North Kingstown, Rhode Island

June 18-19, 2005

Airshow report uploaded on July 19, 2005.

After a small break in airshow weekends for me, Father's Day weekend, for the third straight year, involved going to an airshow.  In 2003, I had made a trip up to Newburgh, New York for an airshow at Stewart International Airport (KSWF) on Father's Day itself.  Last year, I made the long drive up to Rhode Island the day before (returning home within 24 hours, mind you), and I did the same this year, only this time not coming home within twenty-four hours.  The weather forecast for Father's Day weekend in Rhode Island called for Friday to be a beautiful day, with weather in the evening and at night, clearing out on Saturday in the afternoon, and Sunday being the best day out of the two weekend days.  It didn't go quite that way.  I left home Saturday morning around four in the morning and it was clear back in New Jersey.  I saw clouds off in the distance as I was going north on the New Jersey Turnpike and on the Garden State Parkway (yes, I took the Turnpike, even though I love to rant about how much I hate that road) and as I got into New York, but those clouds looked pretty high up.  As I got into Rhode Island, it was foggy and drizzling.  It let up very slowly in the morning around 9:00, and had to go up higher for the show to start on time.

Of course, I got to Quonset State Airport about half an hour before the gates were to open, and luckily for me, I saw a fellow Fence Checker with a media pass (I had one, but honestly didn't need it), and I bugged out of line and met up with him and got in before everyone else!  I took the same spot I had for the last couple shows (although each year I think I've been inching closer and closer to show center) near taxiway A2, which is the turnoff for many of the performers, as long as they didn't use A1.  As in past years at Quonset, there usually is one or two airplanes that stand out in the static display (like a KC-135 from Alaska), and 2005 was no exception, as the static display was practically a Hornet's nest!  VMFA-115 had two F/A-18 Hornets on display including one CAG bird that was painted up with a patriotic paint scheme.  The Gladiators out of VFA-106 from Oceana brought in an F/A-18F Super Hornet.  VMFA-312 brought in a pair of Hornets and the Canadians were well represented with a CF-18A Hornet from 425 Squadron in Bagotville (the particular Hornet had markings to represent Major Ian McLean, who is the Snowbird team lead for 2005), a CH-146 Griffon, and a CH-124 SeaKing. Trainers included a T-1A Jayhawk and a T-37 Tweet from Columbus AFB in Mississippi, a T-6A Texan II from NAS Pensacola, and two T-38 Talons from Randolph AFB and Sheppard AFB in Texas.  Other fighters included a pair of F-16C Fighting Falcons from the Vermont ANG, an F-15 Eagle from Otis ANGB, and an A-10 Thunderbolt II from Westfield.  Heavies included a FedEx 727-200, a C-23 Sherpa from Quonset, a C-130J-30 Hercules from Quonset, and a C-5A Galaxy (69-0013) from Westover ARB in Massachusetts.  Helicopters included a UH-1 Huey from the Rhode Island National Guard, an HH-60 Jayhawk from CGAS Cape Cod, and an HH-65 Dauphin from CGAS Atlantic City.  The Coast Guard rounded out their static displays with an HU-25 Guardian, also from Cape Cod.  Naval static displays were rounded out by an E-2C Hawkeye from Norfolk and an S-3B Viking from Jacksonville.  Civillian aircraft included a Cessna 172 from the Civil Air Patrol, a pair of Diamond Katanas, a Beech C18, and a Cessna 208 from FedEx.  In total, there were six Hornets from all different units, not including the F/A-18s from the Blue Angels!  As an interesting note, most of the Hornets represented and the E-2C Hawkeye are part of the battle group that launches off the USS Harry S. Truman.

The Saturday show started almost on time, with the C-23 Sherpa taking off with the Red Devils on board for their morning jump.  Also taking off to circle the jumpers were Sea Tucker and Ed Hamill, both of whom joined up with the Sherpa prior to breaking off to circle the jumpers.  Two of the Red Devils exited the Sherpa on the first pass, with the first jumper trailing a pair of smaller flags, which didn't look like flags from any of the countries but rather flags you'd see boaters put up in the water (I have no idea what the flags represented!), and the second jumper coming down with the American flag.  What I found strange was that there was no Canadian flag or playing of the Canadian national anthem, seeing that the Snowbirds were in attendance as well.  The Sherpa made a second pass, with all of the Red Devils exiting at about 2,500 feet of altitude.  All of the Red Devils came down within a matter of minutes and rather fast, since their canopies are a little smaller than the ones that the Golden Knights and Black Daggers use.

