2005 Wheels and Wings Airshow

 

Millville, New Jersey

 

May 20-22, 2005

 

Airshow report uploaded on June 15, 2005.

 

 

For the first time in several years, my airshow season did not start out at Millville, as it had in 2002, 2003, and in 2004. The original plan for Millville was to take place on Mother's Day weekend, but a cancellation of an airshow two weeks later had the Snowbirds coming to town on the same weekend as Andrews AFB's airshow. That really didn't bode well with me, considering Millville had a twilight show on Friday night. The plan was to go to Millville on Friday, Andrews AFB on Saturday, and back to Millville on Sunday. I came through with my plans, but the weather did not want to agree with me the whole weekend. Friday's weather was the worst I have ever seen for any time I have gone to an airport or military base for an airshow or a practice day. It was pouring rain all day long (why I even decided to go early in the day, even though I had a media pass, was beyond me, even though I did help out in setting up some things for the Golden Knights) until about 5:30 pm, where the rain stopped and that was about the time the twilight show was to begin.

Static display cancellations were high because of the bad weather in the area, which forced many airplanes to stay away. Low clouds had wiped out the entire plan for a twilight airshow on Friday night, even though earlier the David Schultz Airshows gang said it was a go. The clouds did not want to let up, keeping the ceiling under the 1,000 foot minimums. The Snowbirds and Golden Knights really wanted to perform, but they couldn't, which was a big disappointment because I really wanted to see the twilight display that the Snowbirds put on from time to time. Oh well, I guess I'd have to wait another year to see them fly at night. As I said, David Schultz Airshows brought together the show for the sixth year in a row, and as a typical Schultz show goes, this was one of the strong points the company has, in terms of good airshows.

I got to Millville a little early on Sunday, arriving around half an hour before the gates were supposed to open to the public. However, it looked like the gates were thrown open to the public earlier anyway. The weather wasn't nearly as good as it was at Andrews but it was decent, with the cloud deck higher than it was on Friday night. The one static display airplane I was a bit skeptical about was the Boeing 707, since I have never seen an airplane larger than a C-130 at Millville, but the 707 did show up. I think this was the first or second time I've ever seen a 707 (the military family of 707s don't count) and this one was unique in the fact that its engines were actual TF-33s that looked like they came off a C-141! You would think a 707's engine would resemble one you would see on a KC-135E, E-8C, or E-3B, but not nacelles and casing from a C-141! Two other larger aircraft were present, namely a C-130H Hercules from New Castle in Delaware and a CC-142 Gonzo from Canada (the Gonzo is a militarized version of the Dash 8). The military collection was rounded off by a UH-1 Huey and an OH-58 Kiowa from the New Jersey Army National Guard, an HH-60 Pave Hawk from the New York Air National Guard, a T-39A Sabreliner and a T-6A Texan II from NAS Pensacola, Florida. The FAA technical center in Atlantic City showed up with the King Air 350 and the Learjet 60. Civillians included a trio of Ercoupes, a couple Cessna 172s, a Cessna 402, a Grumman AA-1 Tiger, a Fouga Magister, four different L-birds, a TBM Avenger, P-51D Mustang Glamorous Gal, a P-47D Thunderbolt, F4U Corsair Marine Dream, the C-54 Skymaster from the Berlin Airlift Foundation, a T-28 Trojan, a couple T-34 Mentors, a Yak-52, and the A-Star 350 from CBS3 in Philadelphia.

The flying got underway around 10:00 with a bunch of radio controlled model airplanes from a local chapter of the Academy of Model Aeronautics. The aircraft I saw flying included two scale models of Stearmans, and a T-6. There was one other airplane out on Runway 14/32 (which was closed for the weekend because static display aircraft were parked on there), and it looked like a PT-23 but I honestly don't remember or recall seeing it in the air. As soon as the engines on the Golden Knights' C-31 started up, it meant time for the RC pilots to land their airplanes, and just as they did so, the C-31 started to make its way to Runway 28 for takeoff. The C-31 took off, made its streamer run, and made a climb to 4,500 feet in a matter of minutes for the first jump run of the morning. Two jumpers exited the C-31, with one opening his 'chute much higher than the other, mainly because the first jumper was bringing in the Canadian flag, with the Canadian national anthem being sung in the background. The second jumper brought in the American flag, with our national anthem being sung in the background as well.

