2002 AirPower Over Hampton Roads
June 22-23, 2002
Airshow report written on June 24, 2002.
Langley AFB has had a reputation for putting on quality airshows in the past two years and this year proved to be no different. Since the first AirPower Over Hampton Roads in 2000, I have always wanted to be a part of the base, if you want to put it that way. The drive down to the Tidewater area of Virginia made me think of a few things that were not airshow or aviation related. For instance, the main road down the Delmarva Peninsula is Route 13, which goes to the Chesapeake Bay-Bridge Tunnel and into the VA Beach area, is too boring! The drive from Dover, DE to the tip of the Eastern Shore of Virginia itself is almost three hours! It's a lot of local traffic, lots of traffic lights in Salisbury and in certain cities in Delaware, and varying speed limits between 40 and 55 along a stretch of road that's two lanes in each direction. I heard a rumor about putting a new interstate highway there but I don't know if it's true or not. If so, start it at Route 1 in Dover and take it all the way to the CBBT with a 65-mph speed limit! Anyways, on to the airshow.
In this post-September 11th atmosphere that we live in, many military installations that still went forward with their airshows had parked everyone off the base. Andrews AFB had remote parking at RFK Stadium, Dover AFB parked off Route 9, across from the base, and Langley changed the entire situation. Langley allowed parking on the base. Security was a breeze as they did allow camera bags and lawn chairs - two things Dover did not allow. I complimented the security force there and even told them how Dover treated their guests. As one walked past security, rows and rows of F-15 Eagle fuel tanks were on display. There must've been nearly 200 of them there! That would count to about 65 aircraft, as each F-15 can carry 3 external fuel tanks. The first three aircraft to see as you walk in are an MC-130P Combat Talon from Moody AFB, Georgia. It was the only C-130 on static display and it was opened up for tours. A Dyess-based B-1B Lancer was open as well but then shut so the crews could work on the other Bone across the field (it was parked on the hot ramp). An E-3 Sentry AWACS from Tinker AFB in Oklahoma was parked between the Bone and MC-130P and was the only aircraft that was roped off.
Fighters were in abundance, as far as type goes. Squadron commanders of two F-15 squadrons based at Langley had their aircraft on display. An F-15E Strike Eagle from Seymour-Johnson AFB in North Carolina complimented the Langley Eagles. The North Dakota ANG brought a single F-16A Fighting Falcon on static display, proudly wearing the Spirit of 9/11 nose art. Also from the northern tier of the country was the B-52H Stratofortress from Minot AFB in that very same state. It too was wearing that very same nose art. Two Tornadoes from Germany were parked next to each other, being just one of the three international participants on display. The other two belonged to the demo CF-18 Hornet and the CC-142, a militarized version of the Dash-8 commuter airliner. I'm familiar with seeing them wearing US Airways Express colors more than anything. Parked next to the CC-142 was an E-9A from Tyndall AFB in Florida. The E-9 is another variant of the Dash-8 used in conjunction with "Team Target" at Tyndall.
Team Target brought a QF-4E Phantom to the show. It's been a LONG time since I've seen an actual working F-4 Phantom up close (besides the one at the Air Victory Museum), and over ten years since I last saw one fly. Next to him was another F-4, this one an F-4F Phantom out of Holloman AFB in New Mexico. This one is used to train German Air Force pilots on flying the Phantom. A close look at it showed that it wears a German flag on the tail and no USAF insignia on the fuselage... at least none that I saw. Two T-38s were on display, one from Vance AFB in Oklahoma and the other from Moody AFB in GA. The F-117 Nighthawk that flew was placed closest to the crowd on the hot ramp while roped off and having armed guards near it at all times. The Navy brought in a Pegasus unmanned aerial vehicle, which is like the size of a large R/C airplane. The Air Force brought in a Predator, probably from Nellis AFB, because I have seen pictures of them with WA tail codes on them. A U-2 was on display and NOT roped off! This aircraft wore a WR tail code, which to me would suggest he's out of Warner Robins AFB in Georgia.
