2005 Joint Services Open House
Andrews AFB, Maryland
May 21-22, 2005
Airshow report uploaded on June 10, 2005.
For the second year in a row, Andrews AFB faces a Saturday and Sunday airshow that can finally show off how good the Joint Services Open House really is! Unfortunately, the show happened to fall on the same exact weekend as one of my other local airshows (well, that show switched dates to accomodate a jet team, and the dates happened to be the same weekend as Andrews' show). Located outside of Washington D.C. (or as most of us call it, DC), Andrews AFB boasts one of the most unique squadrons in the Air Force, the 89th Airlift Wing, which, surprisingly, showed off some of their aircraft that weekend.
I had the Andrews trip all planned out perfectly - wake up early, leave real early, and arrive at FedEx Field by 7:00 in the morning. The plan worked out beautifully, with me arriving at FedEx at 6:45 am! I had friends of mine who came down from Long Island for the show, and they made it to the base on time. Security at FedEx was tight as usual, with one thing different this year than last - I was able to bring water onto the base. As I was getting onto the base and set up, I took a spot over by show right this year, since show left wasn't the best area in terms of setup like it was last year. The skies were clear, which meant in the morning, the sun is in front of you until about noon, when it starts to creep back behind the crowd. Then it was time to tour the statics... and instead of putting it in paragraph form, I will try my best to put it in list form:
Transports, Tankers, Bombers, and other Larger Aircraft: C-5 Galaxy (Dover AFB, DE), KC-10 Extender (McGuire AFB, NJ), C-17 Globemaster III (Charleston AFB, SC - flew in the show, 98-0054), DC-10 (research labratory for the ballistic missile defense program), KC-135R Stratotankers (Andrews AFB, MD and Fairchild AFB, WA), RC-135U Combat Sent (Offut AFB, NE), HC-130J Hercules (CGAS Elizabeth City, NC), KC-130 Hercules (Stewart ANGB, NY), C-130T Hercules (NASJRB New Orleans, LA), an AC-130U Spectre (Hurlburt Field, FL), B-1B Lancer (Dyess AFB, TX), B-52H Stratofortress (Barksdale AFB, LA), Boeing C-32A (Andrews AFB/89th Airlift Wing, 98-0002), P-3C Orion (NAS Jacksonville, FL), a pair of Homeland Security P-3C Orions (outfitted for the AWACS role), Boeing T-43A (Randolph AFB, TX), E-8C Joint STARS (Robins AFB, GA), and an E-3B Sentry (Tinker AFB, OK).
Helicopters: Two UH-1 Hueys (US Army and USAF), OH-58D Kiowa, AH-64 Apache, CH-47 Chinnok, UH-60 Blackhawk, two TH-57C SeaRangers, SH-60B Seahawk, MH-60S Knighthawk, VH-3H Sea King, MV-22 Ospery (MCAS Cherry Point, NC), OH-6 Cayuse (Border Patrol), A-Star AS350 (Border Patrol), S-70 Black Hawk (ex-Customs), CH-46 Sea Knight, CH-53E Super Stallion, MH-53E Sea Dragon, HH-60 Jayhawk (USCG), HH-65 Dauphin (USCG), and an MH-68A Stingray (USCG).
Fighters and Trainers: Three A-10 Thunderbolt IIs (two from Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ and one from the MD ANG), QF-4E Phantom (Tyndall AFB, FL), F-15C Eagle (Tyndall AFB, FL - 95th Fighter Squadron), F-15E Strike Eagle (Seymour Johnson AFB, NC), F-16C Fighting Falcon (DC ANG), F/A-18C Hornet (NAS Oceana - VFC-12 Omars), F/A-18F Super Hornet (NAS Oceana - VFA-211 Checkmates), two F-117 Nighthawks (Holloman AFB, NM - one for static, one for the flying display), F/A-22 Raptor (Langley AFB, VA - 03-4042), two T-34C Mentors (NAS Pensacola, FL), two T-6A Texan IIs (NAS Pensacola, FL and Laughlin AFB, TX), T-1A Jayhawk (Laughlin AFB, TX), T-2C Buckeye (NAS Meridian, MS), T-37 Tweet (Sheppard AFB, TX), two T-38 Talons (Moody AFB, GA and Holloman AFB, NM), T-39 Sabreliner (NAS Pensacola, FL), T-44A Pegasus, and a T-45 Goshawk (NAS Meridian, MS).
