2005 AirPower Over Hampton
Langley AFB, Virginia
May 13-15, 2005
Airshow report uploaded on June 7, 2005.
One of the many new "quirks" of the 2005 airshow season includes the addition of two military aircraft to the Air Force's Heritage Flight program. One of the aircraft is currently retired from active duty, the reserves, and the Air National Guard service within the last eleven years while the other aircraft is currently reaching operational capabilities. If you've guessed it, I'm referring to the F-4 Phantom and the F/A-22 Raptor. The first hint that I got of the F-4 and the F/A-22 flying Heritage Flights was at the ICAS Convention back in December. I made no real mention of it, considering it was not official news at the time, but eventually word leaked out. So then, I had something to look forward to this year and hope and pray that I would see the Phantom fly at least once somewhere this year... if not, then I would have made plans to travel and see it fly.
Luckilly for me, one of the shows that featured the F-4 Phantom in the Heritage Flight was Langley AFB. In the beginning, Langley was supposed to have been my second airshow for 2005, but in the middle of January, the Snowbirds (and the Blue Angels, mind you) found themselves with a cancelled airshow in their hands and they had scrambled to find a suitable airshow location for both teams. Selfridge ANGB in Michigan and Millville, New Jersey both agreed to switch their show dates to accomonate the Blue Angels and the Snowbirds, respectively. In the long run, I'm glad Millville moved, since it wouldn't conflict with my final exam schedule, but it also meant that Millville would be on the same weekend as Andrews AFB's airshow.
My plans for the long weekend were to head down to Virginia on Thursday, go flying with the Red Barons (which I will describe on a separate page) in the latter part of the morning, and go to Langley AFB in the afternoon to catch the Thunderbirds' arrival. I did just that, caught the Thunderbirds arriving and loitering around for about thirty minutes to check out the show site and then fly a practice show before landing on Runway 8. If you have seen my Langley AFB spotting page, you know there are two spots where one can watch normal operations from at Langley - one from Tidewater Drive (which puts you to the left of the approach lights) and the other from a dirt road that leads you to a junkyard, which is on the other side of the approach lights, and offset with the traffic light into the West Gate to Langley AFB. Since Runway 8 was active, that meant when the Thunderbirds were landing, I would be shooting their approaches, which is what I had hoped to get and what I did indeed get. I also caught their C-17 Globemaster III support aircraft come in.
The second part of Thursday was spent hanging out at NAS Oceana. I had originally planned to get on base but those plans fell through. Oh well, maybe next time. I'd say 85% of all the traffic I caught on approach to the 5s at Oceana were Hornets and Super Hornets, while the remainder were F-14s, MC-130s, and helicopters. Unfortunately, the aircraft I had hoped to catch arriving at Langley (namely the B-52, F-4s, and Tornado) had arrived in the time frame that I was at Oceana. Oh well, maybe next time. I made the trip back to Langley to meet up with some friends and catch whatever else would be coming in, but within fifteen minutes, I decided to call it quits since nothing came in, plus it was getting rather chilly, so I decided to call it a night and head out to my friend's place in Yorktown, who happened to be one of the participants in the flying display for the weekend's airshow.
Friday was a tough day to call, as it was overcast. The original plan was to head to NAS Oceana in the morning to catch whatever F-14 Tomcat movements I could get and then make my way to Langley AFB to catch the practice show and any static display arrivals. Needless to say, the one aircraft I wanted to catch arriving into Langley AFB naturally arrived when I was at Oceana. It goes to show how much Murphy's Law applied to me over the last two days! I did get to see a lot of F/A-18 Hornet action while I was at Oceana, with a few Super Hornets and Tomcats intermixed with the baby Hornets. However, compared to Thursday, Friday was very cold and very windy. Also, it didn't help me one bit that I did not bring a sweatshirt or a jacket down with me! I had hoped that the weather would be warm all weekend long, and I was somewhat wrong! Oh, by the way, when I mention any performer and don't really say a whole lot about his performance, it means I've seen that particular performer so many times in the past that I can't think of anything new to say (this applies for every airshow report in 2005 and in subsequent years afterwards).