Both Sean Tucker and Ed Hamill performed a teaser performance, with both pilots simultaneously performing a practice aerobatic display in front of the crowd, not as if it was a flyoff, like Michael Mancuso and Michael Goulian have done in past years at Rhode Island (they were not going to be doing the flyoff in 2005).  Its nice to finally get to see Ed Hamill fly, since he's one of the many performers I haven't gotten a chance to see do their "weekend job" firsthand.  Both Sean and Ed were in the air for about ten minutes, landing on Runway 16 and taxied off as one of the Rhode Island ANG C-130s was about ready to take off.  The particular C-130 was a C-130J-30, which is the newest addition to the RI ANG fleet.  The Hercules made a very steep climb on takeoff and proceeded to exit the show area for some operations before returning for its demonstration.  Meanwhile, Reese Dill was in the air with his T-6 Texan and as a regular performer at Rhode Island, he usually flies with Hank Moretti, who bases his T-6 at Quonset State Airport, but Hank was not flying this year.  Reese put on a good aerobatic display on Saturday but had to deal with the cloud cover, which was trying to dissipate but seemed like it wouldn't, at least in the morning.  I did talk with Reese after the show and what surprised me was that in talking with him (and while he was talking to photographer David Hayward), he seems really interested in the marvels of technology, unlike some people I know that are the same age as he is!

The C-130J-30 returned shortly afterwards for its demonstration, but was coming from behind the crowd at a 45º angle from the right, and coming by at a slower speed.  The Hercules also had its ramp lowered, as it was going to be an airdrop demonstration.  Just as it passed show center, the crew released three containers from the back of the aircraft, with their parachutes opening and landing just past the runway.  I suppose that was compensation for no Combined Arms Demonstration this year, since the majority of the assets in the demonstration were deployed overseas at the time.  The Hercules made one high speed pass from the right before leaving the area and giving the show area to Chuck Lischer.  Chuck's performances seem to get shorter and shorter every time I see him, and if memory served me correctly, his performance (from air start) at Rhode Island was about eight or nine minutes long, and that was his full show!  I suppose it's because I've seen Chuck fly so many times in the last two years that it's starting to show how much longer or shorter he flies.  After he landed, the C-130J-30 came back around for one more pass, being a break to land and demonstrating a short-field landing and backing up for a good third of the runway length, practically almost all the way to taxiway A2.

The Shockwave Jet Truck took the taxiway after the C-130J-30 headed back for its parking position on the hot ramp.  The jet truck had sported a sponsor on the left side of the truck, coming from the folks from The Home Depot, and I thought it was getting to be a little strange, even with one of the Red Devils coming down with a sponsor's flag.  Kent made several burner pops down on each end of the show area, with the smoke billowing towards the crowd each time.  Kent made a run down runway 34 at about 317 miles per hour, according to Larry Rutt, but I think that radar detector that was used seemed to be a little over clocked.  I had talked to Kent after the show about the truck and asked him what his stopping distance usually is, and got an interesting answer.  Kent says that whatever distance he can accelerate in, he can usually stop in the same distance he used to accelerate.  The next day, TLC premiered two hours of a show called Rocket Rigs, which featured Kent, his brother Scott, and the entire Shockley family and the jet vehicles that are so very famous across the airshow circuit.

The C-23 Sherpa took off once again, this time carrying members of both the Red Devils and the Black Daggers parachute teams for their late morning jump.  As the Sherpa exited the show area, Michael Mancuso took off to start his performance.  It's a shame that I don't get to see Michael fly as often as I'd like to see him fly since he flies one really good performance.  This year, he has teamed up with Matt Chapman at certain show sites to fly a dual aerobatic performance, but Rhode Island did not have Matt Chapman performing.  This year's Rhode Island airshow marks the first time I have been able to successfully track down Mike and hang out with him, since it seemed like everywhere I went and he was there, I was not able to catch up with him.  While Mike was flying in the morning, he flew in the part of the show where blue sky started to show up in some parts of the show area.  Following Mike was the Sherpa, returning for the hot pass, with both the Red Devils and Black Daggers jumping out of the Sherpa at about 4,000 feet up.  The Red Devils performed some canopy relative work while bringing down the American flag, while another member brought down a sponsor flag and another with the Union Jack, and all members of the Red Devils performing a showline spread.  The Black Daggers brought down the POW/MIA flag and the flag of the state of Rhode Island, all performing target area landings.  After all of the jumpers landed, the show was actually a few minutes ahead of schedule, so to keep something in the air and bring the airshow to schedule, the C-23 Sherpa flew a number of passes down the runway at low altitude to kill time, including a low pass, a minimum radius turn, and a slow speed dirty pass performed at a low altitude over the runway before actually coming around to land.

