercarriage for LANTIRN pods, an improved radar, and a GPS receiver. From 2002, the Block 40/42 increased the weapon range available to the aircraft including JDAM, AGM-154 Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW), Wind-Corrected Munitions Dispenser (WCMD) and the (Enhanced) EGBU-27 Paveway “bunker-buster”. Also incorporated in this block was the addition of cockpit lighting systems compatible with Aviator's Night Vision Imaging System (ANVIS) equipment. The USAF’s Time Compliance Technical Order (TCTO) that added the night vision (NVIS)-compatible systems was completed in 2004. A total of 615 Block 40/42 aircraft were delivered to five countries.
The first Block 50/52 F-16 was delivered in late 1991; the aircraft are equipped with improved GPS/INS, and the aircraft can carry a further batch of advanced missiles: the AGM-88 HARM missile, JDAM, JSOW and WCMD. Block 50 aircraft are powered by the F110-GE-129 while the Block 52 jets use the F100-PW-229.
Once again, the Blue Angels highlighted Binghamton. It was my second time seeing the Blues this year, and although they had a flight control problem with the #5 jet on Friday, the team flew a solid flat show on Saturday and a great high show on Sunday. I had taken some time after the show on Saturday to talk with CDR Greg McWherter and LT Frank Weisser (#1 and #6, respectively), both of whom were very kind to talk about the demo routine and explain to me some stuff that most airshow spectators wouldn't understand or even notice during their show. Boss even stated that Saturday's flat show was among the bumpiest he'd ever flown and was shocked and very appreciative to hear from me that I thought the diamond looked very smooth. It's funny how when you think about it, if the air is turbulent when the jet team flies - regardless if it's the Blues or if it's the Thunderbirds, you can see it magnified more with the Thunderbirds since their diamond and delta appear "flatter" and less tucked in like the Blues, whose diamond and delta formations are stacked more in terms of the vertical, and thus, tighter.
Overall, I did enjoy my experience at Binghamton and it was a very good show. We were supposed to have great weather on Saturday and Sunday, but we had a cold wind and overcast skies on Saturday but little to no wind on Sunday with beautiful skies and much warmer. The only downside to the entire weekend was shooting at show left where there were no speakers. However, that did not detract from my video, since I was listening to David call the airshow and knew when to start and stop shooting. I would like to thank Boss and Walleye for taking time out to talk with me and am really looking forward to seeing them and the entire team several more times in the 2009 airshow season. I'd also like to thank Rob Holland, Jack Knutson, Kendal Simpson, Matt Chapman, and Carol Pilon for all of their kind help, words, and hosting all weekend long. In addition, I'd like to thank David Schultz and his team (inc. Howdy, Greg, and Justy) for letting me shoot video in front of the crowd. If anyone from PennDOT reads this, you guys made a huge mistake with the construction zones between MM 220-194 and should have removed the cones and prevented those delays, which cost me several hours on a holiday weekend!
Military Demonstration Teams
US Navy Blue Angels
US Army Golden Knights
Military Aircraft Demonstrations
AV-8B Harrier Demonstration
F-16 Fighting Falcon West Coast Demo Team
Aerobatic Performances, Warbird Performances, and Others
Third Strike Wingwalking
USAF Heritage Flight