As both jumpers packed their parachutes, it was time for some opening ceremonies speeches to take place, namely by members of the Millville Army Air Field Museum and local politicians from Cumberland County. After those speeches were given, the Golden Knights had control of the show and the C-31 came back for a mass exit, again at 4,500 feet. A total of five jumpers exited the C-31, with one trailing a candy cane smoke system, as they performed a showline spread. I was lucky enough to get the one with the New Jersey flag to land closest to my spot, so I'm happy about that, mainly because I live in New Jersey, albeit about 55 miles away from Millville. It seems funny how I went to Andrews AFB on Saturday and saw the Golden Knights, and then on Sunday I go to Millville and the Golden Knights are at that show also, with the Black team at Andrews and the Gold team at Millville.

After the C-31 landed and shut down, Ron Saglimbene took off with his newest investment in the airshow industry - a Siat Marchetti SF-260. Ron Saglimbene and Ron Spencer decided to call it quits on the formation performances so that both can persue individual airshow acts or something else in the airshow industry. Ron Spencer had purchased a Yak-55 and with Drew Hurley, both pilots proposed a Yak-55 formation aerobatics performance, but as soon as it was made public, it seemed like the idea faded, and now Ron is in the process of selling the Yak and looking to purchase a warbird of some sort, although that could change. Anyways, back to Sag. His new performance does not load a ton of Gs as other popular aerobatic pilots, but the neat thing is that Ron managed to somehow fix his smoke system so that by the flick of a switch, he could dispense either red, white, or blue smoke. It's a good performance, if I may say, and I believe the SF-260 is painted to look like one operated by the Italian Air Force.

After Ron landed, it was time for the only ground act at Millville this year - dubbed "The Torch". Essentially, there's a tall platform set up at show center with a pool of water at the bottom, which had to be about ten feet deep. The Torch would essentially climb up to the platform, which sat up about forty-five feet in the air, light off some explosives, which, in turn, lights himself on fire, and jump into that pool of water below. It sounds really strange, especially for being at an airshow, and like an airshow act, safety is a gigantic priority. I don't know this for a fact, but I would assume that the person is wearing multiple layers of clothing, with at least one or two of those layers covered in fire retardant. No part of his body is exposed whatsoever - not even the face, since the fire from the explosives could result in some serious burns and we all know how serious and dangerous fire is. I don't think gasoline is involved, as gasoline-related fires are tough to put out with only water. It's a short act, lasting less than five minutes.

After the Torch got out of the pool unharmed, there was a farmer out at the show area riding some cart which looks like it can only tow private airplanes. Speaking of an airplane, a Piper J3 Cub was running at the same time, mainly because that farmer wanted a little ride in the plane. Heck, he wanted to fly with "that pretty blonde girl in that bi-winger over there", referring to Teresa Stokes and the Showcat. He got that, and he kicked out his pilot, which meant that the farmer was in control of the airplane... which it didn't look like! However, it was not really a farmer - it was Roger Lehnert, who flies the best Flying Farmer act that I know of. After the Cub was taxied off the runway, five RV-6 and RV-8 aircraft departed Millville to hold for their performance, as these were members of the Vultures Formation Team, while Gene Soucy had fired up the Showcat for a performance a little later on in the day.

But first, the military flybys had to take place. The first of the two aircraft to make itself known was a KC-135E Stratotanker from the New Jersey Air National Guard, based at McGuire AFB. With the retirement of the C-141B Starlifter, the KC-135Es out of McGuire have to take over the role of being the 'ol smokey aircraft, which was the role the C-141s had played for many, many years. The first pass from the Stratotanker was a slow speed pass, with the gear and flaps extended and the refueling boom down. The KC-135 powered up, banked right, retracted everything and continued a racetrack pattern for its second pass. As the Stratotanker was making its way down runway heading 010, you could see a C-17 slowly lumbering behind the KC-135. The second pass, which would be its last pass, had the aircraft all cleaned up and the boom extended on a high speed pass, exiting to the left.