Going into Friday evening, the public was allowed to get on base at 5:00 and by that time, there was already quite a few airplanes in the air. The Golden Knights had performed a media jump and four F-15 Eagles from the 1st Fighter Wing were already in the air. By the time the Golden Knights' C-31 had landed and had made its way to the hot ramp, the already mentioned F-15 Eagles had made a pass over Langley AFB to open up the evening show. The F-15s then made their way back around to break off in formation to land individually on Runway 8. I was somewhat disappointed to see them perform full-stop landings, as in the past, the Eagle pilots have had a few minutes to show off some missed approaches. It's also nice to be able to tell what the runway headings are now, since I have become more active in aircraft spotting over the winter and springtime, as I made a trip down to Hampton Roads in March to catch the Pukin' Dogs send off their F-14 Tomcats to the Boneyard (the trip down involved spotting at both NAS Oceana and Langley AFB).
As soon as the fourth F-15 touched down, Michael Goulian began his performance. Michael's performance gave me a good opportunity to critique the guy that was hired to announce AirPower Over Hampton Roads - Major Jon "Jughead" Counsell. If you're familiar with when I had the Langley preview on the site, you knew I had the announcer section blank up until the night before airshow weekend. I had no idea who would be announcing, and all my announcer buddies in the airshow industry hadn't gotten the slightest idea who would be at Langley either! I found out that Thursday night since Major Jim "Penny" Varden invited me to a "pre-party" down the street from his place. I saw familiar faces and then Jim introduced me to Jughead, who seemed like someone who was full of energy, and I was right. My first impression was that Langley made the mistake by hiring a nobody, which is what McGuire AFB did five years ago for their airshow. Jughead is an F-15 pilot of Mountain Home AFB in Idaho and has announced airshows "on the side". He knows what he's talking about - as well as knows what he sees, which is a huge plus, and he's got a great sense of humor. Anyways, about Michael Goulian... he's got a new sound track for his performance, which is a very nice touch and I will say it right now - the more I see him fly, the better I like it! That's a good thing, because I will see him at least three more times in 2005.
As Mike landed, it was time for the T-6A Texan II demonstration to get underway. In the past, I have seen the East Coast Demo Team perform, but never the West Coast guys from Randolph AFB in Texas. This year's pilot is Captain Jeff Stift, and for an evening performance, the Texan II demonstration was actually very good. It was actually starting to get cooler and I knew I was going to be in trouble before the sun actually set if I did not get anything warm to put on! The Texan II may not be the loudest airplane in the Air Force's inventory, but it does put on a dynamic airshow demonstration. As he landed and taxied by my position (I was in the chalet area, which happened to be at show left instead of show center), Chuck Lischer took off in the F-260 and began his performance. For me, Chuck falls into the same category as Michael Goulian, in terms of performers whose airplanes I can never get a clear and good centered shot of! Chuck's performance this year is pretty much unchanged over last year's. It was at this time that the coolness of the air started getting to me, and yeah, it affected the video.
The Red Baron Pizza Squadron was next for their evening performance. Surprisingly to me, the show this year is a lot different than in the past. The first thing I noticed is that the pilots do not "salute" by giving their position and point-rolling their Stearman the specific number of times that signify their position (for example, Bill Stein, who flies Red Baron #3 in the right wing position, flew a three-point roll in 2004), and that the show is broken down into three "acts". The second act is the one that features most of the solo flying, which is usually done up in pairs for some parts of the act. The third act contains formation aerobatics along with the famous "follow the leader" noisemaking aerobatics. It's still a great performance nonetheless, it's just been modified. As the Red Barons landed and taxied by, Sean Tucker was already up in the air and ready to begin his performance. Sean's performance has not changed at all from last year, which is very nice since there really isn't anything that needs to be added or removed from the sequence to make it better. As he was performing, the F-86 Sabre, F-4 Phantom, and F-15 Eagle taxied by to head out to Runway 8 for the next performances.
After Sean landed, it was time for one of those airshow moments I had waited months to see - an F-4 Phantom in flight. However, it didn't take off first, the F-86 Sabre did. Ed Shipley brought the Sabre out from the hangar for the first time in a while (to my knowledge) and it looks at least ten times better than the last time I saw him fly it. Shipley pulled a Snodgrass by keeping it somewhat low to the ground on the takeoff run before making a right turnout. Behind him was Lt.Col. Jerry Kerby in the F-4 Phantom. I was told from a few people that the F-4 is a loud airplane, and I was expecting something loud and thunderous to go down the runway, and thats basically what I got! The F-4 and F-86 then loitered behind the crowd, waiting for the F-15 demonstration to finish up so they could join up for the Heritage Flight.
