Air Power Over Hampton Roads – 2016
Langley Air Show 2016, Celebrating One Hundred Years of Air Power over Hampton, VA
2016 marked the 100th anniversary of Langley Field. To commemorate a century of Langley’s history, Joint Base Langley-Eustis hosted an open house on April 22-24 at Langley Air Force Base, kicking off a series of year-long events throughout the historically-rich Hampton Roads, VA area.
In 1915, at the onset of World War I, Congress established the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) for the purpose of, “Supervising and directing the scientific study of the problems of flight with a view to their practical solution.” A site was then needed to carry out the necessary aeronautical research, aviation experiments and flight testing. The military was attracted to the Hampton Roads, VA area which featured unobstructed open flat lands, next to water (Back River) and close to the U.S. Army’s Fort Monroe. On December 30, 1916, the federal government was convinced to make its first area land purchase of 1,650 acres. The airfield built there by the Army Air Service and NACA was named for American military aviation pioneer Samuel Pierpont Langley. Langley Field was one of the earliest military bases in America specifically built for air power.
Situated on both branches of the Back River, Langley Field continued to grow to its present 3,152 acres which now incorporates NASA’s Langley Research Center. In 1948, the airfield became Langley Air Force Base and later Joint Base Langley-Eustis when joined with Fort Eustis, VA in 2010. The bases’ storied narration includes: Billy Mitchell’s historic sinking of a captured German battleship, countless Cold War alert missions, training that led to some of the first air-to-air victories of Operation Desert Storm and the stand-up of America’s first operational F-22 Raptor squadrons. Langley is the oldest continually active air force base in the world and the oldest airfield in Virginia. For one hundred years the skies over Hampton have been filled with American Airmen on the cutting edge of military aviation. Today, Langley continues the vital mission of fast global deployment and air superiority.
Open House and Air Show
The 2016 Open House was not only a celebration of airpower over Hampton but a way to thank the community for one hundred years of support. The Open House showcased the state of Langley’s preparedness, demonstrated their airpower capabilities and highlighted the military’s role in national security. Throughout the weekend, the proud men and women of Joint Base Langley-Eustis demonstrated to the public what American Airmen have been doing for the last one hundred years at Langley Airfield.
Unfortunately, inclement weather cancelled the Friday night show, concert and fireworks. However, the rain did not dampen the enthusiasm of the estimated 75,000 show-goers for Saturday and Sunday. Before the flying began, eight Budweiser Clydesdales coupled to the Budweiser beer wagon with the familiar Dalmatian dog atop, made a pass in front of the excited crowd. It was an unusual site for an air show that definitely whetted the appetite of the audience. With award winning Rob Reider announcing and Jay Rabbit providing appropriately selected eclectic musical interludes, the flying portion of the show commenced with the launching of a flight of two F-22 Raptors along with two T-38 Talons from Langley’s host unit- 1st Fighter Wing.
1st Fighter Wing
The Wing was first organized during World War I as the 1st Pursuit Group when they tested new aircraft and perfected fighter tactics over the skies of France. The 27th Aero Squadron’s Lt. Frank Luke Jr. and the 94th Aero Squadron’s famous Lt. “Eddie” V. Rickenbacker each earned a Medal of Honor for their actions during the war. In 1976, the newly designated 1st Tactical Fighter Wing (TFW) received its first F-15C Eagle. On Aug. 7, 1990, the wing deployed forty-eight F-15s to Saudi Arabia in support of Operations Desert Shield and later Desert Storm. In October 1991, the 1st TFW was re-designated the 1st Fighter Wing (FW). On Sept. 11, 2001, the 1st FW’s F-15s were scrambled to protect America’s air space from additional terrorist attacks. During Operation Noble Eagle, the Wing provided air cover over several major U.S. cities including New York and the District of Columbia. The first combat operational F-22 Raptor assigned to the Wing arrived on Jan. 7, 2005. Today, the 1st FW is composed of the 27th FS (Fightin’ Eagles) and the 94th FS (Hat-in-the-Ring Gang).