As the KC-135 exited, the C-17 Globemaster III was inbound. As far as I know, this was the first time a McGuire-based C-17 appeared over the skies of any airshow (McGuire C-17s have been a part of static displays already). Since it was a McGuire C-17, I have this new curiosity to find out which C-17 flew, and some research told me it was 04-4131, which was delivered around the end of February of 2005. The Globemaster's first pass was in the dirty configuration and it is about the only time where the C-17 is actually loud (except for when the thrust reversers are activated). The aircraft utilized the racetrack pattern that the KC-135 used and came back around for its final pass, which was in the clean configuration. Even while it was clean, it appeared the C-17 was lumbering around in the sky. The C-17 exited the show area with a nice climb into the clouds. I personally think the C-17 is a very impressive aircraft, but I will and already do miss seeing the C-141.

After the C-17 left, Gene Soucy took to the air with the Showcat. Gene has the one aircraft that is based at Millville for the airshow (in terms of planes with a propeller) that makes the most noise, and with an airshow, the more airplane noise, the better. Gene can put the Showcat through a full aerobatic performance if the ceiling was only 1,500 feet! Luckilly for us, with the clouds being the way they were, it gave some backlight for the aircraft instead of washing it out among the clouds. After Gene landed, it was time to launch some warbirds. Taking off in order were a P-47 Thunderbolt, the P-51D Mustang Glamorous Gal, F4U Corsair Marine Dream, TBM Avenger, and an SNJ Texan. Each aircraft made three passes, with pyrotechics going off on the ground from the Tora Tora Tora guys, before each one made a photo pass and landed. What was strange was that the racetrack pattern for the warbirds was out behind the crowd, instead of being in front of the crowd as it normally is at most show sites. Even the SNJ had some pyro going off after its passes, which seemed really strange since our T-6s and SNJs were never armed with any weapons.

The Vultures came back for their performance, but instead of having the LongEZ and VariEze in formation, it was a mix of five RV-6s and RV-8s. I have seen them fly the six-ship formation with the two Burt Rutan-designed aircraft and I actually prefer that show because I think the VariEze and the LongEZ have nicer lines than the Vans series of aircraft. It also helps to have five of those Vans RVs in formation, since one airplane alone is about as loud as a feather falling through the air. Following the Vultures was Drew Hurley. As I said before, Drew and Ron Spencer were supposed to debut a new airshow act at Millville involving a formation aerobatic act with two Yak-55s, but that fell through, but Drew still has his Yak-55 and is still flying his solo aerobatic performance. Drew is, hands down, the best performer from New Jersey (I would say the Delaware Valley but technically he's not from the Delaware Valley and Matt Chapman gets that title).

Millville had a nice little surprise of a demonstration after Drew Hurley landed. It was an experimental fire truck being tested by the FAA. Traditional fire trucks have hoses that firefighters drag out to spray water on the flaming subject (the object that's on fire, okay, so don't think of it as something else!), but this new truck had its hose and nozzle on a crane-like structure, with the hose and nozzle where a cherry picker's operator would stand. It also has a nozzle in the front part of the fire truck that does not elevate like the main one, but can shoot water at a high rate of pressure over a distance of about 300 feet. At the optimum setting, the other nozzle can shoot water over a distance of about 500 feet. The nozzle above the fire engine is actually designed to pierce inside the fuselage of an airliner and spray water inside in an umbrella-like fashion, since the actual spray jet can seriously hurt someone if they get in its path. The purpose of the fire engine is simple - the firefighters actually stay inside the truck and let the truck do all of the dangerous work, keeping the firefighters out of harm's way until the fire is out or close to being out.

Jim Beasley took off in his P-51D Mustang Bald Eagle and flew a small aerobatic performance with the aircraft. I love the Mustang, and it looks like Bald Eagle got either a new touch-up on the aluminum paint job or Jim decided to give it a new shine because it looks more polished than it has in the past (and it showed under a somewhat overcast sky!). He flew an aerobatic display that lasted about six minutes, before departing off behind the crowd, waiting for the F-15 to come in for its demonstration. But, it wasn't the F-15 that was the next aircraft to fly, it was the F-117 Nighthawk. This was the same F-117 that made the flybys at Andrews AFB that weekend and for a first pass, the pilot decided to sneak up behind the crowd at about 150 feet off the ground and going really fast! The second and third passes were decent flat passes, with some nice turning profiles utilized to reposition the aircraft for that next pass. The fourth pass was the last pass, involving his speed and dipping the wingtips as he departed back to Andrews AFB. I will say that F-117 demos that are staged from a different show site seem to be more aggressive than when the aircraft does the demo at the place where it is staging from.