That F-15 demonstration was up next. The East Coast Demo Team out of Langley AFB had introduced a new demonstration pilot for 2005-2006. Taking over the position from Major Bret "Slam" Anderson (whom I did see a number of times over the course of the weekend) is Captain Jason "Bondo" Costello. Not only is there a new demo pilot, there is also a modified demo routine. This year, all of the ACC demonstrations (A-10 East and West, F-15 East and West, F-16 East and West) have added a Dedication Pass in their show, which is essentially a banana pass. There is still a knife edge pass, but with the Dedication Pass, it "forces" the demo pilot to reposition for the knife edge pass with an additional high speed pass, which is a very nice bonus! Bondo seemed to have taken my advice at the ICAS Convention (the more afterburner, the better the show) and put it to good use throughout the demonstration.
After Bondo completed the demonstration, he proceeded to join up with Ed Shipley in the F-86 Sabre and Lt.Col. Jerry Kerby in the F-4 Phantom for the Heritage Flight. Now, I bet you're wondering when F-4s have been flying Heritage Flights...well, it's a new thing for 2005. Several Phantoms at Holloman AFB in New Mexico and in Tyndall AFB in Florida have been painted up in various "Heritage" schemes since the late 1950s, representing how the Phantom served well in the Air Force. The most beautiful of the paint jobs are the Phantoms painted up in the Southeast Asia camoflague, which consists of tan, two shades of green, and a black radome - with one or two airplanes painted up with a light grey underside as well. The Phantom represented in the Heritage Flight was painted up in a Southeast Asia camoflague without the light grey underside (in fact, that and another Phantom - the one with the light grey underside were in attendance at Langley, but the latter of the two had a hydraulic failure and was unable to fulfill its Heritage duties that weekend), and was from Tyndall AFB. The formation flew three passes, with the last being a break to land. Surprisingly enough, the F-86 did not make one pass down the runway, as it just landed. The Phantom, however, did make a low pass down the runway. In the distance, Lt.Col. Kerby had the burners on, but it seemed as soon as he reached my position, he shut the burners off. The noise level on the Phantom is still pretty good, and can be comparable to an F-15 at times. Kerby then landed and taxied by with the other two Heritage aircraft. Oh yeah, the Phantom is one of the few aircraft still in the Air Force's inventory that uses a drag chute to slow down on landing.
It was then time for the SHeDAISY concert to start. I'm not much of a concert person, so I decided against going to the concert. However, what I did do was to go through the souvenir tents to find somebody that had any long-sleeve sweatshirts for sale. Luckilly, I found one that was selling Thunderbird sweatshirts (I had gotten a Thunderbird sweatshirt last year at Langley, for that matter), and I ended up forking over $35 for a sweatshirt with a hood. I didn't have any intention on buying one nor did I think it was going to get as cold as it did that Friday night! Through my contacts at Langley, I was able to get flight line chalet tickets for the entire weekend, so I spent the other part of the night during the concert to get some dinner and hang out with some of the performers. Once the concert was over, it was then back to the airshow.
The first of the nighttime performers were the Golden Knights. The Golden Knights jumped from 5,500 feet that night because of a low cloud cover that was still posing somewhat of a threat, but not so much as to prevent the Golden Knights from jumping. All of the jumpers did not make their landings at show center, but rather from behind the crowd and at the Officer's Club on Langley AFB. Afterwards, the Air Force Reserve Above & Beyond Jet Car went out for its nightly run. Scott Hammack doesn't do a whole lot of burner pops, a la Kent Shockley, mainly because of the amount of fuel the dragster can carry, but he does love to make a lot of smoke. Right before the run, Bill Leff snuck in the air with his T-6 to set up for his performance and Scott got the car on the runway, made his run (the speed of which was unknown but it had to be at least 250 mph), and accompanied by a 1,000 foot wall of fire from Rich's Incredible Pyro, which felt really good!
Bill Leff had the night sky next. It had been a few years since I last saw Bill fly and he has one of the finest night show displays you can find. There's no narration (except for the recorded narration that Rob Reider does for Bill) and it's all done by music cues, and with a T-6, its a very dynamic display. Strangely enough, after Bill Leff landed, it was time for the fireworks display. Now, normally, the fireworks are set off after all of the flying takes place, not before! That was perfectly fine, as the fireworks display wasn't one of the best ones around. I had Millville's display to look forward to, as I think that display will be about three times larger than the one at Langley!
After the fireworks display, Dan Buchanan was up with his motorized glider for his nighttime display. Dan had an intercom problem, which prevented him to talk to "Jughead" Counsell over the PA system. That didn't prove to be a huge problem because Dan was still able to perform his nighttime show. Dan seemed to improve it a little bit this year because it seemed like he had a lot more fireworks streaming off the glider than in the past. After Dan landed, it was time for one of the faster nighttime acts - the Red Bull MiG-17. The Red Bull MiG act is the only jet nighttime pyro act in the world and Bill Reesman pretty much flies his daytime show at night, with the addition of the roman candles and fireworks on the aircraft. It was a strange way to end a nighttime airshow, to say the very least!