Other Military Aircraft: A single C-21A Learjet (I believe this jet came out of Scott AFB, IL), EA-6B Prowler (VAQ-133), E-2C Hawkeye (NAVSTA Norfolk, VA), C-2A Greyhound (NAVSTA Norfolk, VA), S-3 Viking (NAS Jacksonville, FL), and a U-2S Dragon Lady (Beale AFB, CA).
Civillian-Owned Aircraft: PBY Catalina from the Fighter Factory, TWA L1049 Super Constellation, a replica of a A6M Zero, a replica of a Kate dive bomber, Cessna 172, a Pilatus PC-12 and DeHaviland Dash-8 from the Department of Homeland Security, an OT-47B Citation II, a Gulfstream III outfitted for research purposes, a Yak-52, the B-25J Mitchell Panchito, B-17F Flying Fortress Memphis Belle, Beechcraft C-45, Goodyear FG-1D Corsair, OV-1 Mohawk, and a Cessna T206 Turbo Stationair from the Border Patrol.
I think thats the entire static display. Just look at the list - you theoretically cannot spend one day at Andrews AFB, take in the flying displays (in other words, be at the crowd line when airplanes are flying) and mentally take note of every single airplane, helicopter, and machine on display at Andrews - even if you stay an hour or so after the airshow ends, and you are one of the first on base! I tried it last year (last year was under similar circumstances - Dover AFB had an airshow the same weekend as Andrews AFB and obviously I went to both shows), and I was unable to check out everything at the show. I almost got everything on display, even though it was very difficult. I suppose what I'm trying to say is that Andrews AFB is one of those places where you would need both Saturday and Sunday to take in everything at the show, both in the air and on the ground. Just by looking at what was on the static displays, you can very easily say that, even if the show encounters a good deal of rain (which it has from 2000-2003), the static displays are worth the trip, and this year's static lineup was one of the best I have ever seen in my three trips to Andrews. If the B-2 was there, it would have been the best.
As soon as it was 10:00 am, the flying displays began. Allen Smith was the first to perform over Andrews AFB and to be honest, I was not up to far with shooting video of him, since I knew he would be flying at both Willow Grove and McGuire AFB, which were both a week and two weeks later, respectively. It was either that Allen flew the L-39 closer to the crowd or the fact that he had the jet making a little more noise, but whichever explanation he can give, the plane was certainly a little louder than normal. The L-39 is one of the quieter jets out there, and having Allen fly as the first act was a perfect airshow opener, especially with a lineup that Andrews AFB had. After Allen landed, it was time for helicopters to take the stage. Two AH-64A Apaches from the North Carolina Army National Guard made several passes down the runway, including a section high speed pass, with what looked like one of the Apaches overtaking the other as they flew down the runways. Apache demos are uncommon, but when there is one, it is usually a single-ship demo. Having two in the air at the same time is a nice treat, but compared to last year's Joint Services Open House, it was somewhat of a let down, since 2004 had an AH-64A, an AH-64D Longbow, and a UH-60 Blackhawk all in the air at the same time.
Andrews AFB has had three different airshow announcers over the last three years - Frank Kingston Smith, who, in my opinion, is the voice of Andrews AFB (he has announced every airshow since at least 1995 up until 2003), Rob Reider, who announced in 2004 (and did a real good job at it!), and this year, Danny Clisham was announcing. Rob Reider was supposed to be announcing Andrews, but he had an earlier commitment for the same weekend, however, he recommended that Danny announce. I have been to one airshow (at least that I can remember) with Danny Clisham announcing, but he was not alone at the microphone - Rob Reider and Frank Kingston Smith were also there. That was in Dayton, Ohio, back in 2003. Danny did most, if not, all of the "flashbacks" and he did a real good job with it. With Andrews AFB and the JSOH, it was weird hearing Danny announcing. I couldn't place my foot on why - maybe because the last two times I was there (2000 and 2004) there were two different announcers. Danny seemed to have some sort of montonomy, but compared with other announcers I've heard that have a montonomy, Danny's is better than others in the way that he knows his aviation.
