2009 Rhode Island ANG Open House & Airshow
Quonset State Airport
North Kingstown, RI
Airshow report written on July 1, 2009.
One of the highlights of my airshow season is the airshow held in Rhode Island. I almost refuse to say North Kingstown or Quonset Point because almost nobody can recall which state either location is in - unless you are a die-hard airshow fan. I have told many people that despite the fact that I travel a lot to Virginia for shows, Rhode Island is up there on my favorite shows because of the lineup and the venue. The same aerobatic performers are almost always at Rhode Island, and when I say that, you can almost always count on Sean Tucker, Ed Hamill, Michael Goulian, and John Klatt being there. The Rhode Island ANG always throws a C-130J-30 in the air for a demonstration, as well as in the Combined Arms, along with a host of other military performances. This year was the year for the Blue Angels to perform, and in addition to the Blues, the Canadian Snowbirds were also in attendance. Military performances were conducted by the Rhode Island National Guard's Blackhawks and Huey and demonstrations by the Viper East Demo Team and the F-22 Raptor Demo Team. In addition, Jim Beasley and Ed Shipley flew a two-ship Horsemen Mustang Demonstration while Geoff "Hak" Hickman flew a performance in an L-39 Albatross.
Once again, the weather was forecasted to be pretty bad. In fact, the entire Northeast had so few sunny days the eight weeks leading up to and including the days of the Rhode Island show. Friday's weather was cloudy, but the Blue Angels and the Snowbirds both flew high shows, even with a passing shower before the Snowbirds flew. Storm clouds and fog encircled Quonset State Airport on Saturday, but the airport and and a radius of about five to ten miles around the airport were surrounded by clear blue skies for the entire day. However, the Blues had to cut their show short because fog started rolling in from the south. Sunday's show featured very low clouds the entire day, coupled with a very cool breeze and cool temperatures. The jet teams were able to fly low and flat shows, respectively, but the Black Daggers were unable to jump because of the low ceilings.
Both of the Air Combat Command single ship demonstration teams rocked Rhode Island all weekend. Major Dave "Zeke" Skalicky flew a total of four F-22 Raptor demonstrations throughout the three days - two of the demonstrations taking place on Saturday. Both of his performances on Saturday were among the very best Raptor demonstrations I have ever seen. Both demos were close as well as very loud and full of vapor. Not to be outdone by the Raptor, Major George "Dog" Clifford put on a handful of amazing demonstrations with the F-16, which included some ear-splitting takeoffs. You'd have to see the video to get a better idea of what I'm trying to get at. Both Zeke and Dog joined up with Jim Beasley Jr. for a Heritage Flight in the late afternoon. Jim also joined up with Ed Shipley for a two-ship Horsemen aerobatic demonstration. Announcing for the Horsemen was Len "Loni" Anderson, who was a former Blue Angel pilot from 2002-2004. Loni did a great job narrating for the Horsemen, reverting to the style of announcing he (and other Blue Angels) used when he was the narrator for the team back in the 2002 airshow season.
The 2009 Combined Arms Demonstration featured two aircraft that had not performed in Combined Arms Demonstrations in past shows - at least those that I've seen. The first of which was the C-23 Sherpa, which didn't do a whole lot in the demo because the show was pressed for time because of a hard time for the Blue Angels. The second aircraft was a single A-10 Thunderbolt II from the 111th Fighter Wing, Pennsylvania ANG. To the best of my knowledge, this was the first time the Pennsylvania ANG participated in the Combined Arms Demonstration, since the Mass ANG no longer flies A-10s and they were the A-10 unit of choice for the demo. There was no pyro, possibly because of budget reasons, and as a result, the A-10 made only one pass that I know of during the performance. Three Blackhawks and one Huey represented the helicopter element, while two C-130J-30s represented the Hercules element of the Combined Arms. Even though it was compressed into a much smaller schedule and there was no pyro, it was still a very good demo. Two of the Blackhawks helped bring in troops while one brought in a Humvee, as opposed to last year's Blackhawk playing the part of a gunship.
Both the Snowbirds and the Blue Angels put on some spectacular performances. The Snowbirds flew high shows on Friday and Saturday and a low show on Sunday. Their low show isn't quite as exciting as their high show, but they sure know how to put on a great show. Rhode Island was my first show of the 2009 season with the Blue Angels, and this year's team easily looks to be in top form towards the first third of the season. The team flew a high show on Friday and Saturday, but Saturday's show was cut short because of fog rolling in from the south. Sunday's show was a flat show, which was thrown off balance because Major Nate Miller, flying the #5 jet, had to land midway through the show due to a flight control problem. He jumped in the #7 jet, took off, and resumed participation in the show just prior to the delta maneuvers.
While the weather played games with the show, this was easily another great Rhode Island airshow. While Sean Tucker, Ed Hamill, Michael Goulian, and John Klatt all flew twice on Saturday and Sunday, it was a treat that those pilots all flew a teaser show as their first performance and their full show in their second performance. The real treat was seeing Zeke fly the Raptor twice!
Military Demonstration Teams
US Navy Blue Angels
US Army SOC Black Daggers
Military Aircraft Demonstrations
C-130J-30 Hercules Demonstration
Combined Arms Demonstration
F-16 Fighting Falcon East Coast Demo Team
F-22 Raptor Demonstration Team
Aerobatic Performances, Warbird Performances, and Others
Hak L-39 Demo
USAF Heritage Flight
Rob Reider & Larry Rutt