2003 Wheels and Wings Airshow

 

May 17-18, 2003

Airshow report written on May 19, 2003.

 

For the second year in a row, the webmaster's airshow season starts in his home state of New Jersey and at Millville. Last year's show brought the Thunderbirds and a crowd of almost 80,000 people to the small airport in Cumberland County. This year's show is topping last year's statistics - both in the number of aircraft attending and in the number of people attending the show. For me, the "Millville Experience" is done through attending both public days of the show and the media day.

Media Day was set for Friday. However, the weather wasn't the best in the world for this particular event. It rained all day long with the exception of a 25-minute break prior to when the Blue Angels were scheduled to take to the skies. With ceilings lingering around 400 feet for most of the day, the only action the Blue Angels took was a taxi out to the runway with all six jets, and all of the jets returning back to the ramp - all but the slot. The #4 pilot took off, performed five flat passes, two of which in the dirty configuration, and landed. Friday's static display arrivals (when I was there) included the F/A-18D Hornet from VMFA-225 out of MCAS Miramar, the KC-130T Hercules from Stewart, NY, a C-12 Huron, a T-34 Mentor, an EA-6B Prowler from VMAQ-1 in Cherry Point, an SH-60B Seahawk, and a CH-124 SeaKing.

In one sentence, Saturday's show did not fare too well, in terms of the weather. The same weather system that was responsible for the rain, wind, and unseasonably cold weather hung around and seemed to have stalled. It not only affected Millville's airshow, but the airshow held at Andrews AFB. This made Andrews having bad weather for the fourth year in a row, but I have heard that some acts did get off the ground. While walking through the static displays, there were many aircraft that have either arrived Friday evening or overnight. The list of aircraft was amazing - a C-54E Skymaster, KC-130T Hercules from Stewart in New York, several Katanas, an L-16, B-25J Mitchell Panchito, A-4 Skyhawk, C-45, O-2A Skymaster, Beech KingAir, CJ-6A, a VariEze, BT-13 Valiant Cumberland Belle, Cessna 182 from the Civil Air Patrol, L-39MS Albatross, two T-34B Mentors, three T-45C Goshawks from NAS Meridian in Mississippi, a CH-146 Griffon, CH-124 SeaKing, SH-60B Seahawks from HSL-44 and HSL-46 in NAS Mayport in Florida, C-47 Skytrain, EA-6B Prowler from VMAQ-1 in MCAS Cherry Point in North Carolina, a UC-12B Huron, T-37B Tweet from Sheppard AFB in Texas, F/A-18E Hornet with VFA-122 out of NAS Lemoore in California, and F/A-18D Hornet with VMFA-225 out of MCAS Miramar in California. The FAA brought in a Super KingAir, a Convair 340, and a Learjet 60 from Atlantic City, NJ.

Because of the weather, the Canadian Sky Hawks parachute team could not jump and the Firebirds Delta Team had not arrived yet, so that took out an hour of airshow flying. The show actually started at around 9:45 with an invocation, a display of the colors by local Veterans from World War II, Korea, and Vietnam was displayed by the VIP tents. It was raining throughout the early morning and it did not stop until the opening ceremonies commenced. However, with the rain, it was also very windy and very cold. The highs didn't even reach sixty degrees. Local political figures were also spotlighted by museum owner and President Russell Davis, including Millville's mayor James Quinn. Believe it or not, he received the official Golden Knights baton on May 4 of last year. After the invocation, the P-47 Thunderbolt made a flyby before landing at the airport. At the very same time, a very pretty girl whose name escapes my memory, sung a rendition of Lee Greenwood's God Bless the USA. Mayor Quinn made a few remarks afterwards, followed by a local Congressman from Cumberland County. The same girl that sung earlier came over to sing the Canadian Nation Anthem, followed by another political figure singing the American National Anthem. The TBM Avenger made a flyby while our anthem was being sung. Jim Beasley, Jr. made an arrival flyby with his P-51K Mustang Frenesi before landing.

