2004 Dover AFB Open House
Dover AFB, DE
May 15-16, 2004
Airshow report written on May
Dover AFB's airshow was held on the same weekend as Andrews AFB's airshow, and it became apparent that with two good airshows nearby, one couldn't choose one place over the other if one could only attend one show. I had spent the Saturday at Andrews AFB and then made the trip down to Dover AFB on Sunday for their show. Putting together Dover's show was David Schultz Airshows, a company that has built a solid reputation for putting on supurb airshows, and Dover was among one of those supurb shows.
I had left my place around 6:15 in the morning and got to the base at about 7:50 am and the gates had not opened just yet. Parking was the same as was in 2002, with all general admission parking using the gigantic field just south of Route 9. Security was a breeze and much better this year, as Dover allowed folding chairs inside the base. They did not allow them in 2002 for some unusual reason. It goes to show that the Air Force really enforces when the gates open and don't allow anyone on before the said time, whereas the Navy is more conservative and they will let you on earlier (at least from what I heard about Oceana and learned at Willow Grove).
Static displays included the Air Mobility Command's large aircraft outside the museum building, which included the T-37 Tweet, P-80 Shooting Star, C-141A Starlifter, C-141B Starlifter, C-131 Samaritan, C-7 Caribou, C-123K Provider, C-133 Cargomaster, KC-97L Stratocruiser, C-54M Skymaster, C-119 Boxcar, UH-1 Huey, Grob, F-16A Fighting Falcon, F-101 Voodoo, and F-102 Delta Dagger. Large aircraft included a KC-135R Stratotanker from the New Hampshire ANG, based out of Pease AFB, a pair of C-130 Hercules from New Castle, DE and Dyess AFB, a C-17 Globemaster III from Charleston AFB, a DC-10-10F from FedEx, the Spirit of Delta Boeing 767-232 in the 75th Anniversary paint job, a B-1B Lancer from Ellsworth AFB, SD, and a B-52H Stratofortress from Minot AFB in North Dakota. Fighters and trainers on display included a CF-18A Hornet from Bagotville, an F-16 Fighting Falcon from the South Carolina ANG, F-15 Eagle from Langley AFB, T-1A Jayhawk, T-37 Tweet, and a pair of T-38 Talons all from Columbus AFB, a T-45 Goshawk from NAS Meridian, and a T-34C Mentor from Pensacola. Warbirds included the C-60 Lodestar and a bunch of L-birds. Other aircraft on display included a UH-1 Huey, Civil Air Patrol Cessna 208 and Cessna 172, Cessna 152, a Piper Cub, a 1929 Great Lakes, U-3A Blue Canoe, a Flybaby, C-21A Learjet, O-2A Skymaster, AT-6 Texanand a couple others.
After a short opening ceremony featuring an invocation, the US Army Special Operations Command Black Daggers performed with a flag jump and the national anthem being sung by a local high school choir. After the first jumper removed his parachute, who happened to be the narrator for the Black Daggers, he took the mike to announce for the team. The Black Daggers performed a mass jump followed by individual target landings, similar to what the Golden Knights do on a normal basis at airshows. The Black Daggers looked real good and if you were curious, they used a UH-1 Huey from the Delaware Army National Guard as their jump platform.
One thing that annoyed me about Dover was the runway usage. While I was touring the static displays, a C-5 Galaxy departed on Runway 1/19, similar to how McGuire would be set up. The runway directly in front of the crowd is 14/32, and that would be the massive 12,900 foot runway. Kevin Russo was up after the Black Daggers and he used 1/19 to take off. Kevin was able to fly his high show even though there was broken skies across the entire show area. His performance that day at Dover was pretty much his usual nice display. It should be noted that this was Kevin's last performance before going to Iraq for several weeks.
After Kevin landed, it was time for the B-1B Lancer from Dyess AFB to show off its stuff. This is the same B-1 that performed a demonstration at Andrews AFB when I was there. He staged out of Andrews to do the show there as well as at Dover for the entire weekend. His first pass was from the right and was in the dirty configuration. From the distance, it appeared that he was going to either land or perform a touch-and-go but he did neither. The crew kept the Bone in rather low and as they approached show center, the crew cleaned up the aircraft and popped in the afterburners... and it got loud! The B-1 made a huge turnaround to approach from the left with the wings still swept forward in a moderate speed pass. Without afterburners, the B-1 can be a very quiet airplane and just as he was about to turn, the crew briefly popped in the afterburners before making a giant turnaround to reposition for its final pass, again from the left. As he made the downwind turn, you could see that the wings were swept back and that it was going to be a high speed pass. It was a high speed pass, but a high speed pass like none other as the entire rear part of the aircraft just past the main wing root was covered in a spectacular vapor cone.