Air Power over Hampton
Before the 1st FW’s flight of four returned for their fly-by; as the National Anthem played, the U.S. Army Golden Knights jumped with the American flag as Rob Holland, flying his MXS-RH Aerobatic Aircraft, circled above with smoke on. Next to launch were civilian acts by the two-ship formation aerobatic performance team Red-Line Air Shows, former F-16 demo pilot Jerry “Jive” Kirby’s Wild Blue RV-8A aircraft and the raucous Kent Pietsch. Kent Pietsch, flying his “Jelly Belly” yellow Piper had the crowd in stitches with his comedic “Chuck Dramamine” act. Later in the show, Kent landed “Jelly Belly” on top of a moving U-Haul truck.
The field was filled with thunderous noise and huge clouds of smoke when the crowd favorite Shockwave Jet Truck roared down the runway, quickly followed by more loud noise when the exciting Jack Links “Screamin’ Sasquatch” Jet Waco shot skyward.
Stepping across the water from nearby NAS Oceana, the U.S. Navy F/A-18C Hornet TAC Demo came screaming in from show right at near mach one speed. Lt. Scott “MacGruber” Lindahl demonstrated to the assembled what U.S. Navy pilots do- over land and sea- with the remarkable flight characteristics of the F/A-18.
A lesson of military aviation history was on full display when Air Boss George Cline directed vintage warbirds to take flight. With announcer Rob Reider providing interesting factoids, the tutorial began with the WW II aircraft of the GEICO Skytypers flight squadron in their five vintage U.S. Navy SNJ trainers followed by the Disabled American Veterans’ Flight Team B-25 “Panchito.” The B-25 Mitchell Bomber secured the field with repeated ‘attacks’ of pyrotechnics prior to the tandem performance by the “Class of 1945” P-51D “Quick Sliver” and Jim Tobul’s F-4U Corsair. The duo honored WW II veterans of the European and Pacific Theaters. The history lesson continued with Jim Beasly’s performance in his P-51 “Bald Eagle” and then Korean War advisories T-33 “Acemaker” and the MiG-17 thrilling the audience. Flying at .93 mach speed, the MIG’s long exhaust flame continually attracted the attention of the audience. The cold war jet’s demonstration concluded with ground shaking pyrotechnics and heat felt from the “Wall of Fire.”
Later in the day, the best the U.S. Air Force has to offer in high performance fighter aircraft was demonstrated to the spectators. Locals and visitors alike waited in much anticipation to see F-22 Demo pilot Major Dan “Rock” Dickinson reveal the awesome capabilities of the Langley based stealth fighter. For most show-goers, history was being made. For them, it was their first opportunity to see the nation’s newest stealth fighter, the F-35, taking off in full afterburner. The day’s military aviation education concluded when the F-35 Lightening-II joined the F-22 Raptor and P-51 Mustang for the Heritage Flight- a tribute to America’s war veterans.
Headlining and closing out the show were the U.S.A.F. Thunderbirds. Their glossy white F-16s with red accents and trailing smoke sparkled against a crystal clear brilliant blue Hampton sky.
While show attendees were busy watching the skies over Langley, there was plenty to learn on the ground as well. The ramp was jam-packed with a large selection of static display aircraft consisting of historic warbids, “heavies”, transports and a collection of nearly every jet fighter in today’s U.S. Air Force inventory. Their respective pilots were kept busy all weekend answering numerous questions from the admiring crowd.
Collected on the east end of the ramp were the warbids; a P-40 “Flying Tiger” Warhawk, DC-3/C-47B “Second Chance”, two T-28s and a Coast Guard Fairchild. Spread throughout the center was the Transport and “Heavy” line-up that comprised of a C-130J/FT, KC-135/TN ANG, KC-10/McGuire AFB, C-17/WV ANG and a B1-B/EL. There was a large array of fighter jets; two T-38s/FF, T-38/EN, T-6-II/EN, two F-22/FF, F-35/LF, two A-10s/FT, two F-16/SW and a British Typhoon. Helicopters from three military services were represented with; an Army CH-47F, HS-60/HSC-2 and UH-1/HS-1.
From nearby Newport News; the ATAC Company brought an L-39, T-6-II and an F-21 KFIR. On the west end of the ramp, NASA’s Langley Research Center was on hand with an sizable inventory of their aircraft; Cirrus SR-22, HUA-25 Guardian, UC-12 Huron, OV-10A Bronco and Cessna 206H Stationair.