Perhaps the most unique of all static displays was the LCAC, the Landing Craft Air Cushion. It's too hard to describe in words but you'd have to see it to believe it. It's essentially a giant hovercraft with two huge ducted fan engines out the back. It looks like it could transport a tank and up to 40 soldiers/SEALS at one time, but I don't really know. An L-39C Albatross was parked next to the LCAC. It might be Allen Smith's aircraft judging by the paint job. Warbirds were abundant as the list included an N2S Stearman, TBM Avenger, F-4U Corsair, AD-4 Skyraider, B-25J Mitchell Panchito, UC-78 Bobcat, SNJ-4, Nanchang CJ-6A, Beech Staggerwing, a T-34 Mentor in current Navy colors, what looked like an Fw-149, an L-5, and an L-19. NASA had their T-38, OV-10A Bronco, Cirrus, and Huey on display as well as a huge NASA exhibit.
More static aircraft included a Kansas ANG KC-135D/E Stratotanker (which participated in the Tanker Tug), what looked like an Albatross seaplane, a T-6A Texan II from Moody AFB, an A-10 Warthog from Pope AFB, NC, another A-10 from the Maryland ANG, a C-21A Learjet from Andrews AFB, MH-60J Pavehawk from Moody, T-37 Tweet from Randolph AFB, Texas, WAVY News' Chopper 10, and a T-1A Jayhawk from Randolph AFB. That's a lot of aircraft to describe, you know?
The USAF Heritage of America band performed some musical numbers and renditions when announcer Frank Kingston Smith took his stand and post. The Thunderbirds did their sound check and their engine run and it was time for the show to start. Four F-15 Eagles from the 94th Fighter Squadron took off to set up for the opening ceremonies. A Rhode Island ANG C-130 took off carrying the Red Devils parachute team. The C-130 circled the base a number of times, dropping streamers the first, while Thunderbird #8 taxied out to the runway and took off for Pittsburgh. The Red Devils jumped from an altitude of 2,500 feet because of a low cloud ceiling. The first jumper carried our US flag with the national anthem sung in the background. Following the first jumper was a fleet flyby of those four F-15 Eagles in right echelon formation.
The C-130 came back around for the last pass for the Red Devils, the mass exit showline spread. Each jumper picked a certain spot to land on the show line just to give the crowd a look at their parachutes up close. Another flag jump was also performed - this one being the Union Jack, the British flag. Dan Buchanan came up and down the show line a number of times during the entire day as the Red Devils' C-130 land. The F-15s returned again in right echelon formation and broke to land. However, that was not the case. The first F-15 was in full landing configuration, landing light on the nose gear showing, and then it disappeared. He performed a missed approach. The second, third, and fourth Eagles each performed a missed approach while the first came back around to land. Again, the first Eagle didn't land - he performed another missed approach. The other three again followed the same flight pattern and maneuvers. Again in landing configuration, the first Eagle came around to the runway, pulled the gear up and performed yet another missed approach. This was the third pass for each of the four F-15s and each also performed a missed approach. As if this wasn't enough, the lead Eagle came back around and performed one final missed approach. The other three Eagles followed suit, each performing a missed approach. The first Eagle came back around and landed after leading those other three Eagles from an awesome opening of APOHR. Each Eagle came across the crowd line to salute and parked well behind the Thunderbirds on the other side of the base.
The B-2 Spirit Spirit of Louisiana came by for three photo-perfect passes. Unfortunately, an overcast sky (and a few raindrops) prevented any true photographic passes, but one pass showing the topside of the aircraft, one with him almost banking and showing the bottom of the aircraft, and the last being a loud flat pass was good enough! John Mohr took his stock 1943 Stearman into the sky for a full aerobatic routine. It has an original engine in it, not the usual 450-horsepower engines you normally see in other Stearmans, so it makes a slightly different sound. Twice during the routine, he performed a flameout with the engine. It's a nice routine that I'd love to see again. I love the paint scheme on it as well!