The next performer to take the stage was Doug Dodge at the controls of the Pitts S2 from the Yellow Book Aerobatic Team. It seems like the Yellow Book performance at Dover was better than the performance than the performances at Millville because there weren't that many high-class acts at Dover flying in the late morning or early afternoon. Yeah, Snort, Chuck Lischer, and Drew Hurley were all there, but they flew later on in the day. As Doug was flying, another C-5 Galaxy was taxiing into position on runway 1 and I believe this was the demo aircraft that was heading down to the Aberdeen Proving Grounds to pick up some equipment for the later display. During various courses of the day, Howdy mentioned a specific blue Pontiac Grand Prix with out-of-state tags was parked illegally and if not accounted for, would be moved. I suppose this was routine, until I found out later in the day why he did make those calls, and I'll get to it when the time comes. After Doug landed the Pitts, that very C-5 I just mentioned departed and gave the stage for a KC-135E Stratotanker to perform a couple of passes. I believe this Stratotanker was from the New Jersey ANG's 108th Air Refueling Wing. Both passes were made coming from show right, with the first pass being in the clean configuration and the second pass in the dirty configuration and with the boom down and "in flight", if you will.
After the KC-135 left the show area, the Skytypers took to the sky from Runway 1 with their five SNJs. Typically the team flies at altitudes of about 10,000 feet to "sky type" messages across the sky. The messages can be seen for miles in any direction and last longer than traditional skywriting. The Skytypers could not do any of that because the ceiling was only around 4,000 feet, and so they were relegated to a formation aerobatic display. After they took off and repositioned, the Thunderbirds took the stage to do their sound check. It seems like their sound check is getting shorter and shorter, which is good as it will allow for more flying later on in the day. After the sound check, the Skytypers were put back in action. I was not impressed with them all that much because they did not turn up the rpms on the radial engines and plus I believe I'm partial to the Aeroshell team after that ride a little more than two weeks before Dover's show.
After the Skytypers landed, the first C-5 Galaxy that departed in the early morning returned to land on Runway 1. The C-5 is one of the most impressive aircraft to watch take off, fly, and land because of its sheer size. I'm not used to seeing the larger Antonovs just yet, but the C-5 continues to amaze it every time I see one in action. After the C-5 taxiied off Runway 1, the CH-146 Griffon came from behind carrying the very car that Howdy mentioned several times earlier in the show. With a precise countdown, the Griffon crew released the hold on the car over show center and it smashed into the ground, instantly flattening it. The CH-146 came around to make two flybys down the runway before departing the immediate area and setting down somewhere behind the crowd line. He didn't do any hovering, other than from the car drop, but that in itself made up for the demo.
The A-10 Warthog West Coast Demo Team was up next for their performance. It seems weird seeing an A-10 demo at one show site on one day of the weekend and going to another show site the next day of the same weekend and seeing another A-10 demo. Major Rob Brogan flew the demo and like most of the performers that day, took off from Runway 1. The A-10 demos this year have been greatly improved and seem to also be lengthened to include more flying. It has become more aerobatic than tactical, showing off how well the A-10 flies instead of what flying characteristics are used during engagement. After the A-10 demo, Dale Snodgrass took off from Runway 14/32 in the F-86 Sabre and joined Major Brogan for the Heritage Flight. The Heritage Flight consisted of four passes and it was very unusual to see the F-86 paired with the A-10. The last pass was from behind the crowd and featured a crossover break. Major Brogan went on to land the A-10 on Runway 19 as Dale set up for his demonstration. I have to say that it was great to see the Sabre back in action as it was grounded for almost all of last year because of engine problems. He had it flying in November but that was way too late for me to see it in flight. Dale was kind enough to land the Sabre on Runway 14/32, unlike most of the performers that day.