Now, on to the base itself. What is in this paragraph will help you follow the airshow report a lot better because I will mention runways and such and I guarantee you'd have no idea what I'm talking about. Andrews AFB has two parallel runways, both of which run parallel to the crowd line. The closest runway is 1L/19R, while the far runway is 1R/19L. If a plane is taking off from show right to show left, that airplane is taking off on the 1s. Consequently, if the plane is taking off from show left to show right, the airplane is using the 19s. I said earlier that the sun is in front of you in the morning and behind you in the afternoon. The crowd line faces east - in other words, when you look out towards the runways, you are looking east. The Potomac River, DC, Reagan Airport, and Dulles Airport are all behind you.
Anyways, after the Apaches landed, two warbirds taxied out to runway 1L and took off individually, albeit with a lot of spacing between each other. The first of which was a Supermarine Spitfire, with the second being a P-51D Mustang. Both aircraft flew several passes individually (in fact, I have never seen either of the two specific aircraft flying before, at least I don't think I have seen that particular Spitfire and that particular Mustang in the air before). Before joining up, an S-3B Viking departed runway 1R to set up for its demonstration and then the Spitfire and Mustang got together for a couple passes. Talk about a very nice formation ruined by the setup of Andrews AFB. Just prior to the formation breaking to land, the Golden Knights' C-31 Friendship also departed from 1R and went out to set up for their jump. The P-51 and Spitfire were actually repositioning for their next pass (formation and solo passes) behind the crowd just so the S-3 and C-31 could depart and set up.
The Golden Knights performed their streamer drop and began their ascent to jump altitude, which would be 12,500 feet. As they were doing so, the S-3B Viking returned for its demonstration. Traditionally, the S-3 demo is a two-ship demonstration, but the second S-3 had a mechanical problem prior to taking off (it taxied with the first aircraft to the runway and then was spotted heading back to the hot ramp). As a single-ship demo, the S-3 demonstration seemed somewhat boring, since when there are two airplanes in the demonstration, when one is repositioning, the other is doing something in front of the crowd, which makes dead time in the performance appear. The S-3 does indeed sound a lot like the A-10, since both aircraft share the same engines. The S-3 landed on runway 19R, as the show got ready for the Golden Knights to officially open up the Saturday edition of the Joint Services Open House.
And it was time for the Golden Knights to go. The first of the jumpers helped bring in the American flag (I can tell you right now that it was the Black demonstration team that was at Andrews AFB, since the Gold team was at Millville!) with the national anthem being played in the background. With the help of the clear skies in the morning, the Golden Knights were able to jump from 12,500 feet up and perform their mass exit demonstration. At first I thought it would be a typical showline spread since that would speed up the timing of the show, but each jumper came down individually on the target, which I like more than the traditional showline spread. The C-31 did not make a high speed pass down the runway, however, it simply landed on runway 1L so that the rest of the show could get underway.
That next demonstration was by the T-6A Texan II East Coast Demo Team. The guys from Moody AFB put on a decent demonstration of the Texan II. Flying the demonstration was Captain Michael Rambo, who, I didn't realize, is one of two demonstration pilots on the Texan II demonstration team from Moody. Captain Rambo actually put on a good demonstration of the aircraft, and by good I mean that you could distinctly hear the Texan II as its flying! The airshow schedule did say that we were supposed to have a Texan Heritage Flight, with Kevin Russo flying his SNJ with Captain Rambo in the Texan II, but that never came to happen. I was somewhat disappointed, since I have never seen a Texan Heritage Flight yet (and I'm hoping McGuire AFB doesn't fall through with their promise of one either). After Captain Rambo landed, the six SNJs from the Skytypers started to taxi out to 1L, while Kevin Russo did indeed fly, as he departed runway 1L for Millville, NJ, since their show was the same weekend. The Texan II ended up landing on 1R, though.
A Piper Cub started taxiing out in front of the crowd, with an SUV heading out, with an old man carrying a cane sitting on the tailgate. The premise was that the old man is a "lawn doctor" and mows the grass at Andrews AFB on a regular basis, and wants an airplane ride. He gets the airplane ride, but there is a bit of a problem, as the aircraft has a tailwheel problem while in the middle of runway 1L. The instructor pilot gets out, fixes the airplane, but doesn't get back in the Piper Cub in time, because the passenger - the farmer, is "in control." He joyflew the airplane for about eight minutes, doing stuff you don't want to see done in a Cub, like a tailspin and a loop, but eventually brought it down to land. However, it was not "some farmer", it was Charlie Kulp flying. Danny Clisham made a point saying that in September of 2005, Charlie will be 80 years old. Charlie is definitely one of the older airshow pilots and he flies a good flying farmer act, but Roger Lehnert flies an even better one.