Now it was time for the F-15 Eagle to perform its demonstration. Seeing that the East Coast Demo Team was at Andrews AFB, its only fair that the West Coast Demo Team is at Millville. I wish I could easily compare both demonstrations, but I can't, since Capt. Jason "Bondo" Costello flew the high show at Andrews on Saturday and Capt. Joel "Deuce" Hemphill was stuck with flying the low show on Sunday at Millville. Deuce is in his second year as a demo pilot, and strangely enough, flew at Millville in 2004. To make things more interesting, Air Combat Command has scheduled him to perform at both McGuire AFB and Atlantic City. Think about it... the F-15 West Coast Demo Team (which is based in Eglin AFB, FL) will be at all three major airshows in New Jersey. I think I have had a little bit of pull in this, or Deuce had a little bit to say in it, since I don't think its a coincidence. I'm not complaining, even though I have seen more F-15 demonstrations than any other tactical demonstrations. Even though Deuce was flying the low show, he did put on one heck of a performance, liberally using the afterburner where it shines the best in the demonstration, except for the end of the level eight, where it shut it off about ten seconds too early. The resulting high speed pass afterwards made up for it, as well with the dedication pass. Deuce followed up with the knife edge pass, going behind the crowd as Jim Beasley made a pass, heading out in front of the crowd, with Deuce following behind him to form up the Heritage Flight.

According to my new Heritage Flight titles, Millville had a Classic Heritage Flight, since the F-4 Phantom and/or the F/A-22 Raptor was not present in the formation. It was simply an F-15 Eagle (Deuce) in formation with a P-51D Mustang (Jim Beasley). Both aircraft formated out in front of the crowd and made a total of three passes - the first pass being out in front and to the right, one from the left as a banana pass, and the final pass being from behind the crowd and a break. Deuce made one final high speed pass before heading back to Atlantic City (the runways at Millville are not long enough to support an F-15), with Jim Beasley making a barrel roll before landing. After Jim landed the P-51, the Golden Knights took to the sky once again, in hopes to perform their full show. The C-31 came around for the streamer pass before climbing to altitude and giving the airspace over to other performers, like Gene Soucy and Teresa Stokes, whose Showcat was the next aircraft in the air. If memory serves me correctly, this is the first wingwalking act that has ever appeared at Millville and its the first time in seven years that both pilots were in the Delaware Valley for an airshow (they performed at Willow Grove in 1998, back when Gene had also done shows in his Extra 300). After landing, Jim Beasley had the P-51 running once again and departed Millville, heading back towards Philadelphia.

The Tora Tora Tora group of replica five A6M Zeroes, two Kates, and one Val took off next as they went out to set up for their demonstration, which was to be a little bit later on in the day, while the Golden Knights had the airspace to begin their full show. I had some doubt that they would perform their full show, considering the aircraft was at an altitude of about 4,500 feet because of the overcast that was still lingering (but trying to break up), but somehow the team managed to pull it off, sacrificing the diamond track, since that needs the full 12,500 feet of altitude to pull off. The Golden Knights had performed an accelerated performance, mainly because there was a time window for the Snowbirds to work with. That time limit was shown as the C-31 had made a quick turnaround for the last pass, since those jumpers had exited sooner than I expected (they were in the air when the jumper that performed the cutaway maneuver had landed).

The Tora Tora Tora gang of aircraft had returned for their recreation of the Pearl Harbor attack back in 1941. The Tora group did a great job with the recreation (I can't say that from experience because I was not at Pearl Harbor back in 1941..lol) but there was one thing lacking from the pyro on the ground - there was no wall of fire. The last time I saw the Tora group perform was at Lakehurst in 2001 and I do remember there being a wall of fire in the demonstration. Nevertheless, it was nice to see the replica Japanese warbirds in the air, since the only time I would get to see at least one of those types flying is at World War II Weekend, which I won't be at this year because it is on the same weekend as McGuire AFB's airshow. All of the aircraft landed and fire crews were ready to put out any fires the Tora pyro crew had set. They sprayed the area with water as a precaution before letting the show go on.