I had gotten up early and left for Langley AFB rather early as well to get some static display shots before the public could get on base. I was on base by 8:00 am and had an hour to get as much done as possible. Going through the static displays, there weren't too many airplanes on display, which somewhat disappointed me. The heavies were pretty much nonexistant, with a C-17 Globemaster III from Charleston AFB in South Carolina, B-1B Lancer from Ellsworth AFB in South Dakota, B-52H Stratofortress from Barksdale AFB in Louisana (who was having their airshow the same weekend as Langley's), E-3A Sentry from Tinker AFB in Oklahoma, C-130 Hercules from Pittsburgh, C-21A Learjet (which wouldn't really be considered a heavy), and a Boeing 757 from NASA at Langley representing the heavies. Fighters represented included four F-16 Fighting Falcons - three from the Arkansas ANG in Fort Smith and one from the Virginia ANG in Richmond, two F-15 Eagles from the 1st Fighter Wing at Langley, a German Tornado from Holloman AFB in New Mexico, T-1A Jayhawk from Randolph AFB in Texas, T-37 Tweet from Vance AFB in Oklahoma, T-38 Talon from Laughlin AFB in Texas, and a T-6A Texan II from Moody AFB in Georgia. Warbirds represented were a Staggerwing, B-25J Mitchell Panchito (which flew), P-40E Warhawk (which flew), Supermarine Spitfire (which flew Sunday only), PBY Catalina (which flew Sunday only), an SNJ Texan, an N2S Stearman, Aichi Val replica, L-16 Grasshopper, C-60 Lodestar, DeHavilland Chipmunk, and a Great Lakes biplane. Private aircraft included a little pusher design, a Cessna 172 Skyhawk and a Civil Air Patrol Cessna 172, along with a Yak-52 taildragger from Williamsburg Aerobatics. NASA was represented with their Cirrus, an OV-10 Bronco, a Super King Air, and of course, that 757.
Early in the morning, the skies were nearly clear, with the clouds hanging out at the south end of the base, but that quickly changed as it got later in the morning. Before the flying was to begin, those clouds began to roll in very quickly. It also got very hazy. As I was making my way to show left to shoot video for the day, Sean Tucker was up for his practice. Sean's practice show is nothing like his normal performance, as he practices out of sequence, as compared to his normal performance. It is primarily just a teaser, as his real performance is among the best, in my opinion. After he landed, Art Nalls, who was a local to Langley's airshow, took to the air in the L-39. At first, I thought Allen Smith was going to be flying there, but I'm not sure what happened and when the report was written, I hadn't asked him about Langley yet. If one knows their L-39s, which I somewhat do, I could tell that Art flew the performance in Dan McCue's beautiful black L-39, which I got a scenic flight in last year at Rhode Island. Art's performance was very nice, and by this time, that overcast had started to burn off quite a bit, but left some low clouds mixing in with the haze. His performance isn't comparable to Dan McCue's L-39 demonstration, as Dan's is more aggressive than Art's.
As Art landed and taxied past the crowd, a relative newbie to the aerobatic circuit took his Pitts S-2C into the air, piloted by Major Jim "Penny" Varden. Jim went up to loiter for his airstart performance as another trainer took to the air. It was a T-37B Tweet from Vance AFB in Oklahoma, piloted by another local Hampton Roads resident. Sadly, I did not catch the takeoff on Saturday but I sure did get it on Sunday! The Tweet made only one pass and then landed, which seemed a little short, since the aircraft is very maneuverable and the pilot didn't get enough airtime to do at least a second pass. If you stand next to a Tweet when it starts up, it is a very unique aircraft that makes a very unique sound when it's started up (that link points to a Tweet starting up in Reading, PA in 2003). After the Tweet landed, Jim Varden entered the aerobatic box from high up and began his performance. It's funny, he was an A-10 demo pilot in 2003 and his aerobatic performance in the Pitts is exactly like the A-10 demo profile! I'm kidding... but in all seriousness, Jim's performance is actually very promising. He had kept the show up high on Saturday, which meant it was difficult to track that little Pitts in the hazy sky, but on Sunday, he brought it down much lower. He doesn't pull nearly as many Gs as the likes of Sean Tucker, Jim LeRoy, and Michael Goulian; however, I will place a bet that as soon as Jim gets his surface waiver, his aerobatic routine will be spectacular. He has recently started up a package where anyone, male or female, young or old, to take a ride in his Pitts for up to thirty minutes and get a first-hand experience on aerobatics. It costs a little under $300 (at the time of this writing), but in my opinion, I would shell out the money Jim will charge for the flight and go experience aerobatic flight. Then, you will truly understand what it feels like when those pilots are pulling all those positive and negative Gs. Jim and his wife Kathryn were kind and gracious enough to let me stay at their place for the entire weekend, and I want to send them a huge thank you for that.