Ed Shipley took off next with his F-86 Sabre and put on a short aerobatic performance with the aircraft.  Ed has started flying the F-86 in a manner that can be related to Dale Snodgrass' style of flying with the low pass, but not nearly as low as Dale flies his low passes.  Ed's performance was shorter than what he usually flies, probably because he was saving the fuel since he had to loiter in the air for about another thirty minutes to fly a Heritage Flight.  The first of the Heritage Flight participants and tactical demonstrations was from an F-16 Fighting Falcon with the East Coast Demo Team out of Shaw AFB, SC.  Major Geoff "Hak" Hickman had to fly his low show, but even with the low show, he put on a performance comparable to Ed Casey's demonstration at Rhode Island back in 2003, being a very loud demonstration flown really close to the crowd line.  With the low clouds, Hak pulled more vapor coming off the F-16 than I have ever seen in my entire life and used the afterburner for practically the entire part of the show, even parts of it that really didn't require afterburner.  

Hak went out behind the crowd and joined up with Ed Shipley to hold for the Heritage Flight while Captain Jason "Bondo" Costello demonstrated how the F-15 Eagle performs under the low clouds.  Bondo represented the East Coast Demo Team out of Langley AFB, Virginia and faced tough competition after Hak gave a superb performance with a ton of afterburner.  Bondo started off being a little conservative on the afterburner but as the demo progressed, the usage became more and more liberal until at the end of the performance where he started using afterburner when it really wasn't needed!  Bondo managed to grab more vapor off the F-15 than I have ever seen in my life, even more than what Deuce managed to get two weeks ago at McGuire, including some conic vapor.  Following the demonstration, Bondo joined up with Hak and Shipley for the Heritage Flight, which was another Classic Heritage Flight.  The formation flew a total of three passes, with the final pass being the formation break, which was one of the nicest formation breaks I have ever seen because the F-15 and F-16 drew wingtip vapors at almost the exact same time!  Hak went on to land on runway 16, while Ed Shipley flew by low and fast to overtake the Fighting Falcon as it rolled down the runway, and Bondo came overhead at 500 feet along the crowd line with another high speed pass before landing.

Each of the aircraft taxied by in formation, similar to how they flew the Heritage Flight, while heading back to the hot ramp, with a smaller airplane already on the runway ready to fly.  It was the Air Force Reserve Pitts S-2C with Ed Hamill at the controls.  Ed is somewhat new at aerobatics, with 2005 being his (I think) third season flying airshows with the Pitts and his performance ranks up to the likes of Sean Tucker, Michael Goulian, Michael Mancuso, Matt Chapman, and the like.  Unlike most of those performers, Ed Hamill does not have an air start performance.  I can see Ed in a few years as being one of the top aerobatic pilots in North America and quite possibly one of the United States' aerobatic competition pilots.  If that's the case, I think he might have to retire from the Air Force, since he is currently an F-16 instructor pilot based out of Luke AFB, near Phoenix, Arizona.  It's a shame it was overcast when Ed flew because the red, white, and blue paint job on his Pitts would really stand out in a blue sky.

The next of the acts was a jet team, specifically the Canadian Snowbirds.  All nine Tutors taxied by and made their way to Runway 34 and instead of the three elements of three aircraft taking off, each of the Snowbirds took off individually, which produced one loud takeoff sequence, especially with the runway at Quonset State Airport being as close as it is.  With the sky still overcast, the Snowbirds were forced to fly a low show, but even then, the low show is still as impressive as any other Snowbird performance.  The low show also shows off one of my favorite Snowbird formation breaks, but it was performed differently this year.  It involves the formation coming in front of the crowd, and the solos performing an opposing break off somewhat in front of the main formation, with three planes splitting to the left and four planes splitting to the right in separate formations.  This year it involves three aircraft splitting off with an opposing-type maneuver (the two solos and I believe Snowbird #8), followed by the split of the six-ship formation into elements of three aircraft.  Once again I was very impressed with the Snowbird performance, and there were some formation slips but overall they were practically unnoticeable at first.  The team ended their performance with the nine-plane line abreast pass and landed on Runway 34.