The first act to get into the air was the SNJ Texan flown by Kevin Russo. Kevin spent most of his performance demonstrating the rolling capabilities of the Texan and also checking out how much altitude the performers would have to work with. Kevin's flat show is full of rolls and he even includes two photo passes. After a short pause, the Split Image Aerobatic Team took to the air. Working with about 1,500 feet of altitude, both Ron Spencer and Ron Saglimbene worked in some formation loops and Cuban Eights in their show. Their performance is very nice and I've always liked it from the beginning. As both Pitts landed, Blue Angel #7 started its taxi out to the show runway. I believe this was a media flight, as it appeared that the rear seat was occupied. He took off, trailing vapor off the wingtips, and disappeared for about 45 minutes. Charlie Lynch took the Nanchang CJ-6A up in the air next to demonstrate the maneuverability of the aircraft. It's a nice airplane but it's also a very quiet plane.

Allen Smith fired up his L-39C Albatross next and immediately took to the air and had the airspace to himself. With a very low ceiling, Allen's performance was mostly a display consisting of photo and banana passes, including a rolling maneuver in there. After he landed, the A-10 demo guys had the demo A-10 powered up for a few minutes as Allen taxied in. Meanwhile, Blue Angel #7 returned from the media flight with a break to land and he parked to his spot on the hot ramp - by the Snowbirds. Several transports were up for flybys - the first one being a C-5B Galaxy from Dover AFB, DE. The C-5 did two passes, the first being in the dirty configuration and the second being in the clean configuration. The Snowbirds ran up their engines and proceeded with their taxi down to the show runway - albeit without the "Roll now" commands. Kevin Russo even helped out in announcing by describing the second and third aircraft - the KC-10 Extender and the C-141B Starlifter. The KC-10 was from the 305th Air Mobility Wing at McGuire AFB, NJ and he made one pass down the show line with the refueling boom down. A CASA 212 arrived shortly afterwards. This was to be the jump platform for the Canadian Sky Hawks parachute team.

Snowbird #8 apparently had some problems and taxied back to the hot ramp. The #8 pilot jumped out of the #8 aircraft and hopped into #10 with a turnaround rate of less than ten minutes. Meanwhile, the C-141B Starlifter made a single pass down the show area in the clean configuration and this was also the time for Snowbird #10 to run up his engine and taxi out. The Snowbirds were in position to take off and did so in three ships of three aircraft. They took about ten minutes to set up around the Millville and Vineland area as an HH-65 Dauphin came into the show area to perform a search and rescue demonstration. This SAR was unique as it was the first one I've seen without the use of the rescue basket.

The Snowbirds were set to perform. They had been reduced to fly a flat show as the cloud level kept the ceilings at around 1,500 feet. With the 2003 season, the team starts out each show with a tribute to the Centennial of Flight celebration with a formation split or a bomb burst - depending on the type of show flown. There were no flaws in the performance that I could find and in my opinion, the team flew a fantastic performance. Not coming to me as a surprise, at least ninety percent of the spectators that have been to airshows in the past, have not seen the Snowbirds perform. The Millville crowd enjoyed the Snowbirds on Saturday and those who were to come on Sunday were to enjoy their performance even more as they somehow managed to get in with a much higher ceiling.

Sometime either before the Snowbirds were to fly or after, Millville was slated to have an F-117 Nighthawk demonstration. The F-117 cannot land at Millville airport, so he had to stage from Andrews AFB. The weather at Andrews was just as bad - if not, worse, than at Millville. That made a no-go for the F-117. As the Snowbirds taxied back to their positions, the demo A-10 and the P-51K Mustang were fired up for the Heritage Flight. Flying the P-51 was Jim Beasley, Jr. and the A-10 was flown by Capt. Matthew Kouchoukos (I'm assuming it's a Polish name because it's pronounced much differently than you'd think -- my chemistry teacher in high show was Polish and her last name was worse). The Firebird Delta Team arrived with separate breaks to land. The P-51 and A-10 commenced their takeoffs and set up for the Heritage Flight. For me, this was a first seeing an A-10/P-51 Heritage Flight and it's very interesting, to say the least. They made a total of five passes to make up for the lack of an A-10 demo because of the ceiling.