As Jim taxied by, Rick Svetkoff was airborne with his F-104 Starfighter. The Starfighters are normally a two-ship team, but Rick still had the two-seater at airshows, since the single-seater is in need of a new engine. I love the Starfighter performance, as it usually consists of lots of high speed passes as well as noise. When the power is pulled back (no afterburner), the J79 makes a very distinct howling sound that only the F-104 can produce (you can't find it on the F-4, even though it also has J79s). As Rick taxied by the crowd, the warbird review was ready. Saturday's warbirds included only the B-25J Mitchell Panchito and the P-40E Warhawk. Both aircraft made at least five passes down the runway before ending with a photo pass and landing. Sunday's warbird review also included the Supermarine Spitfire and the PBY Catalina, which is a rather slow airplane, but it was very nice to see the Catalina in flight. That particular P-40 used in the warbird review was a P-40 I had never seen in flight, at least to the best of my knowledge. As they were in the air, the four F-15 Eagles that were part of the flying display taxied past the crowd and held short of runway 26 while the warbirds landed and taxied by the crowd.
And then it was time for those Eagles to take to the skies over Langley. One by one, each F-15 took off and executed somewhat of a low transition before climbing out of the airshow TFR waivered airspace. As they departed, three Nanchang CJ-6As from the Yak Demo Team took off for some formation flying and dogfighting. The CJ-6A doesn't really impress me that much, since it is a very quiet aircraft. However, there are times where the aircraft can put out some noise. I don't recall who flew the CJ-6As other than I think one of them was piloted by Sean Carroll. As they were in the air, Scott Hammack fired up the Air Force Reserve Jet Car for a race between two of the CJ-6As. Needless to say, Scott easily won the race, but from my vantage point, it was hard to tell if he actually passed the second of the CJ-6As. I'll take Jughead's word and say that Scott passed both planes. The CJ-6As made two more passes before breaking formation, with one plane making two additional passes before landing.
As one of the CJ-6As taxied past, Ed Shipley got airborne with his beautiful F-86 Sabre. It's been a while since I last saw Ed flying the Sabre, as it was pretty much grounded for most of 2004. The last time I saw him fly it, I wasn't too impressed, mainly since I knew firsthand of Dale Snodgrass' flying style with that Sabre. Ed's performance was much better at Langley, as he kept it a little lower than when I saw him at Atlantic City and the performance somewhat mirrored Snort's flying style. After Shipley landed, it was time for the Golden Knights' C-31 jump plane to take off and set up for their jump. The C-31 made one pass over Langley AFB for their streamer drop before making their slow climb up to 12,500 feet for the jump. As they exited, Dan Buchanan was out on the runway and under tow from his tow vehicle. Dan has a new hang glider this year, sporting the colors of light green, dark blue, and white, along with the usual lengthy streamers hanging off the back and the American flag flying on top. Since it was Langley AFB and they have just received their first permanent F/A-22 Raptor, Dan thought it would be a good idea to take a gun with him (not a real gun!) and start "shooting" at the Raptor. Dan's performance is still rather unchanged, and happened to be the quietest performance at Langley the whole weekend! It was also at that time that the PA system around show left started to crap out.
Sean Carroll took the Yak-9 into the air, utilizing a higher climb rate than most warbird pilots traditionally perform on takeoff. He made two passes, one from the left as a photo pass, and one from the right before departing momentarilly, since the B-2 Spirit was inbound. The B-2 made two passes, both of which were rather high and quiet, since I have seen that aircraft make passes a little lower than its given altitude. The second pass was way out in front of the crowd, giving a profile view of the bomber in a left turn before leaving the airspace, with Sean returning to perform the remainder of his aerobatic performance. Sean made the Yak-9 look and sound better than I've seen him fly it in the past, and its starting to really grow on me. Strangely enough, towards the end of his performance, the four Stearmans from the Red Baron Squadron took off so that they could circle the flag jumper, who was going to jump in a matter of minutes, while Sean made a couple more passes and then landed.
