2003 New York International Airshow

 

June 14-15, 2003

Airshow report written on June 16, 2003.

For the first time in fifteen years, an airshow was held at the Stewart International Airport in Newburgh, NY. As a comeback, the Blue Angels made their first ever Hudson Valley appearance - which I doubt, because I keep thinking that they were there before, but with Phantoms or Skyhawks. Being a two-day show, I chose the better day to attend, as far as the weather was concerned, and that turned out to be Sunday. However, Sunday was also Father's Day. The show was organized by the Airshow Network, an organization that has built up a terrible reputation in the last year and a half. Throughout the report, I will go through what they did wrong at Stewart.

Since I live near Philadelphia, getting to the Hudson Valley in New York is a bit of a drive. Getting onto the New Jersey Turnpike was a breeze, as was the Garden State Parkway and the New York State Thruway. The one thing that the Airshow Network is good at is pointing out where to turn - at least that's the way it is from the Thruway. I was able to get to the show site with no problem, but parking was a bit of a disaster. I ended up finding myself in the VIP parking without a pass, was told to go to the ticket area to pay for parking, then told to go back towards the entrance to find the general admission parking. I found the lot all right - with some help from the security team, and paid the outrageous $10 parking fee. Shuttle buses, in the form of school buses, took those from the parking lots to a location close to where tickets for the show could be purchased. This was another headache, since it cost an additional $20 a head to get in! Access to the show area was also incorrectly placed, as it required a half-mile round trip walk that wasn't necessary, but I did enjoy seeing a 727 take off as I was walking in.

Reaching the security checkpoint, there were three separate lines, but only one table for each line, which made getting into the actual static park a little more time consuming. The static display was also lacking in the number of aircraft. It included two of the home-based aircraft from Stewart ANGB (the other side of the airport) - the C-5A Galaxy (serial 70-0460) and the KC-130T Hercules. Trainers came in the form of a T-1A Jayhawk from Vance AFB, a T-6A Texan II from Moody AFB, another T-6A Texan II - this one in Navy markings (it's an exact copy of how the Air Force paints their Texan IIs, only with Navy markings), T-34B Mentor, T-34C Mentor, and a T-38 Talon from Moody AFB. Vintage aircraft included a TBM Avenger from the Collings Foundation, a very old monoplane from the Old Rheinbeck Aerodrome, and a C-123K Provider. General aviation aircraft came in the form of several aircraft from the EAA and a Cessna 172 from the West Point Military Academy - who also brought a UH-1 Huey. The Canadians were represented with two static aircraft - the CH-124 Sea King and the CF-188B Hornet. FedEx had a 727-200F parked just off the static display area and not opened up. The most popular display had to be the F-14B Tomcat from VF-103 - the Jolly Rogers. This was actually part of a flight of Tomcats that arrived at Stewart International Airport on Saturday afternoon. The second of the two Tomcats was not on the static ramp. Other displays included several antique and modern military vehicles, including an M1A1 Abrams tank. There were about a dozen classic cars and motorcycles also strewn on the static display.

For the past four weeks, airshows in Andrews AFB, Millville, Patuxent River, New Garden, and Reading have all been ruined in one way or another by the weather. Stewart's show actually lucked out. As I understand it, Saturday's show featured a full lineup minus time allotted for airline departures and arrivals and the Blue Angels flew a flat show. Sunday's show fared much better with the weather. It was a clear blue sky for most of the show, with scattered clouds that seemed to threaten the airshow ceiling, but did no harm as they passed through. The layout of the show site was very strange - the Blue Angels had to stage from the Air National Guard side of the airport, so no ground show was done by them. The crowd line was on the taxiway that was parallel to the airport's 10,900-foot long runway. However, almost 85% of the crowd line was taken up by VIP seating and chalets, making sitting at that prime spot for a regular Joe or Jane virtually impossible - without having to fork out another $65 for the best seat in the house. That would be almost $100 one would have to spend to get the most out of the show. However, there was a gigantic hill that was positioned so that it was very close to show center and giving spectators a unique view of the show from those at runway level. I did not take advantage of that - I found a spot at the far end of show left and it was between the T-34C Mentor and the T-6A Texan II. It was a very good spot to shoot from, and also a very dangerous spot, which I will get into later on.

Announcing the show was Larry Rutt. If he announced any of those good airshows at McGuire AFB prior to 1995, then I haven't heard him announce an airshow in a very long time. Otherwise, this was my first show with him announcing. He did a great job with the show, throwing in a ton of puns during the show and jokes that only aviation nuts like me would understand. Throughout the morning, a New York State Police Bell Jetranger circled the airfield for several passes as air traffic continued throughout the day. Notable departures and arrivals before the show started included a departure of a business jet, a Southeast Airlines DC-9, and the arrival of a Southeast Airlines DC-9. The unofficial start of the show came from a C-5A Galaxy from the 105th Airlift Wing, New York Air National Guard, based right at the Stewart International Airport. The aircraft took off in less than 2,500 feet of runway, pulled up in a forty-five degree climb and immediately banked right - something I've never seen in an aircraft as big as the C-5. The first pass was with the aircraft in the dirty configuration, returning to the clean configuration and putting the power on. It is a very loud aircraft - I believe it's the loudest non-fighter or attack jet aircraft in North America. The second pass was in the clean configuration and at about 275 miles an hour. It showed the quiet side of the C-5 as he came around and prepared to land. His landing was about 2,500 feet long and included a full 180ยบ turn on the runway, demonstrating how the C-5 can literally turn on a dime.