After the Piper Cub was taxied off the runway, the Skytypers took off, albeit short one airplane - the slot aircraft. Sponsored by Geico, the Skytypers are based in Farmingdale, New York and have six SNJ Texans that skytype all over the country. The team also has an airshow performance, which seemed to be one of the better performances I have ever seen them fly, since they are not real big fans of making the T-6/SNJ loud, it seemed louder at Andrews than at any other show site I've seen them fly in the past. After they concluded their performance, they climbed to about 10,000 feet and did some skytyping over the DC area. The civillians kept coming as Nancy Lynn took to the sky next and began her performance. The last time I saw Nancy fly was at Dayton in 2003 and the folks at Dayton for the last show day decided to fly Nancy right after Patty Wagstaff - both women who fly Extra 300s. In my opinion, that was a crazy idea, since Patty is a much more aggressive pilot than Nancy. With about two years between performances, it was nice to see that at the end of her performance, Nancy finally brought the Extra 300L down to the surface, making her performance look better than at Dayton a couple of years ago. Her son Pete is still announcing for her performances, whenever he can possibly do it.
Immediately after Nancy landed, a familiar engine sound was overheard. It was an AV-8B Harrier taxiing out to about the midpoint of runway 1L. The Harrier took off using less than 800 feet of runway, made a high speed pass from the left, showing off the topside, before coming around from the right, doing the same exact type of flyby but from the other direction before coming back around to show center. This time around, the Harrier did what it does best, which is hovering. Last year, I was sitting at show left, which basically was a good distance away from the Harrier when he did his hovering portion of the demonstration. This year, I was at show right, and most of the hovering was confined to show center and show right, so it got incredibly loud. Since 1L/19R is a concrete runway, the pilot was able to do a full hover demonstration and conclude the first half of the performance with a vertical landing. After sitting idle for about a minute, the Harrier powered up and performed a vertical takeoff, hovered and turned away from the crowd, tucked in the landing gear, and flew away to reposition for more hovering, followed by a vertical landing to end the demonstration. Personally, to me, as long as the Harrier does a good amount of hovering, its a great demonstration. One thing to point out, though. During the first hovering demonstration, the C-17 Globemaster III that was parked on the hot ramp/static display was running and backed out of its parking spot and headed towards runway 1L.
After the Harrier landed, it was time for the C-17 to do the same stuff the other airplanes did. The crew from Charleston AFB in South Carolina sure know how to put on a C-17 demonstration. The demonstration consisted of a very short run takeoff, which had to have used less than 1,500 feet of runway and a high speed pass. As he repositioned for the dirty pass, I took a note of what was all the way down on the far end of 1L/19R. It was a very large aircraft - larger than the C-17 that was flying in the show. In fact, a C-17 usually travels ahead of this particular airplane. It was a Boeing VC-25, the aircraft famous for its role of Air Force One. I didn't pay any attention to details but after the C-17 demo, I looked it over from the distance, and it appeared the side door was open and there was a staircase up against the aircraft. I figured President Bush was already on base and simply breaking every single FAA rule in the book and watching the show from the plane! It was during the end of the Harrier's demonstration and during the C-17's demonstration that the clouds started to show up in numbers. The C-17 performed a dirty pass with a climb, a minimum radius turn, and then a short-field landing that involved backing up. Just seeing the C-17 in the air being thrown about as if it were an F-15 is just amazing.
As the C-17 taxied back to its hot ramp/static display position, another large aircraft was inbound. It was a B-1B Lancer from the folks at Dyess AFB in Texas. Once I knew the plane was from Dyess, I knew the crew was not going to show off the B-1 like the Air National Guard pilots did. The Bone made three passes, all coming from show right, with the first pass being a high speed pass with no afterburners and the wings swept back. His second pass had the wings swept forward for a low speed configuration, and the last pass being the high speed pass. The final pass made some noise, but not enough to demonstrate how loud the B-1 can be. The crew climbed out to the north and headed east, as the next show site they were to fly over was Millville, NJ. At this time, it was going to be a short break in the action because the Thunderbirds were going to do their sound check and engine run.