After Snort landed the Sabre, a C-5B Galaxy took off from Runway 14/32 and headed out of the airshow box. After he left, Chuck Lischer took to the skies in his Newgold F-260 Marchetti. Chuck is among the group of pilots that took off on Runway 1, and now I imagine its because if they used 14/32, they'd be fighting a slight crosswind. Chuck flew his usual performance in the F-260 and it seems every time I see it, it gets a tiny bit shorter and shorter (by a matter of a second or two or three) but its a good performance nonetheless. He is definitely getting his share of east coast airshows this year! He'll be flying at Langley AFB as well as Binghamton, New York - both shows I will be attending...although Binghamton might get scratched off the list (and Westover, MA might be off the list) because gas prices are creeping near and in some stations near my home, above $2.00 a gallon for regular. I will save the European gas price debate for another topic because it doesn't belong here. Chuck landed on Runway 19 in time for the next act to perform.
An F-117 Nighthawk was inbound from Andrews AFB to perform several flybys at Dover that weekend, as well as flybys at the Joint Services Open House, which I had attended the previous day. His first pass was from behind and flown somewhat in an arc, with the second pass from the right in high speed. The third pass was a slow speed pass from the left and down the runway, while the fourth and final pass came from the right and demonstrated the high speed flight once again, with a tight turn away from the base to head back to Andrews. It seemed he flew a lot closer at Dover than he did at Andrews.
The Firebirds Delta Team was up next. They had to use 14/32 as the takeoff and opposing maneuvers on takeoff requires its use. For some reason, the Firebirds looked better this year than last and I didn't mind them being up there just once in the day. It seems if they fly more than one act in the course of an airshow day, things get to seem redundant. All three acts - the solo Sukhoi, the two Extras, and the Delta team act can take nearly an hour out of the airshow schedule. They're "filler acts" and have that name for a reason. For someone like me, I guess its just time to sit back and relax (yeah right, like that ever happens at an airshow nowadays!).
After the Firebirds landed, an HH-65 Dauphin from CGAS Atlantic City made a flyby before performing its Search and Rescue Demonstration. What the Dauphin did more of than the Griffon was demonstrate the different flight characteristics that are unique to helicopters before departing. The Black Daggers were up next with another jump - this time in full combat gear. All of the members of the Black Daggers demonstrated jumping from altitude and opening 'chutes at that altitude, just like how special operations forces work on the battlefield. After all of the jumpers landed, a C-5B Galaxy came back from the right to make a flyby and break to land to start its demonstration. The C-5 landed as the members of the Black Daggers were being introduced and parked on Runway 14/32 to offload an M1A1 Abrams tank. The C-5 was closed up as the Abrams tank went around the show area, tearing up the grass, firing its guns, and demonstrating how the tank can turn 360º without losing the heading for the main turret. It was a very nice display and one you almost never get to see at an airshow. The C-5 then powered up to taxi off to the main ramp.
The Thunderbirds had put on a ceremony for distinguished members of the 436th and 512th Airlift Wing at Dover AFB, which was very nice to see them do. Drew Hurley was up next in his Yak-55 and it seems now Drew's performance is getting better and better each time you see it. By the time Drew had gotten up, there was mostly clear skies over towards show right, but variably cloudy at show center and partly cloudy over at show left. Drew somehow found a hole near show center to perform his inverted flat spin, in which he performed at least 11 rotations in the flat spin. For a moment I was getting worried that he wouldn't pull out and crash. After Drew landed, it was time for the Thunderbirds to take to the stage.
The Thunderbirds had to park their jets over on the far ramp with the C-5s because of space restrictions on the south side of the base. The team had delayed the performance for a good fifteen minutes, getting weather reports every minute or so on the clouds above show center, which was their main concern. You can tell the team really wanted to fly the high show, but couldn't. After about fifteen minutes, Lt.Col. Chandler elected that the team would fly the low show, which is what they did. The low show looked a lot better at Dover than it did at Millville and I'm not saying this because I'm a bit biased as to whether I like the Blue Angels or the Thunderbirds more. It goes to show that one cloud can cause problems, even if it is precepitating or not.
After the show, I had decided I would stay on the base until the Delta 767 departed. I saw him taxiing out to Runway 1 and was hoping he's take off, but he kept taxiing towards the C-5s and ended up parking there. I called it a day and headed back to my truck to head home. I waited in the lot for 20 minutes because of the traffic getting out, and saw a C-5 approach the base and land...and then the 767 departed from Runway 19. 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 Dover AFB Open House and Airshow falls under the Excellent Minus category because of the weather.
Tentative Military Demonstrations
Announcer: Howdy McCann