A UH-1 Huey, carrying members of the West Point Academy Parachute Team - the Black Knights of the Hudson, took off and climbed to altitude while a US Airways Express Dash 8 departed, possibly for Philadelphia or one of the major airports in the New York City area. A display of the US and Canadian flags was shown at show center by members of the West Point Color Guard as both country's national anthems were played. The Black Knights of the Hudson consisted of three jumpers - two with red, white, and blue canopies, while the other had a black and gold canopy. The jumper in the black and gold canopy came down trailing green smoke - nothing spectacular, while the other two jumpers each carried a flag. The second jumper carried the POW/MIA flag while the third brought down the United States flag. It wasn't much of a display, but it was not bad.

Part of the opening ceremonies included remarks from the operations manager at the Stewart International Airport as well as several local politicians representing the Hudson Valley region of New York. In the meantime, another Southeast Airlines DC-9 made a departure, possibly heading to Orlando. A Spad VII from the Old Rheinbeck Aerodrome took to the sky next and met up with a 1929 Great Lakes Speedster for a simulated dogfight. This was very interesting, as it is something you don't usually see at an airshow anywhere, other than every weekend in upstate New York. Both biplanes formed up for a formation flyby before heading off to Rheinbeck, NY. A Delta Connection CRJ arrived on a scheduled flight into Stewart International Airport as Allen Smith waited to take off in his L-39. As Larry was describing the L-39, an airplane was on the takeoff roll and it wasn't the L-39. It was an F/A-18 Hornet. He made a low transition takeoff with a pull up into the vertical as his departure show.

Now it was time for Allen Smith to begin his performance. Allen's performance isn't the best around and the L-39 isn't as loud as the F-86 or any modern day fighter but it's good enough to show off how the aircraft flies. I don't mind his performance but I just have a hard time getting good shots of the jet! Allen cut one of his maneuvers from his performance because of a safety hazard on the ground - a hazard that he happened to spot from the air. I commend him for that, as safety is priority at every airshow in North America, and in the world for that matter. Robert Holland was up next and he was to perform in his first major airshow performance. He flies a Pitts S2C Special with a patriotic paint scheme and his performance is impressive for someone new on the airshow circuit.

An American Eagle ERJ-145 arrived into Stewart International Airport and taxied to the terminal as Michael Mancuso took to the sky to begin his performance. His performance is superb as always, and this time Larry happened to be describing what Mike was doing and putting Walt Addison Linscott's name to it! We can definitely file that under "Oops!" Unfortunately because of the traffic in and around the airport - a medical emergency requiring a helicopter, Mike couldn't perform his entire routine and was cut short in the middle of his routine because he was running low on fuel. Departing Stewart International Airport on a regularly scheduled flight was a CRJ operated by Delta Connection. Walt Linscott was up next in his Yak-55M and unfortunately he had to fly a very shortened performance because of the airline traffic. The brief performance he put on was very impressive and I really like the paint job on the Yak, nicknamed Black Magic.

The Canadian CF-18 Hornet demo was next. The pilot started off the demonstration with a VERY dangerous dirty roll on takeoff. It was dangerous because he had rolled the aircraft left, causing it to drift dangerously close to the crowd line. Luckily, Dano (his callsign) recovered and was able to put it above the runway and at a safe distance from the crowd. Canada is known to have its demonstration Hornets painted up in wild paint schemes for airshows and this year's CF-18 from Bagotville was no exception. I also think that Canadian Hornet demos are better than our Navy Hornet demos, even though Canada flies it much differently than we do. Afterwards, an American Eagle ERJ-145 departed on a regularly scheduled commercial flight prior to Chuck Lischer's performance. Chuck was already in the air and ready to perform and he put on his usual impressive performance. However, he, too, had to fly a shortened show because of the air traffic. Heck, I've seen his shortened performance at Langley but it was better there because the sun was setting at that time.

Jim Beasley brought his P-51D Mustang Frenesi to Stewart to fly in the Heritage Flight. He took off on the other runway and made a pass over the show area before giving show control to the F-15 Eagle. This was the East Coast Demo Team, out of Langley AFB in Virginia. This was one of the best F-15 demos I've ever seen, and Captain Bret Anderson put on a fantastic display, using more afterburner than Maj. blue did when he flew F-15 demos. As he ended his demonstration, he joined up with Jim Beasley to fly the Heritage Flight. This was a truly memorable one in that most of the crowd was applauding during each pass of the Heritage Flight. As they broke and Capt. Anderson landed, Jim Beasley overtook the F-15 and departed for Philadelphia.

A US Airways Express Dash 8 landed and taxied off the runway to give the show to the US Navy Blue Angels. Fat Albert's JATO was described by one person as being "the only thing that can impress an airshow crowd with a C-130." He performed his JATO at show center and also landed more towards show center to give a better idea of the C-130's tactical capabilities. The six F/A-18A Hornets flown by the Blue Angels took to the air next and despite being no room for the jets to be parked in front of the crowd, there was no ground show. The Blue Angels were able to perform their high show and they performed it flawlessly with one exception. The sneak passes done in the middle of the show was off by about ten seconds due to the air traffic in the area, making the pass by Blue Angel #6 predictable, rather than by surprise. Being at show left gives an opportunity to watch the six pilots as they land, rather than just seeing them rolling on the runway.

Getting out of the show site was no problem. I had elected not to take the shuttle bus back to the parking lot and I think I made the right choice, even though the walk to my truck was almost three miles. Oh well, I needed the exercise (yeah right!). It was a great way to spend a Sunday, and I was looking forward to seeing the Tomcats depart, but that's okay. One final note - after going to Stewart, I hope Airshow Network realizes the mistakes they made here and FIXES them for future shows or else they should seek business elsewhere.

Overall Score: 8.0

Disappointments:

 

What Was Done at Stewart International Airport That Made It Unique:

 

Demonstration Teams

Military Demonstrations

Civillian Demonstrations

Participating Organizations

Announcer: Larry Rutt