A warbird flight consisting of Kevin Russo in his SNJ, the CJ-6A, T-34 Mentor, another AT-6 Texan, the UC-78 Bobcat, B-25J Mitchell Panchito, TBM Avenger, P-51D Mustang Glamorous Gal, P-47D Thunderbolt, and the Yak-9 - flown by Sean Carroll. The T-34, SNJ, and CJ-6A teamed up for a very unusual formation, as did the P-47, P-51D, and Yak-9. However, the P-47, P-51D, and Yak-9 formation was a very loose formation. As their formation broke, the P-47 and P-51D made one photo pass each down the flight line, as did the TBM and the B-25. Sean Carroll took his Yak-9 through an aerobatic routine as soon as the other warbirds cleared the show area. The Yak is a nice plane but in my opinion, it's better for warbird reviews rather than a single-plane aerobatic demonstration. Maybe if he paired up with a P-51 for part of the performance, it would give the Yak a better demonstration.

Chuck Lischer was up next in his F260 Marchetti. It seems as if every time I watch Chuck, I start to like his routine a little more than previously. He's even got a new paint job for this year and a new sponsor. Gone is the Jane's Combat Simulations and in is the NewGold Industries paint job. It's still all blue but it's blue and gold. The Firebird Delta Team somehow got a clearance to perform on Saturday and they brought in the debut performance of the Delta Team - two Extra 300s and a Sukhoi Su-29. This is one performance that is full of high-energy maneuvers and one that will make you look in all directions but one to fully enjoy the show. They team up at the end to do formation aerobatics and they do an incredible job with it. Eric Beard flew his Yak-54 as the closing act before the Blue Angels. Eric put on an awesome show with the Yak-54 - even with the low ceilings.

With all of the aerobatics and warbirds that were in Millville, there was still one jet team left to show off - the Navy's Blue Angels. The Blues were set up on the adjacent runway with Fat Albert using the very end of that runway as his parking spot. Fat Albert put on the usual spectacular JATO demonstration, but he was partially obscured for those sitting at show left and in the VIP area. The Blue Angels had to put on a flat show, but it was the best flat show I've ever seen, as well as the loudest. They closed out the show in style and closed out the first half of the Millville airshow weekend.

Sunday had a break for better weather and the opportunity for those to catch more static displays that weren't there for Saturday's show. Those included a U-3A Blue Canoe, Yak-55, Giles 202, O-1A Bird Dog, Cessna 140s, several Cessna 172s, a Beech Baron, Yak-52, Stinson, Lancers, PT-17 Stearman Cannibal Queen, and an L-16. The flying displays got underway with the CASA 212 jump platform taking off, carrying members of the Canadian Sky Hawks parachute team. The president of the MAAFM was in attendance to open the show by giving a speech about the show itself and the city of Millville. The opening ceremonies were exactly the same as Saturday, with an invocation being given by a local religious figure and the very same pretty girl singing God Bless the USA. She performed it a lot better than on Saturday. Immediately afterwards, the announcer for the Sky Hawks took the mike and gave the first two jumpers the show. The first jumper to come down carried the Canadian flag with the very same pretty girl singing the Canadian National Anthem. The second jumper brought down the US flag and the US National Anthem was sung by the same woman who sung it on Saturday.