For a flag jump, this was, in opinion, one of the strangest exits for a Golden Knight jumper that I have ever seen. The Stearmans were at jump altitude as the Golden Knight flag jumper exited from the lead Stearman, the Red Barons peeling away from formation to circle the jumper, as the national anthem was being played. After the jumper landed, the Red Barons were already at show altitude and performed a small teaser show, which was held under clearing (but still somewhat hazy) skies. As they landed, it was time for the rest of the Golden Knights to jump, but before that, the Commanding Officer of the 1st Fighter Wing, Col. Frank Goernic, gave a short speech welcoming everyone to Langley. Then, the Golden Knights went on to jump from 12,500 feet, which meant that they would be able to perform their entire demonstration. The haze made it hard to find the jumpers at altitude, but what I found interesting was the large number of high-flying contrails over Langley AFB. Also occuring during the Golden Knights' performance was the failure of the PA system. They somehow got it working towards the end of their performance, in time for the Thunderbirds to perform their engine check and sound system check.
As timing would have it, the Thunderbird sound check was the perfect time for me to grab a bite to eat - I was wrong. The four F-15 Eagles made their first pass down the runway, which I missed, then made a huge turn around the back side of the base to return once again and break formation to land. But, instead of landing, each of the four F-15s performed a high altitude missed approach. Since the Thunderbirds were doing their sound and engine checks, most people by show center wouldn't be able to hear the F-15s, but since I was at show left, I could hear them. The first three aircraft then came back around to land, with the fourth F-15 performing a missed approach, probably because he didn't have the proper spacing between him and the aircraft in front of him. After they landed and taxied to the end of Runway 26, an F4U Corsair took off (which happened to be another event I didn't catch on video that day!) and departed for behind the show area while the next act had the show stage.
That act was the F/A-18F Super Hornet demonstration. The demo was flown by Lieutenants Ian "Goon" Burgoon and Chuck "Ox" Shamonsky (who is a Delaware Valley native, by the way), who are assigned to VFA-106 Gladiators at nearby NAS Oceana. To have the folks at Oceana send out the Super Hornet demonstration to Langley was a huge public relations gesture, since Langley rarely sends over an F-15 for static at Oceana and Oceana rarely, if ever, sends over a Hornet or Tomcat for Langley's static display. In the past, I have seen the Super Hornet demonstration starting its takeoff performance from show left to show right, and I always wondered what it would be like reversed, since Runway 8 was not the optimum runway of choice, because of the winds. However, Goon and Ox still used Runway 8 to start their demo from. For a Navy demonstration at an Air Force Base, the Super Hornet demonstration was easily the best single ship demonstration at Langley, even impressing the Air Force folks attending the show! Goon and Ox managed to squeeze out a decent amount of vapor out of the air during some of their passes, including a cone of vapor during their high speed pass. A nice little bonus to their demonstration came after their touch and go, where the crew repositioned for another high speed pass, which included pyro and a wall of fire (which Rich Gibson told me was just "a standard 1,000 foot wall") from Rich's Incredible Pyro. Sunday's performance showed off the F/A-18F Super Hornet in the low show, which isn't nearly as impressive as the high show, since most of the dynamic maneuvers are demonstrated in the high show. Nevertheless, it's still a great performance.
Goon and Ox then joined up with the F4U Corsair (which I heard was flown by Dan McCue, but I'm still not sure about that) for a Legacy Flight. It seems like compared to last year, the Legacy Flights this year (well, I've only seen the one at Langley so far!) are now a little tighter than before, which is a big plus. The last pass included a formation break, which, from show left, looked rather impressive, as the Super Hornet appeared to break on top of the Corsair. The F4U Corsair went on to land while the Super Hornet went on to perform one last high speed pass before landing on Runway 26. Both aircraft joined up on the ground to taxi past the crowd, and while doing so, Bill Leff had already taken off to start his performance. It's been a few years since I last saw Bill perform, and he puts on a very nice display with the T-6. I've come to notice that I don't think there is an inverted fuel system in the aircraft, since during some of the maneuvers he flew, when he was inverted, the engine was sputtering. Also, it was about this time that the PA system really started to go bad, at least at show left. As Bill was making his final pass, a strange jet sound came down the taxiway from show right. It was an F/A-22 Raptor, the first time a Raptor would taxi by at Langley AFB's airshow. The aircraft has a unique howl to it when it powers up slightly. As he headed to Runway 8, Bill Leff had landed and taxied by the crowd, with the Red Baron Pizza Squadron taking off in the background. Surprisingly to me, the show this year is a lot different than in the past. The first thing I noticed is that the pilots do not "salute" by giving their position and point-rolling their Stearman the specific number of times that signify their position (for example, Bill Stein, who flies Red Baron #3 in the right wing position, flew a three-point roll in 2004), and that the show is broken down into three "acts". The second act is the one that features most of the solo flying, which is usually done up in pairs for some parts of the act. The third act contains formation aerobatics along with the famous "follow the leader" noisemaking aerobatics. It's still a great performance nevertheless, it's just been modified. The PA system was still out for two-thirds of their performance, but by the time the team was to start their last third part of the performance, the PA system came back online for good.
