2003 Rhode Island ANG Open House and Airshow

June 27-29, 2003

Airshow report written on July 2, 2003.

As the 2003 airshow season is in full swing, I had decided that it was time to check out one of the best airshows in the Northeast, the Rhode Island ANG Open House and Airshow, held at the Quonset State Airport. The airport is located in the town of North Kingstown and the location is commonly referred to as Quonset Point. As location is concerned, Quonset Point, or "QP" has one of the most beautiful locations for an airshow - the sun being behind you for most of the show and the fact that the show runway (looking out towards show right) is against Narragansett Bay. Quonset Point is definitely one show that everyone on the East Coast should attend at least once in his or her life.

Since I live in New Jersey, I had to get up pretty early to get to QP. I figured the drive would be approximately four and a half hours with no traffic, even with going around New York City and travelling through New Haven and New London in Connecticut. I left my house at around 3:40 in the morning and was able to make it to the show site in just over four hours. However, being that I drove around New York City, it was another fifteen miles longer than I had anticipated. Driving on Interstate 95 was about twenty miles longer than I thought, as I naturally assumed that the exits in Connecticut were mileage-based. I had gotten to QP much earlier than I anticipated and waited a little over an hour until the gates opened, which was 9:00.

Just to clear which day I went, I went to Sunday's show. As I got in and had my seat in place, I toured the static display. There was a wide variety of aircraft on display, ranging from a pair of AT-6/SNJ Texans, L-17B Navion, and the P-51D Mustang Glamorous Gal representing the warbirds. Civillian aircraft were represented with a Piper Commanche, a Cessna 152, a Cessna 172 owned by the Civil Air Patrol, and a Cessna 208 and Boeing 727-200 - both operated by FedEx. Military trainers included a T-1A Jayhawk from Columbus AFB, a T-2C Buckeye, T-6A Texan II from Moody AFB, T-37 Tweet from Columbus AFB, and a T-38 Talon from Randolph AFB. Transports included two C-21A Learjets - one from Scott AFB and the other from Buckley ANGB, C-5A Galaxy 66- from Westover ARB in Massachusetts, a C-23 Sherpa from the Rhode Island Army National Guard - based right at Quonset Point, as well as a C-130J-30 from the RI ANG - also based at Quonset. Fighters included an A-10 Thunderbolt II from Barnes ANGB, as part of the Massachusetts ANG, an EA-6B Prowler from VAQ-141 out of NAS Whidbey Island in Washington state, a pair of F-15E Strike Eagles from Mountain Home AFB in Idaho, a pair of F-16 Fighting Falcons from the NJ ANG out of Atlantic City, an F/A-18C Hornet belonging to VFA-83 at NAS Oceana in Virginia Beach, and an F/A-18D Hornet from VMFA-225 at MCAS Miramar in San Diego. Helicopters in static display included a UH-1 Huey and a UH-60 Blackhawk - both aircraft belonging to the RI Army National Guard, also out of Quonset Point, MH-53 Pave Low from NAVSTA Norfolk, and an HH-60 Jayhawk from CGAS Cape Cod in Massachusetts. The nearby Quonset Air Museum had many of their aircraft on display as well - aircraft including an F-14 Tomcat, A-4 Skyhawk, AV-8B Harrier, SH-3 SeaKing, and the MiG-15 Fagot.

Throughout the early morning, general aviation and fly-in aircraft were allowed to land and park at Quonset State Airport, but the pilots and their passengers couldn't enter the flight line early. When things opened up, a UH-1 Huey was circling the airport a number of times before coming down the crowd line and landing to drop off someone. It got me thinking that this was a photographer who was given the opportunity of a lifetime to photograph North Kingstown, RI from the air. The weather wasn't the best at the time - it was overcast with broken clouds at around 6,000 feet. The visibility was a good ten miles or more, and everything needed to fly an airshow was in place. I had heard early in the morning that there would be a shower and that it would clear out in the afternoon. I had learned that it was also one of the rare accurate weather predictions ever for this year, as it did rain briefly and it did clear up in the afternoon.

The C-23 Sherpa that carried members of the Navy Leap Frogs and the British Red Devils Parachute Teams took to the sky to climb to a jump altitude of 6,000 feet. It was also at this time that the rain started. Sean Tucker had also gotten up and he joined up alongside the Sherpa to fly the strangest formation I have ever seen in my entire life. I thought seeing a 727 and a Stearman in formation (well, not actually a formation, but it would be perceived as a formation if distance wasn't taken into account) was strange, but this topped the books.

