2008 Rhode Island ANG Open House & Airshow
The 2008 Rhode Island ANG Open House & Airshow was another one of the airshows that I was questionable about attending once the jet team schedules were released back in December, since neither the Thunderbirds or the Blue Angels had Rhode Island on their schedules. However, once the Red Arrows had announced they would be doing a North American goodwill tour, I had hoped that Rhode Island would be on that schedule. My hopes were answered when their 2008 schedule was released, and it included Langley AFB and Rhode Island on there. I had complete faith in the Reds doing the tour, as they had multiple show sites scheduled and the fact that this was something special for them, instead of the one-shot deal that the French were promising (and backed out of) for Quebec. With the Reds tour in stone, I realized that I would be attending every single airshow that the Reds would be performing at, and didn't think to include a "display" in New York City the Wednesday prior to the weekend in Rhode Island.
I then found out that the NYC display was actually going to be a full-up Red Arrows performance, but only a rolling show display, as the airspace around New York Harbor and Staten Island only allowed a ceiling of 2,500 feet for the Reds. Nonetheless, their performance over the Harbor was absolutely amazing, and with Rhode Island in the wings, I couldn't care less regarding what performances the Reds would fly that weekend. In fact, I wanted to see their flat show in Rhode Island. The weather forecasts for Saturday and Sunday predicted bad weather for the entire weekend - until Friday night, where everyone predicted Saturday to be a very nice day and Sunday to be a complete washout and full of thunderstorms. I will say it right now - we were treated to clear skies (with some high cirrus clouds) all day Sunday, with the wind picking up substantially once the Reds landed. The clear skies on Saturday gave way to fog during the evening, which was no factor since no airshow flying was taking place (though Julie Clark went up for a photo flight and the results from that flight were some AMAZING photos!). Basically, we were treated to a high show by the Reds, along with all of the jet demo teams and all of the aerobatic performers.
The unfortunate thing for Rhode Island this weekend was the fact that many of the performers that I thought were going to be there were not. I don't know why Michael Hunter and Matt Chapman weren't in attendance, and we did not have a C-17 demonstration. I also thought we would have a full-up Collaborators performance with Sean & Eric Tucker, Ben Freelove, and Bill Stein, but sponsorship costs for Ben and Bill precluded their appearances. I was sort of disappointed because Bill Stein was my pilot for my Red Barons flight back in May 2005. As a result, many of the performances were doubled up for Saturday and Sunday. Michael Goulian, John Klatt, and Ed Hamill flew a teaser act in the morning and their full performances in the afternoon. Julie Clark flew two performances each day (and I noticed a few people who didn't enjoy it since it wasn't hardcore, but she has one of the most graceful and most dynamic aerobatic performances in the airshow industry). We were treated to two performances by the AV-8B Harrier on both Saturday and Sunday and the F/A-18C and F-15E flew twice on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. I will get to those demos real soon.
The military demos rocked Rhode Island the entire weekend. Having attended the entire weekend up there for the first time ever, I was treated to four F-15E demos, four F/A-18C demos, and five AV-8B demos - all of which are on video, mind you. Friday's demos from the three aircraft did not feature any music and any narration, so once you guys see that video, you will be in for a nice treat. Both the F-15E and F/A-18C demos at Rhode Island were very special demos. Firstly for the Strike Eagle... this was the first time that Captains Phil "Ritz" Smith and "Wild Ed" Colfer flew their performance over Rhode Island and they made sure they left a mark in the state. All of their performances were absolutely earth-shattering loud (Ritz told me that they really had to show up the Hornet demo team on Saturday... there is a funny story to that but it does not need to be told here) over the entire weekend, and in addition, both pilots introduced cockpit narration to the performance during the high speed climb and spiral downwards. During Saturday's performance, Assistant Dedicated Crew Chief SrA Brad Butler proposed to his girlfriend Amber, and I congratulate them for their engagement and many many years of happiness. The Hornet demos were flown by Lieutenant Adrian "Catfish" Jope, who was flying his last demos at Rhode Island before moving on to further his Naval career at War College. Catfish flew some of the best demonstrations over the entire weekend, which included a full vapor cone during Saturday morning's high speed pass. It goes to show that Ritz really meant that he and Wild really needed to give Catfish a run for his money! Not much needs to be said for all of the Harrier demonstrations, other than with the close proximity of the runway to the crowd line at Rhode Island, it was kept VERY close to the crowd line during the hovering and I'm so glad I still have my hearing as a result.
