A Look Back to the New York Air Show of 2018, and a Preview of What’s Ahead




Stewart International Airport held its big Air Show for 2018 on Saturday and Sunday, September 15th and 16th. Officially called the “New York Air Show”, Stewart, located west of Newburgh, New York, in rural Orange County, 70 miles north of New York City, and right near the United States Military Academy at West Point, has played host to the mostly military show for four years now; 2019 will be its 5th year when it does it again on August 24th and 25th, 2019. Bryan Lilley, the Air Show Producer, said it had officially 25,000 each day. After squeezing through the crowds on almost two miles of flight line, I’d say it was more like 50,000 crazed “Plane Chasers” on each day! Saturday was a sunny day, a hot day, but who cares when you got 33 statics on the ground and four hours of crazy flying up in the air.

The line at Stewart had a lot for everyone this year: local “Heavy Metal” like the C-17A cargo hauler and the KC-130T refueler from the USAF NYANG 105th AW and the USMC VMRG-452, MAG-49, Reserve Tanker Squadron, from just across runway 9/27 on the nearby Guard Ramp; the crazy stunt flyer “Noise Makers” like Matt Chapman and his Extra 330LX aerobatic tail-dragger; some “Fast Movers” like a pair of F-16C Vipers that came down from the 158th FW up in Burlington, VT; and even a few “Warbirds” like the local favorite like the B-25J Mitchell “Panchito” flown in by Larry Kelly from the Delaware Aviation Museum and the B-17G(F) “Movie Memphis Belle” out of the Geneseo NY Air Museum. And if you wanted to do some early flying before the real flying show began, the B-17 and the B-25 were willing to take you up for $400 to $650 each. No money? International Helicopters could give you a quick ride in a Robinson R-44 for $80. But really, why did everyone come here?

The “Big Draw”, as always, was the USAF Air Demonstration Squadron, known to all the world as the “Thunderbirds”, the “Ambassadors In Blue”! The 100,000 came to see the 4-ship “Diamond”, the 6-ship “Delta” and the 2-ship “Solos” do their traditional Dare-Devil magic moves and even some new ones. But, on a sad note, the Thunderbirds dedicated this performance to Maj. Stephen “Cajun” Del Bagno, Thunderbird-4, the Slot Pilot, who lost his life on April 4, 2018, when his F-16 crashed in the Nevada Test and Training Range during a routine aerial demonstration training flight at Nellis. Blue Skies Cajun !!!

Bob Finch’s look back at the 2018 Stewart/New York Air Show


So what’s going on here at Stewart besides great air shows? Most people come here to catch a flight after blasting in on the new “Route 747” (of course!) off of Exit 5 from Route I-84, a new 4-lane high-speed access road that gets you directly to the new Terminal as quickly as possible worry-free with no traffic. Airlines here include: Allegiant; American Eagle; Delta Connection; Jet Blue; Norwegian Air to Ireland; WOW to Iceland and the Linear and Dialog Air Taxis. These guys fly in here with the Boeing 737 Max-8 (oops!) Embraer-14X/13X; Embraer-19X/17X; and the Airbus A31X/32X aircraft.

Stewart was a large US Air Force Base from 1948 to 1973 under control of the Air Defense Command. Many fighter interceptor squadrons, cargo units and tanker squadrons were based here during the Cold War. A few of the Base’s brick buildings are still scattered up the hills west of the new SWF Air Terminal but most have been torn down. A couple of eyecatchers still remain. To the south of runway 9/27 is still the 6-story windowless blockhouse with 24-inch thick nuclear bomb-proof concrete walls previously owned by SAC / ADC that was the “SAGE” Control Center for the Northeast Air Defense Sector during the Cold War. It was the “Semi-Automated Ground Environment” Building. The SAGE Control Center at Stewart was one of a number of SAGE Centers designed to be the ultimate line of defense against a Soviet nuclear bomber attack against New York in the 50s and 60s. The SAGE’s directed and organized the USAF North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) response to a potential Soviet air strike by coordinating data from numerous Radar sites into a single comprehensive image. Radar tracks picked up in New York could now be viewed in the NORAD / Cheyenne Mountain command center and other centers to coordinate a comprehensive air defense with interceptor fighters, BOMARC long range missiles and NIKE close in missiles.

Inside the wall of the top floor of the Stewart SAGE Center was the “War Room” with an an etched glass map of the Eastern US showing potential TU-95 Bear Bomber targets and a “Big Board” to track progress of the “War To End All Wars”, as described in a recent local paper article. This was “Dr. Strangelove” for real. There was even recent talk to resurrect this place and make it into a Cold War Museum someday! Another Cold War relic still exists near the Airport Terminal. Across 9/27 from the Perimeter Road, you can see the remains the Alert Hanger that housed the separate “Alert Barns” for eight fully armed and “cocked” fighters ready to launch in 5-minute warnings to intercept incoming Soviet bombers heading to New York. These jets ranged from the early F-94 Starfires to the more recent F-106 Delta Darts. These guys were ready to head out to over 200 miles and shoot down Bear Bombers. It’s a little funny that even today F-22 Raptors and AC F-16’s are STILL intercepting Tu-95 Bears off our East coasts!