I took that time to get something to eat. I don't know if it was a good idea, since firstly I was hungry and hadn't eaten since 4:00 am because as the Thunderbirds were running their engines, three VH-3D Sea King helicopters appeared from different directions and landed at the VC-25A, which meant that President Bush was going to board the aircraft and the plane was going to take the all-too-familiar callsign of Air Force One. In very little time, the VC-25 was taxiing on Runway 1L, back taxiing so it can take off on 19R, while behind that was the second VC-25A that the 89th Airlift Wing operates. The tail of the first VC-25 was 29000 while the second one was 28000. It is my belief that President Bush was aboard 29000 and that was the aircraft that was carrying the Air Force One callsign. The VC-25 usually carries the SAM (plus tail number) callsign when the President is not on board - SAM being Special Air Mission. As the two aircraft taxied behind the Thunderbirds, the timing couldn't be any better, since the Thunderbirds were shutting down the F-16 engines and the sound check was completed.
Air Force One was the first of the VC-25s to take off. Air Force One had the close runway - 19R, and took off in a little more than half the length of the runway before doing a right turnout to the west. A minute or so later, as Air Force One cleared the immediate airspace, SAM 28000 got rolling on 19L and was airborne in about the same amount of runway, making the westerly turnout, following Air Force One. As both aircraft were in the immediate area, the three VH-3D Sea Kings provided cover, even though the helicopter cannot play the role of an AH-1 Cobra or an AH-64 Apache! One of the VH-3Ds headed off west, presumably towards the direction of the White House, while the other two joined up for a pass down the runway before heading off to their home. Just by looking at the VC-25s and the C-32 on static display, you can tell that the folks of the 89th Airlift Wing polish the daylights out of the airplanes. They are the cleanest and shiniest airplanes in the Air Force's inventory (they fall in the same category as the Thunderbirds' F-16s), and that also includes the VH-3Ds and the UH-1N Hueys based at Andrews. President Bush headed off to give a speech at one of the campuses of the University of Michigan - the speech, if memory serves me correctly, was emphasized on social security reform.
As the Presidental fleet exited the show area, a pair of C-130 Hercules were spotted heading towards Andrews AFB. This was to be the jump platform for the 82nd Airborne. I was a little disappointed, since last year's mass airdrop involved six C-130s, but having only two had a good advantage - the area was cleared of parachutes and jumpers much quicker than with having six planeloads of jumpers. After all of the jumpers exited, the two C-130s, a C-130E from NAS/JRB Willow Grove in Pennsylvania and a C-130H from Dyess AFB in Texas, landed on 1L while the F-117 Nighthawk proceeded to taxi out to take off for its demonstration. With the C-130s on the ground, that meant another break in the action. At that time, the Skytypers returned to Andrews and landed on 1R. A few minutes later, the F-117 was airborne. His first two passes were essentially flat passes, with some steep turns to reposition. The third pass had a steep repositioning turn that was actually pointed towards the crowd, with the fourth pass being a flat pass, before heading off to Millville to do some flybys over there.
After the F-117 departed, Capt. Jason "Bondo" Costello and the F-15 Eagle demo aircraft taxied by the crowd, heading for runway 19R, while Dale Snodgrass rotated off 1L in the F-86 Sabre, followed by Lt.Col. Jerry Kerby in the QF-4 Phantom, and Captain Jeff Yost in the A-10 Warthog demo aircraft. As the three aircraft set up for the upcoming Heritage Flight, it was time for the F-15 demonstration. Compared to last week's demonstration at Langley AFB, Bondo did not use as much afterburner at Andrews AFB than he did at Langley, but he still put on a great demonstration, despite the cloud deck, which he did use to his advantage by finding the holes and using those holes of blue sky to center the vertical portions of the demonstration. After finishing the demonstration, he joined up with Capt. Yost, Lt.Col. Kerby, and Snort for a modified Heritage Flight. I say it was modified because there was an F-4 Phantom in the Heritage Flight. It's not an official designation - its something I came up with, and I'll explain it below.
I have classified Heritage Flights in two categories - the Classic Heritage Flight and the Modified Heritage Flight. A Classic Heritage Flight can contain any of the following aircraft: A-10, F-15, F-16, P-38, P-47, P-51, and/or F-86 in ANY formation you can think of, with up to four aircraft in formation and in any quantity for the older aircraft. The Modified Heritage Flight contains the aircraft included in the Classic Heritage Flight as well as either the F-4 Phantom and/or the F/A-22 Raptor. The Modified Heritage Flight MUST have either the Phantom and/or Raptor in the formation in order for it to be a Modified Heritage Flight. Formations with the Raptor flying in it can be no more than three airplanes (two other planes plus the Raptor), otherwise, you can have a four-ship with the Phantom flying in that formation.