Tim Weber then got into the air for his performance. It has been many, many years since I last saw him, and the last time that I saw him, he had just gotten his Extra 300 and his sponsor was LifeUSA. Nowadays, he still has the Extra 300 and his sponsor is now Geico. Out of all the performers at Millville this year, Tim has the most energetic aerobatic performance out of anyone! I actually didn't remember him being this aggressive when he was at Miramar in 1999, but you could put that up against me not remembering too much from that show! After Tim landed, it was time for the F/A-18 Hornet demonstration. The demo was being conducted by VFA-106 Gladiators out of NAS Oceana in Virginia. It is the same squadron that performs the Super Hornet demonstrations, but unlike the Super Hornet demos, traditional VFA-106 birds are used in the baby Hornet demonstration. I originally thought the demonstration would stage out of Millville, but it staged out of Atlantic City, which made the demo less exciting because the pilot did not use the afterburner all that much in the performance. My explanation to that is because the Hornet has a smaller fuel load than the Eagle, and to me, that makes perfect sense.

The clouds had just moved out enough for the sun to shine through and give the area around show center some clear skies, just in time for the Snowbirds to take off. I ran over to their hot ramp to catch their ground show and the engine startup sequence (luckilly I made there just in time, as the engines were just about to start up when I started recording). As they taxied out to Runway 38, I headed back to my spot to catch them taking off. Their takeoff sequence is still the same, with three elements of three aircraft for the smaller runways, like at Millville, rotating at different points along the show area. All nine aircraft formed up and did some warmup formations before coming back to the show box. Meanwhile, Roger Lehnert had fired up the Piper J3 Cub once again for the serious part of his performances. Roger usually gives himself three attempts to land on top of the airport, and if he doesn't land successfully, he will call it quits. There was a slight crosswind that foiled the first two attempts, but on the third, Roger got it right and landed beautifully on top of the Teenie Weenie Airport. I remember one time it took Roger about five or six attempts to land the Cub on the Teenie Weenie Airport - in fact, I think it was at Millville back in 2002! Roger got out of the Cub and sat on the rear portion of the plane to hold it down while his driver drove around to the end of Runway 28, got back in the aircraft, and applied power while his driver started accelerating, released the Cub from the truck, and landed on a real runway.

Then it was time for the Snowbirds to begin their aerial display. Every year, as far as what I've seen, the Snowbirds totally revamp their performance in one way or another, moving maneuvers here and there or adding a maneuver here and there. The last two years had the team starting their show from behind the crowd, but this year, they've reverted to their classic show opening maneuvers (coming from in front of the crowd) and music - In Flight by Steven Vitali. The team also utilized a lot of new music including some from Celine Dion and Kelly Clarkson (it's one of her more recent songs...I downloaded it in October 2004, if you want to be exact), to name a few. I must say, the Snowbirds look spectacular, even after their second weekend of flying airshows. I couldn't really tell, but it looked like the team flew their high show on Sunday. It goes to show that the Snowbirds put in a couple more months of training and you can clearly see it in the performance. I also want to clear one more thing up - everyone tells me how boring the Snowbirds are... that's because they're not as fast or make as much noise as our jet teams, but, you see, for an American, I love the Snowbirds. If it wasn't for that last minute trip I made to NAS Oceana in 2002, I would have had to wait a little longer to see the team and I probably would have gone out of my way and travelled afar to catch a Snowbirds performance. They were here in 2003 when the Blue Angels were here as well and everyone loved their performance. I only wish I'd be able to get to see them more than once or twice a year (2005 would have been three times, but the main London Airshow was cancelled...but it was brought back, but I cancelled my plans). I am especially looking forward to seeing them in Rhode Island on Father's Day weekend.

And that was it! As soon as the Snowbirds shut down, preparations for aircraft departures began almost immediately. Millville didn't see a whole lot of fly-in traffic this year (at least on Sunday), but all of those aircraft left, along with the P-47, P-51, AT-6, F4U, and TBM. I was also fortunate to catch the T-39 Sabreliner departing, but the one plane I wanted to see depart, but didn't because I wanted to get home also, was the Fouga Magister. That's okay, though, because I have seen it in the air before, but its been almost eight or nine years since I last saw one in the air (it might have been that very Fouga as well!). This year's edition of the Millville Airshow was great - and I applaude David Schultz and his team for at least getting some of the statics in despite the bad weather on Friday. I will be back for sure next year, and I hope there's no conflicting airshow dates!

 

 

 

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