Stewart is still over 50% military with three military flying units within eye-shot of the Terminal Building. The USAF NYANG 105th AW has about twelve C-17A Globemaster III cargo airlift aircraft based on the far side of 9/27 off of Route 17K. On the same Guard Ramp is the USMC VMRG-452 / MAG-42 Reserve Squadron with twelve KC-130T Refueler-Cargo aircraft. The US Military Academy aviation support unit is located to the east of the Terminal in a separate secure hanger. It houses the 2nd Aviation Detachment of the 1st Battalion, 1st Regiment (1-1 INF BN), who’s mission is to support the West Point academic training exercises, transport West Point VIP’s and support the West Point Parachute Team. The flying unit includes four Eurocoptor HU-72A “Lakota” helicopters and two C-172 fixed wing aircraft. The NY State Police has a branch aviation unit in the same hanger with three helicopters assigned including a Bell-407, a Bell-403 and a Bell UH-1 Huey. Corporate FBO’s include Atlantic and Signature with a Cessna servicing center on the opposite of 9/27. FedEx, UPS and the US Postal Service have major cargo operations here at SWF. At the far west end of 9/27 is a major USDA International Plant and Animal Entry Inspection, Quarantine and Quality Control Center. Stewart Airport is owned by the State of New York and operated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey ( PANYNJ). SWF has two main runways: 9/27 ( main east-west) at 11,817 x 150 feet and 16/34 (short crosswind) at 6,004 x 150 feet. Runway 9/27 was always an Emergency Divert for the NASA STS Space Shuttle with its full surface length of almost 15,000 feet.


The New York Air Show for 2018 had 33 aircraft on Static. As you walked in from the east end of the 9/27 Taxi Ramp, the first “plane” you hit was a 2007 Robinson R-22 Beta helicopter from Independent Helicopters of Orange County, home based here at Stewart and a Show Sponsor. An R-44 was offering revenue rides on the other side of the wire for $80. Another unique “plane” on exhibit nearby was a MQ-9 “Reaper” drone carted and trucked in from the 174th Attack Wing (174ATKW) from the Syracuse ANGB. These were the “Boys From Syracuse” that previously flew F-16C “Vipers” and A-10A “Hogs” for a long time and are now “flying” computer consoles, still a very serious and deadly on going combat mission. Walking down the Show Ramp past all the food stands, we had a nice assortment of planes: a T-38C “Talon” from Randolph AFB; an F-4D Phantom II “Mig-Killer” nose from the 7th TAC FTR SQ “Stingers”; a Bell OH-58C Kiowa “The Beast” from “B” Co. / 101st Airborne that actually served in Dessert Storm from 90-93; the venerable KC-130T “NY” Marine Refueler from the nearby VMGR-452; a C-5M “Super Galaxy” from the 439th AW / AFRC down from Westover ARB; a C-17A that taxied over from the nearby 105th AW / NYANG with a cool nose art of “Duty – Honor – Country” with an Eagle and Soldier paying homage to a fellow fallen trooper at a pitched M-16 with a helmet resting on top. 

The B-25J Mitchell “Panchito” was up from the Delaware Aviation Museum taking on rides on the other side of the wire; two A-10C “Hogs” from the 124th FW “ID” out of Gowen Field, Boise, Idaho; the B-17G(F) “Movie Memphis Belle” down from the National Warplane Museum at Geneseo, New York, doing $600 revenue rides at the wire; the bright yellow Air Tractor AT-602 agricultural chemical spray-wing tail-dragger aerobatic stunt plane; a 1942 yellow Interstate Cadet Piper Cub on the Hot Ramp; Mike Wiskus and his bright orange aerobatic LUKAS OIL Pitts Special bi-wing; Matt Chapman and his bright yellow Embry-Riddle mono-wing Extra 330LX.

Then there was another cluster of planes down by the Corporate Chalets: two F-16C “Vipers” from the 158th FW, VT-ANG, “The Green Mountain Boys”, with some nice green “Minute Man” tail art, down from Burlington, Vermont, and soon to get a hold of some new F-35A “Lighting II” jets to be the first Air Guard unit to get those brand new stealth fighters; then nearby, two F/A-18F’s up from Oceana from Strike Fighter Squadron 22, VFA-22, “Fighting Redcocks”, off the USS Theodore Roosevelt “NA”; next a C-172 from the Academy of Aviation; a CAP C-172; a 1950 red high-wing Fairchild 24W-9 done in early CAP colors and owned by Neal Sean out of Freehold, LI; then two EF-18G “Growlers” from USN Electronic Squadron 129, VAQ-129, “Vikings”, the Navy’s only Growler Training Squadron, also as a “FRS”, Fleet Replacement Squadron, out of NAS Whidbey Island, Puget Sound, Washington State; finally located remotely on the Guard Ramp, the “Piece de Resistance”, eight Thunderbird F-16’s, including TB-7 and TB-8! We’re ready! It’s Show Time!