Three jumpers from both the Leap Frogs and the Red Devils opened the show with the playing of the national anthems from Great Britain and the United States. A Red Devil brought down the Union Jack while their national anthem was being played, while a Leap Frog brought down the Stars and Stripes with our national anthem being played. The third jumper was a Leap Frog freefall photographer and he landed prior to the other Leap Frog. Prior to the rest of the jumpers exiting the Sherpa was Sean Tucker landing, as no other aircraft can be in the show area when there are jumpers in the sky. The Red Devils were the first team to take the sky and they performed CREW, or Canopy RElative Work. The Red Devils sure know how to put on a show, with several bi-planes, turning into one tri-plane and one jumper spiraling down with a candycane. One jumper even came down carrying the Stars and Stripes. Their landings at Quonset were much better than their landings at Langley AFB last year, as a good number of them came down too fast.

The Leap Frogs had the show area as soon as the last Red Devil landed. Members of the Navy SEALS Parachute Team also performed CREW, with jumpers linking up to fly a bi-plane, a T-formation, and a side-by-side. The side-by-side formation of two jumpers performed a downplane, connected by the feet and acting as a catalyst by accelerating to the ground rapidly before breaking off prior to landing. I enjoyed both teams' demonstrations of canopy relative work, as it shows off talent and practice that a parachute team shows off to an airshow audience.

Sean Tucker took to the air once again, this time to fly a practice show for everyone. Sean really let his practice stretch out as he perfected his performance that he would use later on in the afternoon. As always, practice does indeed make perfect, as he was showing the Rhode Island crowd. His practice is pretty much his entire performance flown slightly higher than his airshow performance and what made it even more special is that he narrated the entire second half of the practice. As a practice show, he did not perform the triple ribbon cut, but he did show the Rhode Island crowd how he'd fly it.

After Sean landed, a RI ANG C-130J-30 Hercules took off and flew out of the airshow area for a demonstration later on in the show. It is a very weird aircraft, considering that it's a stretched C-130. After his departure, the C-23 Sherpa performed a short-field landing and taxied in front of the crowd as it made its way to the hot ramp. Reese Dill and Hank Moretti took to the air next in their SNJ Texans. They performed several formation flybys before breaking off and giving the show to Reese Dill so he could fly a solo aerobatic display. In my opinion, I wasn't impressed with the formation flying - I was hoping to see formation aerobatics, similar to what the Six of Diamonds was famous for. Believe it or not, Reese Dill was actually a member of the Six of Diamonds, which also included Dan Caldarale and I believe both Ed Shipley and Bill Leff were Six of Diamonds pilots. Reese's aerobatic performance is basically the typical AT-6/SNJ performance with nothing really spectacular.

A couple of Michael's were up in their respective aircraft - Michael Goulian in his CAP 232 and Michael Mancuso in his Extra 300L - in an aerobatic fly-off. It's been a while since I've seen a fly-off and this was exciting. It's cool to see one pilot fly for about a minute and see the next try to top the previous pilot's performance. Both pilots took off at the same time, but at opposite ends of the runway for an exciting opposing takeoff. Michael Mancuso landed early, letting Michael Goulian land and have both taxi by the crowd together. Dan McCue took the stage next with a more "liberal" L-39C Albatross performance than Allen Smith's. I'm one of those people who consider an L-39 as a plane that "doesn't too much" for me, but after seeing Dan fly, I might change my mind. Dan did a dirty roll on takeoff, as well as a tailslide - something I've never seen done in a jet. I knew it was possible with the L-39, but I never really believed it.

The C-23 Sherpa took to the air once again, carrying members of the Leap Frogs and the Red Devils for their second and final jump of the day. Scott Shockley took the Super Shockwave Jet Truck for a "dry run" - no aircraft racing him. This run took him to 317 miles per hour. As he left the runway, the C-130J-30 came back for his demonstration. It consisted of a high angle of bank arrival, followed by a minimum radius turn, a high-speed pass, and a dirty pass. It's nice to see a demonstration of the Hercules once in a while, as demonstrations by cargo aircraft are very rare. He ended the demonstration by performing a short-field landing.