The Sky Hawks were inbound for a demonstration of formation parachute control. Two jumpers came down and flew a bi-plane and switched to a side-by-side before down-planing to land. Meanwhile, a diamond formation was made in the sky by four more jumpers and they managed to fly that to several hundred feet before breaking. Another four jumpers exited the CASA with three making a tri-plane, becoming a tri-by-side and the fourth demonstrating the candy cane, using a thirty foot rope with six canisters attached variously on the rope. The remaining three turned downward to down-plane the formation prior to landing. As all of the jumpers grouped together, they performed their signature ground show formation marching. They put on a fantastic show and they do a lot more than the Golden Knights do.

The Firebirds were up next. The newest member of the team took the Sukhoi Su-29 up for a solo aerobatic display. This solo display is a welcome treat as one doesn't get the opportunity to see some of the various maneuvers in the Sukhoi during the Delta show. Kevin Russo put his SNJ Texan through a much better aerobatic performance than on Saturday. Sunday had a ceiling of at least 6,000 feet, allowing for more looping maneuvers by the majority of the performers. The Split Image Team performed their full routine on Sunday as well, showing off all of the maneuvers they couldn't do in the previous day's show.

The Extra 300s flown by the Firebirds flew an impressive display, showing off the Extra's aerobatic limits. Both Jay and Jack, the Extra pilots, showed off the Extra 300's performance equally and even included trademark Firebirds opposing maneuvers. Captain Matthew Kouchoukos had the show for himself next as he demonstrated the A-10 Thunderbolt II. He represents the A-10 East Coast Demo Team, out of Pope AFB, NC. Capt. Kouchoukos put on a very nice display, but the only thing that was disappointing was the fact that he did not have a true photo pass to finish the show. Eric Beard flew next and his performance was a bit more captivating than on Saturday. In my opinion, Eric is the best Yak pilot out there.

Kevin Russo was back at the announcer's stand with Howdy describing the KC-10 Extender as he made two low passes over the show area - both with the refueling boom down. The second pass even had the KC-10 retracting its boom as he left Millville. As the KC-10 left, the C-141B Starlifter was inbound for a single pass. This pass had the Starlifter in the dirty configuration, about 150 feet off the ground and powering up as he flew over the Blue Angels. It's sad to know that the C-141s are leaving the inventory. The last one might be out of McGuire sometime in 2004 or 2005.

At this time, it started to rain. The Snowbirds ran up their engines to prepare for their performance later on in the day. They took off in three ships of three aircraft each and set up to begin their performance in a little bit. The HH-65 Dauphin from CGAS Atlantic City, NJ returned to perform a search and rescue demonstration. This was another demonstration without using the basket. As he landed, the Snowbirds took the stage and surprisingly, put on a high show. This was a spectacular performance and everyone that was there really enjoyed seeing them - many of those people having seen the Snowbirds for the first time that very day. There were also no mechanical problems with the jets as all nine original jets flew the whole time. The rain came down a little harder as the performance progressed, but the flying afterwards still continued as planned.

Jim Beasley, Jr. fired up his P-51K Mustang Frenesi as Capt. Kouchoukos had his A-10's engines running when the Snowbirds taxied in from their performance. It was still raining, but the intensity of the rain had lightened a little just so flying could continue. Both aircraft took off and performed the Heritage Flight, consisting of four passes - the last being a break to land. Jim Beasley kept his P-51 in the air as a group of warbirds consisting of Kevin Russo in his SNJ, two T-34s, another AT-6, CJ-6A, UC-78 Bobcat, B-25J Mitchell Panchito, TBM Avenger, P-51D Mustang Glamorous Gal, Sean Carol's Yak-9, and the P-47D Thunderbolt. Kevin Russo flew lead in the trainer formation, followed by T-34s on the left and right wings, the AT-6 in slot and the CJ-6A flying the #5 position. Once again, the fighter formation was very loosely, compared to the trainer formation. Ample opportunities were given for photos of the B-25 and the TBM Avenger. The P-47, P-51D, and Yak-9 all broke formation for single-plane flybys while the Yak went out to set up for his solo performance. The five-ship formation of trainers then came by and broke to land, along with the UC-78.