OK. Hit the rail. It’s time for the Flying Show! I do have to thank MSgt. Sara Pastorello, PAO from the 105th AW, NYANG, and Chris Diatro, VP from the Bitner PR Group, for inviting PhotoRecon to the Thursday TB Arrival and the Friday Practice Day. Thursday we got to see the T-Birds beating up the runways on arrival for their “Familiarization Flights” in informal 3-ship groups. Then we had a pleasant surprise; the colorful blue Marine C-130 “Fat Albert” support Herc for the Blues came in and parked close to us for some reason – “Thank You Bert”! Then every piece of Fire and Crash came over to say “Hello” to the T-Birds. Good Show! Friday was a loose “Practice Day” with some scattered C-17, Company and Commercial traffic scattered amongst the Show Ops. It was Saturday at 12 Noon that the real Flying Show began!

Saturday Flight Ops: First we had some early morning non-show traffic: an operational C-17, an arriving Norwegian Air B-737 MAX-8 (oops!), and a departing B-747-400 United Arab Emerites cargo flight departing. The B-25J “Panchito” and the B-17G(F) “Movie Memphis Belle” continued their revenue flights until 11:30. Then, just before 12 Noon, Mike Wiskus took up his orange Pitts Special to hold to the north and the West Point Parachute Team went up in their olive green Eurocoptor UH-72 “Lakota” jump-helo to test the winds. After an opening prayer and welcoming speeches, Mike did circles around the cadet Flag Jumpers as a young singer sang the “National Anthem”. Mike next did his short “Teaser Demo” and “Jelly Belly” went up for a short one with his 1942 yellow Interstate Cadet. Panchito and Belle went up for their final Revenue Flight and the Box got cleared for an inbound C-5M out of Westover for his Demo. He did some passes, tight 360’s, a fast pass and a slow departure back to Springfield. That Norwegian Air 737 MAX-8 then departed for Dublin, Ireland.

Next a local C-17A did a low climb-out for his demo, as the official Air Guard C-17 Demo Team and based here at Stewart. His routine was: Max climb out in 1500 feet of runway; high speed pass at 300 kts done to “Radar Love”, reverse direction to the west; slow pass with lights on; 500 foot banked turn tight radius and 45 degree climb out, 360 and figure 8 double turn; combat approach and short field 125 foot landing with full flap approach, roll out; 500 foot short roll; back up roll, impress the crowd, reverse K-turn, reverse direction, RTB to the 105th ramp; Panchito went up again for a low slow photo pass of the ramp crowd; Next was a KC-135R from the 127th ARW out of Selfridge ANGB, Michigan for his demo. I have to say running an air show is like running a combat mission — this tanker TOT was perfect to a few seconds! OK, tanker comes in first “Flying the Boom” on a low slow pass. His Call Sign was “MoTown-2” (guess why?) and MT-2 did a number of passes around SWF before landing.

But before touchdown, George Cline, the Air Boss, starts having a nice chat with John Barns, the Boomer. Turns out he works for Ford and sometimes assists in the flight deck on long missions. Perfectly legal. He noted he practices on the SIM and its important on a tanker crew to be able to take over in an emergency. He told us that the big engines on the “R” are only 18 inches off the deck in landing and slow landings are critical in the R in cross wind approaches to avoid scratching or damaging the engine nacelle housings if a wing should dip in a cross wind. MT-2 came in at 147 kts and used the full 15,000 foot touch down runway roll out to show off to the full crowd line.

Jelly Belly was up again to show off with his yellow Piper Cub. A commercial Delta CRJ-200 took off next for Montreal. After he cleared, Jelly Belly finally landed on the rolling Van after three tries. Mike Rutledge next took off in the Air Tractor 602 for some aerobatic moves and of course he showed us how to spray the runway, with water at least. The B-17 and the B-25 departed to hold before a Gulfstream Biz Jet landed. Panchito and Belle did their separate demos then joined up to lap the field. Then the P-40 Warhawk “Jackie C” from the American Air Power Museum out at Republic Airport, in LI, that was secretly hiding at the 105th AW Guard Ramp side, launched to join up with the 17 and the 25 to give us some 3-ship Warbird laps around the field, finally ending with the P-40 giving us a solo show before all three recovered in sequence. Mark Chapman next took his Embry-Riddle yellow Extra 330LX for some wild aerobatics. The Thunderbird pilots and their ground crews next came back for an USAF Induction Ceremony. The West Point Parachute Team did it one more time perfectly again. Mike Wiskus in his orange bi-plane Pitts Special did it again. Then it was 3 PM and “Show Time” for the Thunderbirds. They did their usual routine with some new moves added, but what gets to me every year, no matter how many times I try to be ready for it, is the 2-ship, low high speed, “Sneak Pass”. My ear drums are still recovering!!!

NICE SHOW STEWART! See you August 24th and 25th, 2019 !!!!!! 

There’s a lot to see in 2019 too – including a rare performance by the Royal Air Force’s Red Arrows, crowd favorites the Navy’s Blue Angels, the first look at the new F-35 Lightning’s flight demonstration for the Hudson River Valley, and a even more!  Check out their 2019 web site:   http://airshowny.com/

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