The parachute teams had the stage for their second jump. Both the Red Devils and the Leap Frogs jumped out of the Sherpa at once, filling the sky with Navy SEALS and members of the British Army Regiment. The Red Devils have gotten a lot better in their landings this year, as was shown in both performances today. However, only one formation linked up, compared to the many formations performed earlier in the day. The Leap Frogs, on the other hand, performed a better demonstration of CREW in this jump. There were two diamond formations being flown, along with a solo jumper parachuting down outside of the formations. My best guess would be that this was a photographer, as they don't usually participate in any CREW work. Both diamond formations each had a flag flying underneath the bottom jumper's foot - those flags belonging to the countries of Great Britain and the United States. Two of the jumpers from one of the diamond formations performed a downplane prior to their landings. As the last of the Leap Frogs landed, it made me think that CREW is indeed impressive.

The C-23 Sherpa jump plane came back to Quonset Point and made another short-field landing, but this time his landing was more unique as the pilot did a touchdown and rolled for at least 500 feet on only the left main wheel! Immediately afterwards came the F/A-18 Hornet demonstration from VFA-83. For a Hornet demonstration from Lemoore, this was a very good demonstration. I have heard many say that this wasn't the best Hornet demonstration, but I have to say that Navy Hornet demonstrations seem to have gotten better over the last year. As the Hornet landed and taxied towards the crowd, Reese Dill departed for home in his SNJ before letting Michael Mancuso perform. Michael had a slight problem in the beginning of his performance that not many people caught, myself being one of them. Announcer Larry Rutt called the "event" as being instrument-related but it wasn't. Apparently Michael pulled into a tight turn at the wrong altitude, dragging his left wingtip against the runway and damaging the wingtip of his Extra 300L. He immediately went around the airport and landed in the same direction that he took off in for a safety precaution. The one thing I can hope for is that the airplane is in good shape, as I know Michael probably got the scare of his life. Thankfully, he didn't get any injuries whatsoever.

Frank Ryder had the stage next in his Oreck XL Cyclone. Frank flew one of his better performances here at Quonset Point. It was also at this time that the first of many patches of blue sky began to show up over the show area as it was the sign of better weather to come. I hope that Frank flies a similar or much more energized performance at Willow Grove in September, along with the many puns provided by his announcer, Doug McDaniel. After Frank taxied in, Dale "Snort" Snodgrass took to the sky in the P-51D Mustang Excalibur. He flew away from the show area, as the airspace was needed by Captain Ed "Pinto" Casey to fly his demonstration. Capt. Casey's performance was with the F-16 Fighting Falcon, from the 20th Fighter Wing in Shaw AFB, SC. This F-16 demonstration was much different than the one Capt. Casey flew in NAS Oceana last year. Firstly, he had a takeoff demonstration and he went right into the demonstration, rather than starting from behind the crowd. He also flew the aircraft much closer to the crowd than at Oceana, making photography and shooting video easier. I shouldn't forget that it's also much louder the closer he flies to the crowd. Lastly, it goes to show that somehow I forgot just how loud an F-16 can be, and that's a good thing! I have seen five demonstrations by F-16s since 1998 (including the one at Quonset) and the one at Quonset - by far - was the best demonstration I had ever seen.

At the conclusion of his demonstration, Capt. Casey joined up with Dale Snodgrass in the P-51D Mustang to fly the USAF Heritage Flight. This was, by far, the tightest formation I've ever seen flown for a Heritage Flight. Snort and Pinto flew a total of four passes, with the last being a break right in front of the crowd. As Capt. Casey landed, Dale made his first pass from the right at a very low altitude - his trademark. His F-86 Sabre was "under the weather", so to speak. It had engine oil problems and the work needed to fix the Sabre might require a new engine. Dale told me that he should be able to have the Sabre ready for NAS Oceana's show in September. His performance in the P-51 is basically the same as most other pilots' aerobatic performances in the Mustang, with one exception. Dale prefers to fly on the deck, as he did so several times during the performance. He actually flew the P-51 the same way he flies the F4U-5A that he flies in airshows on occasion.

As Dale landed, it was time for Michael Goulian to take the stage. Being the first time that I have seen him fly, he really impressed me. It goes to show why Michael is indeed one of the best aerobatic performers in the country, but still - nobody beats who is at the top of my list: Sean Tucker. After Michael landed, a pair of Rhode Island Air National Guard C-130E Hercules transports took off and departed the show area in preparation for the Combined Arms Demonstration that was to take place later on in the day. As they departed, Sean Tucker had the aerobatic box to himself. I really can't say much more about Sean that I haven't said before other than that he is the best performer in my book. It seemed like Sean was using more power at Quonset Point than at other show sites in the past. Heck, I didn't care - his performance is excellent and you really can't get any better than him (well, I suppose you could...). As Sean landed, he taxied towards the taxiway right in front of the crowd to give his salute to the crowd and how much he loves flying for airshow spectators. Trust me, he does! I have met him before and he is probably one of the nicest guys you could meet!