Sean Carroll started his performance with a high-speed photo pass down the flight line and showed off the aircraft through an aerobatic performance. This is definitely one aircraft that would benefit from a second plane in its aerobatic performance, preferably another Yak-9 or a P-51. However, it's nice to see one fly an aerobatic performance, as you don't see one as often as you'd see a P-51. The CASA 212 took off to set up for the afternoon's jump of the Canadian Sky Hawks.

Kevin Russo headed home with his SNJ just prior to Allen Smith's takeoff in the L-39C Albatross. His performance isn't the most spectacular but he does loops, rolls, and Cuban Eights with the L-39 to show its aerobatic capabilities. His photo passes are among the better portions of his routine as, of course, these are the better times to get shots of his plane. After he landed, Snowbirds 10 and 11 departed for their next show site - Leamington, ON. The Sky Hawks had their announcer parachute down from the CASA to begin one portion of their full show. The Firebirds Delta Team was up next and they performed another spectacular display - the second public display of the Delta Team. Combining opposing maneuvers with the Extras and aerobatics with the Sukhoi, this is one performance that will take your breath away. The three aircraft join up towards the end of the show for formation aerobatics - aerobatics that combine some of the routines done by the Split Image Team and the Red Baron Squadron.

It was still raining when the Sky Hawks began their performance. The first two jumpers formed up to fly a bi-plane, spiraled downward and landed separately. Several jumpers exited next with a pair of jumpers forming another bi-plane before downplaning to land. Another four jumpers formed the Sky Hawks diamond formation, splitting prior to landing. A single jumper brought down a rope with six smoke canisters below his foot, spiraling downward to form a candy cane in the sky. Another three jumpers formed a tri-by-side before setting up for a three-person downplane and landing onto the show site. The Sky Hawks sure know how to put on a demonstration and they showed it on Sunday. The last act to take to the skies prior to the Blue Angels was Chuck Lischer. Working with a much higher ceiling than on Saturday, Chuck showed off the F260 in a spectacular performance. It still makes me think that this is an aircraft that's not exactly built for aerobatics, but Chuck shows that it can do aerobatics.

The other nine Snowbird jets departed in style with their usual three-ship formations of three aircraft each as they headed to Leamington. It was with good timing that the rain would stop for the Blue Angels to perform. Fat Albert was already spooled up and was awaiting the go-ahead to begin his JATO display. While taxiing to his starting point, the American flag was hanging from the cockpit of the aircraft, in a manner similar to when he ends his performance. I could never get tired of seeing a JATO! Despite the Snowbirds flying a high show earlier in the day, the Blue Angels were kept to flying a low show. The Blue Angels put on a very nice low show display but it was plagued with problems. The #4 jet had some sort of mechanical problem, a problem which delayed the performance for a good five minutes. The problem was fixed and the demonstration resumed where they left off. However, the #4 plane was not seen in the delta formation for the delta roll, but he joined up for the final pass and break to land. With a final salute by the six pilots, this ended the best airshow at Millville - a complete success even with the uncooperative weather.

I was lucky enough to hang around long enough to catch some departures. Many of the warbirds, show aircraft, and static displays were among the aircraft departing at the end of the show. Among the military aircraft that departed prior to 7:15PM were the EA-6B Prowler, the three T-45C Goshawks, the CH-124 SeaKing, the CH-146 Griffon, F/A-18E Super Hornet, and the F/A-18D Hornet.

I would like to thank Donna Vertolli and the entire staff of the Millville Army Air Field Museum and David Schultz Airshows for the opportunity to acquire a media pass for myself for putting on an airshow of spectacular proportions.

Overall Score: 9.95

 

Disappointments:

 

 

What David Schultz Airshows Did to Make Millville Unique:

 

 

Demonstration Teams

 

Tentative Military Demonstrations

 

Civillian Demonstrations

 

Participating Organizations

 

Announcer: Howdy McCann