After the Red Barons landed and taxied by, two aircraft took off. The first of which was Chuck Lischer, with his F-260. Chuck went out and gained some altitude to prepare for his performance, while the second airplane didn't need a whole lot of runway to get airborne. It was the F/A-22 Raptor, which had to have been airborne with just 1,500 feet of runway. As he made his way to show center on a low transition, he took a hard climb to the vertical and seemed to just keep on climbing forever. Eventually, the Raptor topped out at 15,000 feet. Jughead Counsell mentioned that the aircraft was only using 75% of its maximum power to perform the climb - without afterburners. I'm not going to say anything about if the plane is loud or not because I want to keep it a little secret until I get the videos up! As the F/A-22 went behind the crowd, Chuck Lischer began his performance. Chuck seemed to fly the F-260 a little closer to the crowd on Saturday, and I say that because you could hear the aircraft a little better than in the past, which helps because the F-260 is a very quiet airplane. Something I also noticed with Chuck was that he used the entire airfield to set up for some of his maneuvers, which was a nice little treat for those who were watching from outside the base.
After Chuck landed and taxied by, the F-4 Phantom flown by Lt.Col. Jerry Kerby took to the air to set up for the upcoming Heritage Flight. Kerby was still flying the F-4 that was painted up in Southeast Asian camoflague without the light grey bottom, as the aircraft with the light grey bottom was still be repaired from its hydraulic failure the other day. As Kerby left the immediate area, it was time for the F-15 demonstration. Once again, Captain Jason "Bondo" Costello took my advice and used a decent amount of afterburner in the performance, especially in the places where the afterburners on the F-15 would shine, so to speak. There were still some patches of clouds over the show area, but that didn't prevent him from flying a low show. During a couple of maneuvers, Bondo did go over the low clouds (the double Immelman and vertical climb come to mind). This year, all of the ACC demonstrations (A-10 East and West, F-15 East and West, F-16 East and West) have added what they call a Dedication Pass in their show, which is essentially a banana pass. There is still the knife edge pass, but with the Dedication Pass, it "forces" the demo pilot to reposition for the knife edge pass with an additional high speed pass, which is really nice (at least with the F-15 demonstrations). Bondo, however, did perform a low show on Sunday, but did not join up for the Heritage Flight, which is explained below.
After Bondo completed his demonstration, he went out to join up with Lt.Col. Jerry Kerby in the F-4 Phantom and Major Michael "Dozer" Shower in the F/A-22 Raptor for a Heritage Flight. There were several unique things that fit Saturday's Heritage Flight - none of the pilots were civillians, none of the aircraft were considered warbirds (although there is one civillian-owned F-4D Phantom), and this was the first time that a Raptor would be at a public airshow's Heritage Flight. The past, represented by the Phantom; the present, represented by the Eagle; and the future, represented by the Raptor - all in a Heritage Flight, was another of those things I was looking forward to seeing this airshow season. The Phantom, being flown by Lt.Col. Kerby, had the lead, followed by Bondo in the Eagle on the left wing, and Dozer in the Raptor on the right wing. Surely, the formation could have done a fourth pass, but just those three passes was good enough for me! On Sunday, Kerby and Shower joined up with Ed Shipley and his F-86 Sabre for another Heritage Flight, while Bondo had landed. The significance of Sunday's Heritage Flight was that no ACC single-ship demonstration aircraft was in that Heritage Flight! The reason behind that is, from what I heard from an outside source, was that the Raptor was not approved to fly four-ship Heritage Flights. I did read an Air Force article (well, it wasn't really an article, it was just a pictoral highlight, if you will) showing Bondo, Dozer, and Lee Lauderback (he wasn't credited for flying the P-51 in the pictures, even though it was Crazy Horse) in formation over Virginia and the caption saying that Dozer was getting his Heritage Flight checkout ride. You can view it right here.
