A Look Back: The 2017 Defenders of Liberty Air Show
Before I was a Media Contributor, I was an avid air show photographer attending 8 to 10 shows a season. In addition to my annual driving-distance shows, I would take one trip that was a fly-and-drive, going someplace I had never been. In 2017, I set my sights on the Spring air show at Barksdale Air Force Base in Bossier City, Louisiana.
The lineup was great, the timing was right, and I wanted to see a lot of B-52s. I flew in to Dallas and drove approximately 200 miles to the base. The weather was perfect for the two days of the show and it did not disappoint.
I did have some concerns as I knew there were high mast lights between the runway and the ramp. I was also surprised that there was a fence along the entire length of the ramp. There was a happy solution as the public ramp extended down to the midfield taxiway and was even bumped out from the rest of the crowd line. That was my spot for both days.
The sun angle was tough in the morning along the single Runway 15/33 but improved as the day went on. Heat haze prevented a lot of clean photos on the runway.
The stars of the show were the hometown B-52s. Each morning, three BUFFs launched to return later in multiple formations. These dissimilar formations featured the old with the old, old and newish, and our modern bomber force. In retrospect, the America Strong Flyovers of 2020 were the only time I had seen dissimilar formations like these. In 2017, I had never seen their likes before.
On the ramp, all the based squadrons were represented. Barksdale is the home of Global Strike Command, the Eighth Air Force (yep, that one), the Second Bomb Wing and the 307th Bomb Wing. The 11th, 20th and 96th Bomb Squadrons all have lineage to World War I and carry the tail code LA. The 93rd and 343rd Bomb Squadrons are Air Force Reserve and carry the tail code BD. Finally, the 49th Test and Evaluation Squadron resides here and carries the tail code OT. There were even some Minot, “MT” tails in the show and on the ramp.
In the air, the Canadian Sky Hawks Parachute Team opened the show out of a C-17. Aerobatic stars Michael Goulian, Rob Holland and Kevin Coleman were there. A World War II theme featured the B-29 “Doc”, B-17 “Texas Raiders”, B-25 “Doolittle Raiders”, P-51 “Quicksilver” and an ME-262B Replica.
Jet teams featured Randy Ball in his Mig 17, Greg Colyer’s T-33 “Ace Maker” (but not flown by Greg Colyer) and, oh yeah, the Blue Angels were there.
My only regret is that I did not leave time to visit the Eighth Air Force Museum just north of the base. This air show was great, making it worth a look back.