As Sean taxied back to the hot ramp, the two A-10 Thunderbolt IIs that were also going to take part in the Combined Arms Demonstration departed - the first displaying a high angle of takeoff while the second performed a low transition. Both A-10s belong to the 104th Fighter Wing of the Massachusetts ANG. Scott Shockley and Frank Ryder had the stage next for a race. The airplane and the 1957 Chevy truck with jet engines - an interesting set of participants. Apparently, the Super Shockwave Jet Truck, the '57 Chevy, won the race and he won it by going 352 miles an hour. There had been several minutes of "kill" time, so Frank stayed in the air and flew several Oreck Challenges - the trademark of his display. When he came back down, it was time for the Rhode Island National Guard to take over.

At Quonset Point's show, this is the staple of the entire airshow. By this time, the sky above the Quonset State Airport was cloudless - an excellent background for the Combined Arms Demonstration. The C-130s came from behind the crowd area, escorted by the Massachusetts ANG A-10s, providing constant cover over the battlefield area. The A-10s used the airspace over Narragansett Bay to reposition over the enemy airfield and provide cover for the two UH-1 Hueys from the RI ArNG to deliver soldiers onto the airfield via fast rope. The A-10s continued to fly cover for the Hueys as they departed the enemy zone and as a pair of RI ArNG UH-60 Blackhawks to deliver additional ground assets. As the Blackhawks departed, the A-10s continued to provide support as one of the C-130s approached the airfield and perform a short-field landing. Prior to its landing, one A-10 provided enough cover to launch a wall of fire. The C-130 performed the short-field landing, lowered the cargo ramp, and unloaded a pair of Jeeps in less than three minutes. After the Jeeps were out, the ramp was up, the loadmasters in the Hercules, and he departed within 2,000 feet. As he was departing, the second C-130 was inbound from the right to perform a container delivery system demonstration, or CDS. He airdropped a total of four containers onto the airfield. As he departed, the airfield was declared secure and the aircraft recovered. The two Hueys performed a formation flyby, as well as the Blackhawks. As the Blackhawks flew by, the A-10s performed a single pass each as a salute before landing. The C-130s came in from the left in a high angle of bank before repositioning to land. This was my first time seeing a Combined Arms Demonstration, and I must say it was excellent. It's much different than the MAGTF demos I'm used to seeing at Willow Grove, and I would certainly like to see another real soon.

It was now time for the Blue Angels to take the stage. With a clear blue sky above us, it was clear that this was going to be a high show. Fat Albert took the stage first and performed the JATO demonstration - something that the Rhode Island crowd absolutely loved. He went on to perform the flat pass and the short-field landing as usual. The Blue Angels' F/A-18 Hornets were parked on the hot ramp at show left, so it was possible to see their ground show, but one would have to walk quite a distance to catch it. This was one of their good performances, but there have been several points in the display where one or two jets were slightly off, or the pilot overcorrected. It was also a performance where the #4 jet had a mechanical problem. It led the six pilots to perform their final pass and break to land without the slot pilot, as well as having the jets landing out of their usual numbered order. Otherwise, the Blue Angels' display was perfect. It wasn't the best, but it was good enough.

The Blue Angels closed out the airshow at Quonset Point and before I close out the airshow report, there are some things I noticed after the show that caught my attention. I had talked to one of the pilots that brought in the F-16s from Atlantic City. There is an airshow that will take place along the Boardwalk in Atlantic City. It is on August 27 (a Wednesday) and will feature the USAF Thunderbirds as the headline act. I was also able to catch the F-16 demo team's departure, which consisted of a formation takeoff of both the demo and the spare jet as they headed home for Shaw AFB, SC. Getting out of Quonset State Airport and onto Route 4 took about 45 minutes, as local roads were turned into a two-lane road to ease the wait and time to get to Routes 4 and US 1. All in all, I'm glad I drove 527 miles for the show (it was about 273 miles one-way), and maybe next year I'll find someone with a small plane and we could fly into Quonset State Airport. Maybe the flight will be an hour and a half - better than driving more than four hours!

Overall Score: 10


What the RI ANG Did That Made This Show Unique:

Demonstration Teams

Military Demonstrations

Civillian Demonstrations

Announcers: Larry Rutt

2003 Rhode Island ANG Open House and Airshow Website