Another Rhode Island regular performer had the stage next and it was Frank Ryder.  Frank is one is the more unique performers, since the Cyclone is a one-of-a-kind airplane that has its roots back to the air racing days of the 1930s.  The paint job has also been modified from last year, since there are no more stars on the wings of the Cyclone, which is making the plane appear more plain against the sky, especially with the overcast that plagued Rhode Island for half the weekend.  I'm also starting to memorize Frank's performance, which is pretty scary since he'd be the second performer whose performance I would have memorized (the first being Sean Tucker).  Speaking of Sean, he was up next.  Sean is another regular performer at Rhode Island (actually almost all of the aerobatic performers are regular performers at Rhode Island) and flew his entire show under the overcast.  Sean's pole holders that day were members of the Red Devils, who told me they got such a rush holding the poles for Sean as he flew by and cut each of the ribbons.  Sean still holds the title of being my favorite aerobatic performer, with Michael Goulian coming in at a close second.

Michael Mancuso took off once again to fly a shortened portion of his demonstration, and when he was in the air, a bit of blue sky started to show up out towards show left.  Michael did cut the power on the Extra 300L's engine once during the time he was up, which scared the crap out of me, but later on I found out he did that to get the crowd's attention.  Well, he certainly got my attention by doing that!  Michael was in the air because he was due to race with Kent Shockley and that famous Shockwave Jet Truck.  Kent did his normal pre-race performance a little differently, performing the smoke show on the runway first, rather than second, and then turned back onto the taxiway in front of the crowd to light the burners and perform some burner pops before heading over to the end of Runway 34.  Michael began the race inverted and got a huge lead ahead of Kent Shockley but as both aircraft and truck reached show center, Kent had already caught up to Mike and passed him, going on full power for thirteen seconds and passing by Mike at 327 miles an hour.  Michael Mancuso stayed in the air to perform another fine aerobatic performance, this time with more blue sky, since the sight of the Blue Angels possibly flying a high show got better and better as the afternoon progressed.

Following Mike's performance, he had parked the Extra 300L just to the right of show center and got out in front of the crowd as it was time for the Rhode Island National Guard demonstration.  Usually at that time of the day it would be the Combined Arms Demonstration, but with most of the assets being used for that demonstration deployed overseas at the time, there was no Combined Arms Demonstration.  The demonstration at hand was the C-130J-30 Hercules.  The guys from the Rhode Island ANG sure know how to put on one heck of Hercules demonstration.  The demonstration started out with a short field takeoff using only about 2,500 feet of runway, utilizing a high angle of climb (similar to what you'd see during a JATO takeoff) and an ever-tightening turning climb while flying a figure eight pattern across the ground.  By that time, the blue skies became more and more prevalent over the show area, which was real nice since it would be the first time I'd be shooting a RI ANG C-130J-30 under a bluish sky.  The Hercules crew repositioned the C-130J-30 for more tight turns in front of the crowd, repositioning to come from show left at high speed, sharply pulling the nose up and turning to the left just as hard as the plane was climbing, giving the illusion that the crew was trying to do a barrel roll with the plane.  They pointed the nose of the Hercules down towards the ground and repositioned for another figure eight racetrack turn, with that one ending with the plane approaching the crowd head-on at a 45º angle, before pitching up sharply and turning left as sharply as they were climbing.  The crew then positioned the C-130J-30 for a short-field landing on Runway 34 but did not do a backup, mainly because I think Fat Albert would have been coming up soon and the crew wanted to leave that portion of the demonstration to the Blue Angels' C-130.  The announcer for the Hercules demonstration is the same guy who announces for the Combined Arms Demonstration, and he made it clear that the particular Hercules flying the demonstration, 99-1431, was among the first C-130Js to have seen combat action over Iraq.  I was incredibly impressed with that demonstration and when you think of it, it sounds like a demonstration you'd only see at big shows like Paris, Farnborough, or even Avalon.  I hope anyone on the Rhode Island ANG reading this gets the smart idea - KEEP THIS DEMO PROFILE!!!  If anyone from Charleston AFB, McChord AFB, or McGuire AFB is reading this, I would absolutely LOVE to see that demonstration profile used on the C-17.