After the three aircraft broke formation, the F/A-22 and F-4 headed towards Runway 26, with the Raptor performing a missed approach and steep climb to reposition to land, while the Phantom set out for a low altitude, high speed pass, which was timed too close to the F/A-22. Bondo proceeded to land and conclude his demonstration after the F-4 flew by, with the F/A-22 landing uneventfully and the F-4 Phantom landed on 26, deploying its drag chute. Each aircraft formated up on the taxiway, with the F-4 leading, the F-15 in the middle, and the F/A-22 in the rear of the pack. Shower managed to "pause" the Raptor at show left to salute the crowd, using the ailerons and elevators to wave to the crowd, as well as giving everyone a good look at the airplane. I took time to "study" its design. The first thing I noticed was that the Raptor is a thin airplane. It also has very strange exhaust cones. From the looks of it, the exhaust cones look like they're designed to close, if needed, preventing the need to get engine covers for the rear portion of the aircraft. Finally, the F/A-22 sits very low to the ground. It has the stubbiest landing gear I have ever seen for a military airplane!
After they taxied past, Michael Goulian had the stage. Mike is becoming someone who is starting to grow on me in two different areas. As Michael Goulian the aerobatic pilot, his performance is getting really close to me saying he's #2 behind Sean Tucker in terms of the list of my favorite aerobatic performers. Heck, he is #2 on the list! Also, Michael Goulian the person is someone I'm getting used to seeing more often at airshows now, and since its 2005, the fact that I go to airshows only to see the airplanes is not true - its also to meet up and hang out with the pilots in those airplanes. He's also gave me some great advice (it was related to the website, and I am taking his advice - you'll see it on here soon enough). As Mike landed, it was time for the T-6A Texan II demonstration to get underway. It seemed like a rehash in the lineup from Friday night, as the Texan II flew right after Michael Goulian! The demonstration pilot was Captain Jeff Stift, and for a small trainer who was put on the schedule after two excellent (and loud) tactical demonstrations, the Texan II had a lot of catching up. It's a good demonstration, but it should really be scheduled in the morning since it is one of the quieter airplanes in the Air Force's inventory.
Bill Reesman took to the sky in that beautiful Red Bull MiG-17 after the Texan II landed. Bill flies one of my favorite jet acts, and it took me a while to realize it, but when his wife Julie is "announcing", she really isn't announcing. It's more of a conversation with the show's announcer, and she doesn't usually mention what maneuvers he is doing, but she does talk about him and talk about the airplane. As Bill was performing, another one of my favorite performers snuck into the sky - that was Sean Tucker. After Bill landed, Sean was starting his performance. Sean, in the past, has changed a couple parts of his performance in the beginning of each airshow season, but for 2005, it is relatively unchanged. After Sean landed, it was now time for the headliner for the weekend's airshow...
...which was the USAF Thunderbirds. The five Thunderbird officers on hand that weekend helped with the enlistment ceremonies, given out by Lt.Col. Michael Chandler. As I said, only five of the pilots were there. Missing in action was Thunderbird #3, Major Brian Burns, who was on a medical leave for the weekend. I had done some research as I was in Virginia and found out that Maj. Burns was absent at the Smyrna, Tennessee airshow, which was held the weekend before Langley's. Despite that, the team looked not too bad for missing one pilot. The weather had held out, allowing the Thunderbirds to fly a full high show. The only flaws I could pick out in the show was that some of the formations were not as tight as they usually fly, and the fact that the diamond formation had to reposition for the pitch to land (they did not reform the diamond, or whatever was left of the diamond formation in time to go ahead with the pitch to land). Nevertheless, for just five out of the six aircraft, they looked good on Saturday. Sunday's show, however, left plenty of room for improvement. They ended up starting off flying the low show, switching to the high show about one-quarter of the way through the performance. However, they did not complete the performance on the high show, whereby deleting the Stinger loop and replacing it with a flat pass, ending the show as if it were a flat show.
All in all, it was a great show, well worth the drive to finally see the F-22 in action, as well as seeing the F-4 Phantom flying. The following day, Monday, I made the trip home through DC, making a stopover at the new Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, whose snaps will be featured on a separate page. Many thanks go out to Jim and Kathryn Varden for their hospitality during my stay, as well as the Red Baron Squadron pilots for offering me the chance to go flying with them, and the entire cast and crew at Langley AFB for the great airshow! Oh, did I mention I love Hampton Roads?
Military Demonstration Teams
Tentative Military Demonstrations
Announcer: Major Jon "Jughead"