The Shockwave jet truck came by and did his usual routine before setting up to race with John Mohr and the Stearman. It was hard for me to tell who won, but it doesn't matter - it was too cool anyway! Dan Buchanan took to the air with his hang glider and his act still amazes me today. The fact that he's a paraplegic and is flying today is a testament to someone who hasn't given up on life. I wouldn't be surprised if anyone looked up to him as an inspiration that there is more to life than being paralyzed. Bobby Younkin was up next with his aerobatic Learjet act. It's new to the airshow scene this year and it's a wild demonstration, just because it's done in an airplane that wasn't made for aerobatics. Bobby does mostly loops and rolls in the Learjet, hovering around 350-400 mph the entire demonstration. He even starts the demonstration out really amazing by rolling the Learjet on takeoff!
Capt. Eric Jachimowicz was up next with the A-10 Warthog East Coast demonstration. The A-10 demonstration is almost exactly like the West Coast team's demonstration except today no pyro was used. It's a very nice demonstration but the only thing I am a fan of with the A-10 is its sound. Somehow I got some real close shots of the A-10 on my video and I am proud of it. WAVY 10's news chopper had already started up towards the end of the A-10 demonstration and had taken off for less than 5 minutes probably to get some crowd shots before the Thunderbirds flew.
Lt. Col. McSpadden, Thunderbird #1, performed the oath of enlistment for those individuals that were going to join the United States Air Force. They were all from the Tidewater area of Virginia, the Delmarva Peninsula, and in the area just south of Virginia Beach (Chesapeake and Suffolk). It is always a great sight to see this at any show you go to, and I'm surprised the Navy doesn't do something like this at their shows. The Thunderbirds flew under perfectly clear blue skies with clouds surrounding the base and with this, flew their high show. For some reason, each time I see the Thunderbirds, they seem to fly closer at each show and much better than the last. The Thunderbirds didn't really set up their speakers at Langley but they had at least one speaker on the tarmac near where I was sitting, but it was a good 50 feet to the left of me and there was another speaker right at the crowd line but they were the same distance from me on both sides of where I was sitting. This meant that the show was going to be louder than usual, plus the fact that I was sitting directly in front of the #1 jet. I bet Norfolk International Airport must've shut down operations when the Thunderbirds flew. As I said, they were just perfect with a few very minor mistakes.
The Thunderbirds had just ended their performance as Eric Beard took to the sky with his Yak-54 and his act known as Russian Thunder. This was one of two Russian aircraft that performed at the show, the other being Sean Carroll's Yak-9. Eric has a nice performance that is almost similar to Drew Hurley's except for the inverted flat spin. The F-117 Nighthawk took off and began his demonstration which included five beautiful passes, two of which came from the right and showed the top side of the aircraft. The F-117 isn't much of a performer since it is limited to mostly straight and level flight but the shape of it and the fact that it is a stealth fighter is what brings the attention to the crowd.
Probably my favorite aerobatic act, Sean Tucker, took to the sky next. Sean still has his beautiful bright red Oracle Challenger and he looked even better this year than last year. The sun being behind you during the day show made the Challenger stand out real nicely. Shockwave came by again, this time for a dry run without any competitors. He clocked a speed of 237 mph on the run. Chuck Lischer took his F-260 up next and set up for his performance as Sean Carroll took his Yak-9 to the air. Chuck flew his performance as nicely as usual, but he seemed to fly a little higher than when I saw him at Lemoore last year. Maybe it was because of safety but I don't know.