So how does an airshow top a performance like that?  Send up Michael Goulian and let him try and outdo the C-130J-30's performance.  Mike is actually considered a local, even though he's basically from Massachusetts.  The first time I saw Mike was at Rhode Island back in 2003, which was also the first time I had been to the Rhode Island show and I was thoroughly impressed with his flying.  It seemed like last year my mood was "oh no, Michael's flying" (just kidding, Mike!).  Seriously though, I consider Mike as the next best aerobatic pilot in my books, coming in real close to Sean Tucker.  Rhode Island was actually my third show seeing Mike Goulian fly, since he was at Langley AFB and at Willow Grove.  Following his performance, Mike taxied back in front of the crowd, heading back to the hot ramp, while there was a very short downtime for the Blue Angels to get underway.

In traditional Blue Angel format, Fat Albert took off, demonstrating the JATO characteristics of the C-130.  The crew had somewhat positioned the takeoff a little to the right of show center, giving everyone around me an idea what the bottles smell like when they're burning.  I identified what is probably in the JATO bottles - sulfur.  If you sniff a whiff of sulfur, it burns the inside if your nose and has a terrible smell.  I'll take corvus oil over JATO bottles any day!  Fat Albert then performed the traditional high speed pass a little lower than I have seen in the past, followed by a short-field landing, demonstrating the backup technique the C-130J-30 did not demonstrate.  The weather conditions were somewhat strange by the time the six F/A-18 Hornets made their way down the crowd line and onto Runway 34.  Towards show right and distant show left were low clouds at about 3,500 feet.  Over the show area and some areas behind the crowd, it was clear.  You would think that the Blue Angels could have performed a modified high show with the clear sky above us, but not do the burner loop on takeoff, but that was not the case.  Blue Angel #5 did not perform the dirty roll on takeoff, however number six did perform the low transition and vertical climb.  With the strange cloud deck in play, the Blue Angels were forced to fly their flat show, with did involve the solos pulling quite a bit of vapor during parts of the show.  Nonetheless, the Blues' formations looked very tight and the show is coming together very well so early in the season, even though it was only the middle of June.

I had spent the time after the show was over chatting with the performers and attending the performer bash in the new hangar that was built at Quonset State Airport, presumably for the C-130s.  It is a very very nice hangar, and while I was there until darkness came, I want to point out that it was nice to finally meet Hak (I don't recall meeting him at ICAS) and Ed Hamill, along with the like of Sean Tucker, Mike Goulian, Mike Mancuso (who was flying during the times I wasn't hanging out with him!), Kent Shockley, Reese Dill, Bondo, Chuck Lischer, Frank Ryder, and Doug McDaniel, along with several members of the Red Devils and the Black Daggers.  I would like to thank Col. Larry Gallogly for putting together another great Rhode Island show, which, despite the weather, was the best RI airshow I've been to in the three years I've gone to the show.  I still get my sisters asking me why I go up to Rhode Island for an airshow and come back the same day, well, to answer that, Rhode Island has quickly become one of my favorite shows to attend.  The dumb question is whether or not I will come back for 2006, and the short answer is, of course, yes.


Military Demonstration Teams

  • US Navy Blue Angels
  • Canadian Forces Snowbirds
  • US Army SOC Black Daggers
  • British Red Devils

Tentative Military Demonstrations

  • F-15 Eagle East Coast Demo Team
  • F-16 Fighting Falcon East Coast Demo Team
  • C-130J-30 Hercules Demonstration

Civillian Demonstrations

  • Sean Tucker
  • Ed Hamill
  • Dale Snodgrass
  • Michael Mancuso
  • Michael Goulian
  • Shockwave Jet Truck
  • Reese Dill & Hank Moretti
  • Ed Shipley
  • Chuck Lischer
  • USAF Heritage Flight - F-15/F-16/F-86

Participating Organizations

  • Rich's Incredible Pyro

Announcer: Larry Rutt

Rhode Island ANG Open House & Airshow Page