Instead of the usual three passes in the Heritage Flight, the formation made an additional pass in the beginning of the performance, coming from head on, then making the standard passes from the right, from the left, and from behind for the break. The F-4 Phantom that Lt.Col. Kerby flew was a QF-4 painted up in a two-tone grey paint scheme that represented the F-4 as it was being retired from active duty, reserves, and Air National Guard duties in the 1980s and early 1990s. Notably, the F-4G Phantoms that flew the Wild Weasel missions also wore the two-tone grey paint scheme as well as the RF-4C Phantoms that were in service during the 1970s and 1980s. After breaking formation, three of the aircraft came around to make one final pass before landing. The first in the formation was the A-10, which made a low pass over the runway and climbed out to set up for its demonstration. Dale Snodgrass took his F-86 Sabre very low to the ground and took the aircraft down to the weeds at about 500 mph before pulling up and coming around to land. Lt.Col. Jerry Kerby came around with the QF-4 Phantom at about 600 mph, with afterburners lit for a low altitude, high speed pass (but not as low as Snort!). Finally, Bondo came by with the F-15, only this time, he had landed on 1L.
Lt.Col. Kerby and Dale Snodgrass then followed suit and landed on 1L behind Bondo with the Eagle. Kerby demonstrated that the F-4 Phantom still needs a drag chute to slow down on landing, as it is the only airplane in the Air Force inventory that uses a drag chute on landing (the B-52 also uses one, but not as much as say, the Phantom). After both aircraft landed, it was time for the A-10 East Coast Demo Team to demonstrate the A-10. There's a new guy this year, and it's Captain Jeff Yost. Capt. Yost kept the A-10 close to the crowd, which was a nice idea, since I got some killer shots of the aircraft. Like the F-15 demonstration, Capt. Yost flew a dedication pass towards the end of his performance, which is a great idea, especially for photographers, since the banana/photo pass was discontinued in (if I remember correctly) 2002.
After Capt. Yost and the A-10 landed on Runway 1L, the B-2 Spirit was inbound from the right. After the B-2 made his first pass, the F-117 followed behind the B-2 and made a sharp break to land on the 1s (I don't remember which runway the F-117 landed on, but my best guess would have been 1R). The B-2 made two more passes, with the last pass being a high altitude pass, before leaving the area and heading off to another show site (I don't remember if he came from Millville or was going to Millville). It was the first time that I can remember that I've been to an airshow with the B-2 and the F-117 sharing the same airspace at the exact same time. It's unfortunate that both aircraft did not formate for at least one pass, since that would have made my day. Oh well, maybe another time.
As the B-2 departed, the highlight demonstration of the show was ready to go. It was an F/A-18F Super Hornet from VFA-106 Gladiators out of NAS Oceana in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Lt. Ian "Goon" Burgoon was back in the front seat of the Super Hornet, while his WIZO was Lt. Craig "D.J." Bangor. Once again, the folks from VFA-103 were nice enough to lend both show birds for the demo crew, with MODEX 103 flying the demonstration and MODEX 100 being used as the backup jet. The Super Hornet demo gets the crown as the most dynamic demonstration as well as the tactical demonstration that contained the most outrageous maneuvers out of all of the military demonstrations at Andrews AFB. Heck, a lot of people say that the Super Hornet performance was better than the Thunderbirds, which is a longshot at best! We were supposed to have a Legacy Flight with the Super Hornet in formation with an F4U Corsair (the same Corsair that was at Langley), but timing on Saturday prevented the Legacy Flight from happening. I did hear that there was a Legacy Flight on Sunday. The only complaint about the Super Hornet demonstration that I have was that there wasn't enough humidity in the air to produce some good results with vapor. There was some vapor, but it didn't do too much to exaggerate the effect of the aircraft.
