2008 AirPower Over Hampton Roads
June 20-22, 2008
Langley AFB, Virginia
Airshow Report written on July 4, 2008.
To start things off, I want to say that I originally did not have plans on going to Langley AFB this year, since the first set of dates I saw for the 2008 show was the weekend before Quebec, and there was no jet team scheduled. When the Thunderbirds schedule was released in December, Langley AFB was on the list for a show in May, but that was cancelled (well, moved to June, but no Thunderbirds) since there was a readiness inspection in May that would interfere with putting together an airshow during the same timeframe. When the Red Arrows announced their plans to fly in Quebec, I quickly noticed that the dates for Langley's show suddenly switched to the weekend after Quebec, which led me to think that they were pushing to get the Reds to come down. That truth became a reality, as it would be the first time that the Red Arrows would fly an airshow over Langley AFB. It was also at the heart of a North American goodwill tour, which included airshows at Quebec, Langley AFB, a small display over New York City, and the airshow in Rhode Island. Rob Reider returned to the microphone once again, presumably since the airshow directors loved his style, and basically they could not go wrong with Rob. He had announced the show in 2007 because Jon "Jughead" Counsell was deployed in South Korea at the time, and thus filled in for him. Rob turned Langley AFB upside down (in a good way), basically in my mind, it was just another one of those shows he announced.
There were a lot of questionable acts at Langley AFB this year - the most notable being the F/A-18F Super Hornet demonstration. I had seen reports that the team would fly just the Friday show and reports that the team would not be performing at all that weekend. I didn't know what to believe, and when I asked Airboss Wayne Boggs what the deal was with them, I was very happy to hear him say they would be around for the entire weekend. The crew for the demo team that weekend consisted of pilot Lieutenants Ryan "Radio" Fulwider, James "Flag" Guimond, Adam "Lil' Roo" Drayton, and Patrick "Menudo" Fernandes. Each of the pilots rotated around the entire weekend, with Radio flying most of the demos and either Lil' Roo or Menudo in the back seat. No matter who flew it, each of the demos was actually very well flown and very well choreographed, in terms of afterburner usage. Another questionable act that actually didn't happen on Saturday was a demonstration by the C-17. The crew did show up on Sunday, flying in an aircraft from Charleston AFB and performing a demonstration that included one extra departure flyby, which I thought was a nice touch.
Langley AFB was scheduled to have a Heritage Flight featuring a P-51, an F-15E, F-22, and QF-4E, but we did not have the Mustang at all. Jim Beasley Jr. was scheduled to fly that weekend, but due to circumstances beyond his control (and he asked me not to mention it), he could not make it. Since we had no Mustang, I thought that maybe we could have an all afterburner Heritage Flight, and we got exactly that. We even got treated to the short three-pass profile of the QF-4E Phantom, which is always a treat to see, especially since the Air Force might not have the Phantoms in the Heritage Flight program for much longer. We were treated to spectacular demonstrations by both Ritz & Wild in the Strike Eagle as well as Major Paul "Max" Moga with the Raptor. Max even performed two additional tailslides in his Friday afternoon practice, since he is not permitted to do a tailslide from behind the crowd when he and the team flies the demonstrations at the Royal International Air Tattoo and the Farnborough Airshow. The flight of Eagles and Raptors that was on the schedule turned out to be just a flight of four F-15 Eagles, which was a bit of a disappointment, but actually brought back to the times when Langley AFB only had F-15s based there.
Aerobatic performances were provided by Ed Hamill, Matt Chapman, Bill Leff, Ken Appezzato, Matt Younkin, and Kyle Franklin, along with performances by the GEICO Skytypers, the B-25J Mitchell Panchito, and the E-Team Skydivers. This was my first time seeing Kyle Franklin fly the Waco Mystery Ship, and he flew one amazing performance in it. It seemed strange that I was seeing an aerobatic performance in a Waco that did not have a jet engine hung underneath it, but Kyle still flew the wings off of the aircraft. I also got to see Matt Younkin fly the Twin Beech, and the fact that he's brought the Twin Beech back onto the airshow circuit is a welcome treat, as it is one of the aircraft I loved seeing his late father Bobby fly. In fact, Matt flew the Twin Beech almost EXACTLY how his father flew it in his aerobatic performance. Matt also included a very nice nighttime aerobatic act, which was very unique, but at the same time, I expected pyrotechnics off the wings, but I guess one can't have everything. Finally, Langley AFB was also the first time I got to see Ken "K9" Appezzato fly his aerobatic performance in the Vortex Pitts. I was actually very impressed with his performance and I expected him to have a 250 foot aerobatic card, but all of his aerobatics were performed at or near the surface. Matt Chapman, Ed Hamill, and Bill Leff all flew their performances over the weekend and once again, I don't really have too much to add to what has been said before of those three excellent aerobatic pilots (though Bill flies a T-6!).
The Red Arrows helped to close out both Saturday and Sunday's shows. I found it strange that they did not practice on Friday, as they felt they were up to par with their performance and the geography surrounding Langley AFB. Saturday's performance was a high show that was severely hindered by smoke that quickly moved into Langley AFB as a result of wildfires near the Virginia/North Carolina border. Winds from the south kicked up exponentially once Max took off to join up with the Reds for a special formation flyover and became a huge factor in reducing the visibility from ten miles to under four miles once the Reds took to the skies. Nonetheless, the Reds flew a spectacular performance that day, and for me, it was real nice to hear Flt. Lt. Andy Robbins narrate their performance in English, as opposed to French, when the team was in Quebec the week prior. The Reds did form up with Max in the F-22 on Sunday as well, and were greeted with much clearer skies (skies I did not expect to see at all for Sunday, since every forecast I saw predicted Sunday to have thunderstorms the entire day and not clear) for their high show.
Overall this year's AirPower Over Hampton Roads was an excellent show, ranking as one of the best shows at Langley AFB. I would especially like to thank Captain Phil "Ritz" Smith and Major Paul "Max" Moga for all of their help with everything over the weekend at Langley.
Military Demonstration Teams
RAF Red Arrows
Military Aircraft Demonstrations
1st Fighter Wing F-15s and F-22s
B-2 Spirit Flyby (Saturday only)
F-4E Phantom Demonstration (QF-4E)
F-15E Strike Eagle Demo Team
F/A-18F Super Hornet Demonstration
F-22 Raptor Demonstration Team
Aerobatic Performances, Warbird Performances, and Others
USAF Heritage Flight
Rag Wings & Radials