Two staples of the Rhode Island ANG Open House & Airshow have been the C-130J-30 demonstration and the Combined Arms Demonstration. The C-130J-30 demonstration profile underwent a makeover for 2008, which incorporated photo passes in the demonstration, along with the high angles of bank and high G maneuvering that the 143rd Airlift Wing is famous for in their J Herc demo. In fact, I was told that the practice demonstration on Friday overstressed the airframe of the demo aircraft, reducing it to static display duty for the weekend. Either way, I was very impressed with the demo profile from the 143rd! I was a bit confused as to how the Combined Arms Demonstration would be flown, as I was hoping to see some F-16s rather than A-10s, but neither aircraft would participate. Instead, two C-130J-30s, four UH-60 Blackhawks, and one UH-1 Huey represented all of the flying operations during the demo. Saturday's demo only featured one Hercules, but the Sunday demo showed off the entire contingent of aircraft. One Blackhawk simulated the function of a gunship, another providing a sling load demonstration, and two providing support and inserting soldiers on the field. The Huey provided medevac assistance, and the C-130J-30s providing the container delivery system airdrop (both days, and at the same time, the wall of fire was set off) and offloading a Jeep and two ATVs (Sunday only). It was different, but interesting at the same time.
Flybys were provided by a B-2 Spirit on Saturday and a B-52 Stratofortress and an A-10 Thunderbolt II on Sunday. The B-2's flybys were actually the best I had seen all of 2008, as security and technical glitches took over at Andrews AFB and Langley AFB, respectively. Sunday's flybys by the B-52 were very special for me, as it was the first time that I can remember seeing a B-52 in flight and at an airshow, mind you. Since the B-52 is powered by the same jet engines that the KC-135E and C-141B used, I had expected it to sound the same as those two aircraft, but only slightly louder, and I got exactly that. We got two passes out of the B-52, and while both had the aircraft in the clean configuration, I would have loved to seen it with the flaps extended in at least one of the passes, since the huge flaps of the Stratofortress really give the wings of the aircraft such a unique shape that only the B-52 is known for. We were also treated to a departure display by one of the Pennsylvania ANG A-10s. Upon taking off, the pilot made two flybys over Quonset State Airport before departing back to NAS/JRB Willow Grove. I was a happy camper because it was unexpected, I would not get to see any A-10s in flight in 2008, and the fact that it's a Willow Grove A-10.
The Red Arrows concluded their North America goodwill tour with a stop in Rhode Island. Once again, the Reds flew a spectacular performance both Saturday and Sunday, and like I said earlier with the weather, we were lucky to have Sunday's high winds start kicking up after the Reds had landed and parked. Sunday was supposed to be rather stormy and would have been my only chance to see their flat show, but I was very happy to catch two more high shows that weekend. For me, it was a real treat to be able to follow the Reds around North America this year, and while I was unable to catch their arrivals, practice shows, and practice formation flights, it was a pleasure seeing them perform in front of the public in Quebec City, Langley AFB, New York City, and in Rhode Island. I would like to send a thank you to all of the Blues that I met following the Saturday show, along with Flt. Lt. Andy Robins for taking time out to chat at each of the show sites as well as his kindness in helping me at Langley AFB and in New York City. I hope to see you guys in England in 2009!
The 2008 Rhode Island ANG Open House & Airshow was definitely the best Rhode Island show I had ever attended, even despite the number of performers I had expected to see not show up. While I did not mention Kent Shockley and the Jet Truck, he was indeed in attendance, and managed to smoke up the crowd the entire weekend. I would like to thank all of the PAO staff at the Rhode Island ANG along with Julie Clark and her team, Michael Goulian, John Klatt, Sean & Eric Tucker, Ed Hamill, Catfish, and especially Ritz, Wild, and Vinnie for all of their help and hospitality while at Quonset State Airport.
Military Demonstration Teams
RAF Red Arrows
US Army SOC Black Daggers
Military Aircraft Demonstrations
AV-8B Harrier Demonstration
B-2 Spirit Flyby
B-52 Stratofortress Flyby
C-130J-30 Hercules Demonstration
Combined Arms Demonstration
F-15E Strike Eagle Demo Team
F/A-18C Hornet Demonstration
Aerobatic Performances, Warbird Performances, and Others
Shockwave Jet Truck