Sean Carroll was up next and he flew a very nice aerobatic routine in the Yak-9. What amazes me is that it sounds almost like a P-51D Mustang, even though the Yak has an Allison and the P-51 has a Merlin. As Sean performed, the Heritage Flight aircraft rolled past the crowd to set up later on. Sean even set off some bombs on Langley - something I haven't seen in a long time. And he dropped another on another pass. But this was just pyro. The Thunderbirds' support aircraft, a C-130 Hercules from Dyess AFB in Texas (64-1675), also set up to take off to Pittsburgh. Sean set off one more pyro bomb - this one being the crowd favorite Wall of Fire.
That Dyess-based C-130 took off and left for Pittsburgh just before Jim Beasley, Jr. took off in the P-51, Ed Shipley in the F-86, and Capt. Eric Jachimowicz in the A-10. It was now time for Major Dan Blue to demonstrate the home team's F-15 Eagle demonstration. It's a toss-up as to which F-15 demonstration is better but I still think the East Coast demo is better than the West Coast demo. The first Heritage Flight passed by with the A-10, F-86, and P-51 while Maj. Blue caught up separately to join the formation. The formation performed 4 passes and on the last broke formation. The break was from a right echelon. The P-51 and F-86 each performed a pass just to get the crowd an idea what they sound like in the air.
The Thunderbirds had already started their engines when the CF-18 took to the sky. Frankly, because of the Thunderbirds, I didn't enjoy the CF-18 demonstration as well as I did. What I did observe is that the demo seemed like a combination of a regular Navy Hornet demo and the Super Hornet demo. It was a nice demonstration but I need to know what it sounded like, if you know what I mean!
The Thunderbirds had left in their traditional demonstration takeoffs, minus what the solos do. The #1 jet during the show that McSpadden flew somehow broke and it was renumbered as #7. Lt. Col. McSpadden ended up flying the original #7 spare, with the #7 taken off and replaced with a #1. The Lima Lima team took off to set up as Frank Ryder took to the air and performed. Frank's performance should have been placed where Bobby Younkin or Sean Tucker flew because it wasn't as high energy as either of those two acts. Lima Lima closed the daytime show and while I wasn't in the mood to videotape anymore, I enjoyed watching their act.
I toured the statics a little more when Thunderbird #7 took off for Pittsburgh around 6:30 PM. Another Dyess-based C-130 Hercules, 64-1666, took off to join the rest of the Thunderbirds in Pittsburgh. The Yak-9 and the CJ-6A took off as some evening flying began. They performed some formation flybys and some separate flybys to kept the crowd interested. Chuck Lischer took off to perform a shortened version of his normal routine. The color of the smoke against the sun-setting sky really looks pretty. Yeah, the sun might be in front of the crowd at this time of day but it makes for some interesting photo effects. The Lima Lima team also took to the sky to fly another beautiful performance, this time with the lights on their wings the whole time to make for a spectacular effect. And time passed for the sun to drop lower and lower. The B-1B Lancer was supposed to fly during the night show but it had broken. Sean Carroll flew in place of the B-1 and even set off a wall of fire before sunset!
It was getting a little darker when Shockwave did his night dry run. The flames against the background made for an awesome effect and nearly whited-out the camera at the same time! His run this time was 228 mph and he even had some sparklers on the top engine! The RI ANG C-130 took off, fully lit, with the Red Devils on board. A very low ceiling had moved in preventing the Red Devils to jump, but behind that was clear skies and they waited for that to move in before jumping. Eric Beard took to the sky performing a short demonstration with wing pyro (they're like giant sparklers) flying off the wings.
The Red Devils jumped next from 10,500 feet and each skydiver was covered with asylums to make them glow in the dark. The C-130 landed and gave Dan Buchanan the time to fly his motorized hang glider performance while asylums were thrown into the crowd for anyone who just wants them. Dan also had wing pyro flying off his hang glider and he flew a very nice performance. A very nice fireworks display capped off the night with an incredible grand finale to end AirPower After Dark and the Saturday edition of AirPower Over Hampton Roads.
Overall Score: 10
Announcer: Frank Kingston Smith