There was enough time for the Super Hornet to land on 1L and taxi in front of the crowd (and fold the wings at show center, mind you) before Frank Ryder took off and began his performance. Frank seems to be a new regular performer at Andrews AFB, since he was there last year (I'm not sure if he was there in '03) and he has changed the paint scheme on the Cyclone a little bit. There are no more stars on the wings of the Cyclone, which is making the plane appear more plain against the sky. I'm starting to memorize Frank's performance, which is pretty scary since he'd be the second performer whose performance I would have memorized (the first being Sean Tucker). Frank had challenged Scott Hammack to a race with the Air Force Reserve Above & Beyond Jet Car (also known as Smoke-n-Thunder). Scott did some burner pops in front of the crowd before heading off to Runway 1L for the race. It seemed at first that Scott got a head start, but Frank Ryder easily passed him as Scott was accelerating, but it didn't take very long at all for Scott to pass Frank. Scott hit the parachutes and slowed down the jet car quickly as he knew he won another race. I don't know how fast he got up to, but it had to be at least 275 mph.
After Frank landed, it was time for the USAF Thunderbirds to take the stage. But, some business had to be taken care of, in the form of an Air Force enlistment ceremony, with the oath of enlistment being given by Lt.Col. Michael Chandler. About thirty guys and girls from the DC, Baltimore, and Maryland/Virginia metro areas took the oath of enlistment and became a part of the Air Force that day. Thunderbird #3, Major Brian Burns, was still out on a medical condition, so the team was forced to fly with only five out of the six pilots. Making matters worse, the Thunderbirds were forced to fly a low show because of the clouds, and they had a hard deck time of 4:00 pm to follow. I thought that was when the TFR was over, but I might have been right on that, but there was also another reason for the 4:00 hard time. Everyone says the Thunderbirds were way off and didn't look their best, but I looked back at my video, and there were some soft spots in the performance, but with one less airplane, they still put on a decent job. The demonstration was also cut short because of the deadline, as the team broke formation after the first stinger pass. I knew something was up by that time, and I noted it since the Thunderbirds broke formation to land on 1R.
After they taxied back and were in the process of shutting down, the best way to close out an airshow at Andrews AFB took place - the return of President Bush aboard Air Force One. Interestingly enough, Bush came back on the same airplane he left on - SAM 29000. But what was even more interesting was how the VC-25 landed. Once the main gear of the aircraft touched down, the pilots immediately threw in the reverse thrust, seconds before the nose gear touched the ground! As the Thunderbird pilots were heading towards the crowd, Air Force One was back taxiing on 19R (he landed on 1L, which was nice for us photographers), where one of the VH-3Ds was sitting, while the other two were in the air around Andrews AFB. As he got down to the far end of 19R, Bush got off, hopped on the VH-3D, took off again, and joined up with the other two VH-3Ds and made a flyby down the runway. You can say that the President did a flyby at an airshow, but technically the airshow was already over! Shortly afterwards, SAM 28000, the other VC-25, arrived and landed on runway 1L, following the same tracks as Air Force One, and landing in the same fashion as Air Force One. As 28000 back taxied on 19R, in the distance you could see 29000 sitting at the threshold of 1L, waiting for 28000 so that both aircraft can taxi back to the hangar together. That was just too cool!
After all of the VC-25 business was taken care of, I finally took the time to check out every single airplane on static display, taking a tour of the AC-130U Spectre and the US Customs Citation II (a huge thank you to the crew for letting me check out the interior of the aircraft and getting a cockpit shot!), and zigzagging the static display trying to get everything I can, with the military police trying to get me to leave and telling me that the area is restricted and there would be no more photography and video. Oh, how I ignored that! The line for the buses back to FedEx Field about an hour after the airshow ended stretched the entire length of the back part of the static display! It had to be at least a mile long! Once I reached the end of the line, I realized that the line was moving at an excellent pace! To get from the far southern end of the line to where the buses were boarding took the same time as if I were walking that distance without being in the bus line. I was a happy camper about that. I also managed to sneak in the last of my static shots from that line and grab a handful of airshow programs (more like fifteen), since they were free. I got back on the bus easily, back to FedEx Field, and was in the truck and home in 2½ hours travel time, getting home sooner than I thought. Overall, this year's show at Andrews AFB was incredible! It had the best static display I had ever seen at any airshow. The only downside was that the following day I would have to drive to Millville, NJ to catch that show, whose static display and flying display didn't come close to the magnitude of Andrews AFB's static and flying displays.
Military Demonstration Teams
Tentative Military Demonstrations
Announcer: Danny Clisham