Raptors, Reapers and Reunions – Holloman AFB Open House 2014

holloman-f4s

It had been almost two and a half years since the gates of Holloman AFB were open to the public and airshow performers had taken to the skies over south central New Mexico.

Holloman AFB is located in the Tularosa Basin, between the Sacramento and San Andres mountain ranges.  Home to the USAF’s 49 TFW,  at this time the wing provides training for  MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper pilots and sensor operators, while supporting  national security objectives. Additionally, the wing delivers Air Transportable Clinics and Basic Expeditionary Airfield Resources.   In all, the base supports more than 17,000 military and civilian personnel, including a German Air Force Flying Training Center.

Holloman AFB holds a special place in this author’s heart; this base was the site of my first airshow I ever attended, back in the mid 70’s. Armed with my mother’s Kodak instamatic 110 camera and the curiosity of a nine year old boy, I was amazed to see the new “jet of the day”, the mighty F-15 Eagle. The show took place during the transition between the F-4 Phantom and the F-15.

Growing up in New Mexico one hour away from the base, I spent many a day with my parents outside the gates watching the action and dreaming of the next open house. I continued this passion for the next 10 years or so, attending every open house they had. I was always in the company of my parents, who loved the event as well.

Years passed, I moved away and started a small website covering aviation topics, and the rest is history. I always look back to those days as a young man and the lifelong passion it created.   As soon as a Holloman Open House is announced, I do everything I can to make sure that I find the time to attend, 2014 being no different.

This one would be special though. After I moved from the area, I had never attended the event with both my parents again. The feeling was surreal to walk through the gates as I did some 38 years ago, but this time I was keeping an eye on my elderly parents instead of them watching over their young son. Wow, how things change, but stay the same????

The 2014 Open House, officially titled “Legacy of Freedom: Honoring the Past, Protecting the Future” occurred on May 10th 2014. True to form, the lineup for the one-day show was spectacular.

At precisely 0900, a touching opening ceremony and color guard presentation began. As soon as the color guard had finished, the thunder of a pair of 82 ATRS QF-4 Phantom IIs in close formation shattered the morning silence. This was followed by the signature sound of a V-12 Merlin, powering the P-51 Mustang “Gunfighter” performing aerobatics for the growing crowd as it filtered through the gates.

This was followed by a very unique flight demonstration by a Lockheed P2V-5F Neptune C/N 131482 fire bomber operated by Neptune Aviation Services Inc., of Missoula, Montana. As the Neptune made several passes, creating a sound very similar to the Sea Furies that race at Reno. This aircraft just looks and sounds hot and was a unique sight to behold.

A number of warbirds were present, including the next act, the Commemorative Air Force’s P-40 Warhawk “Tex Hill” in the beautiful AVG Flying Tigers paint scheme. Then, the opening pair of F-4 Phantoms returned to make several individual passes, including a dirty pass, and finally completed their routine with a full ‘burner climb out of the airspace. Where else but Holloman can you see two Phantoms in pristine flying condition? This really was surreal for me as I used to witness actual F-4 operations here in the mid 70’s.

The flying events continued with an AT-6 in colorful South African markings performing for the now large crowd. Without hesitation, the next aircraft, a highly polished T-33 owned by the Western Sky Aviation Museum of St. George, Utah arrived in front of the spectators. The T-33 was flown by Kay Eckhardt with Rich Grinnell assisting from the rear cockpit. Mr. Grinnell has recently checked out in the T-33 and later that afternoon made is first airshow performance flight, not missing a beat as he flew the T-33 with the grace and skill of a veteran airshow performer. Congratulations Rich !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Now it was time for the F-22 Raptor demo, always a crowd favorite. The skies over New Mexico were electrified with the awesome power and its’ gravity defying performance as Capt. John “Taboo” Cummings put this 5th generation powerhouse through its paces.

The Raptor finished its demonstration and returned to show center in formation with another classic warbird, the recently restored P-47 razorback “Snafu”. Flying the P-47 was the one and only former ACC F-4 demo Pilot Charlie “Tuna” Hainline, great to see him still involved with the heritage program.

Between all the demonstrations an ominous presence was in the sky, sneaking in and out of the airspace. Remotely piloted MQ1 Predator and MQ9 Reaper drones that now call Holloman home were up in the air. A highlight of the show was the static build of an MQ1, from container to complete aircraft. The skilled crew at Holloman demonstrated their efficiency of how they assemble and make ready a fully armed combat drone.

Several armored combat vehicles made their way on the runway and troops in full combat gear advanced on a simulated high value target. The team popped smoke to help guide two F-16 Vipers of the recently reactivated 54th Fighter Group; the unit had just arrived from Luke AFB. So recent was their move that the jets were still wearing the LF tail code. F-16 training formerly conducted at Luke will continue at Holloman as more aircraft and support crews arrive at the base every week.

The flying continued, and the theme changed back to warbirds as the CAF B-17 Sentimental Journey took to air and performed several passes with the P-40 on its wing.

The German Air Force got their chance to fly and launched a quartet of Tornados that flew several passes, concluding with a buddy pod refueling as 2 Tornados joined together to accomplish this technical feat of aerial refueling. Who needs a dedicated tanker anyway?

All of this happened before noon, and then the show started over??????????????????

Yes I said STARTED OVER! With the exception of the F-4 opening flight and a special addition to the F-22 demo, the entire show was run again like a second showing at the theater.

This was a unique way to present an airshow, and allowed extra time to check out the static displays and chat with the crews. The static line up of active military aircraft was awesome, featuring everything from an A-10 to the newest version of the MC-130 and AC-130W Stinger II.  Some very unique historic aircraft shared the stage with the active aircraft, like an F-117. Yes an F-117 was on display, albeit towed over from the Holloman heritage park. Other static aircraft, like the QF-16, added to an outstanding group of seldom-seen aircraft, it was just like the old days.

The highlight of second Heritage Flight was when “TABOO” pushed his F-22 past “Tuna” in the P-47 Selected burner and kept climbing, then BOOM!, a full sonic boom resonated out over the Tularosa Basin. How many sonic booms do you get to hear at a show, especially with thousands of spectators present?????????

I thought so. AWESOME.

The entire show was a great experience, the weather was awesome, and having both my parents with me at the show made this one to remember………………….

 

I would like to thank Col. Teske and the entire staff of Holloman AFB for opening the gates of this unique base to the public. Along with a special thanks to my friend Mr. Arlan Ponder for giving me unique access to the show Thanks man.

Joe Kates

Legacy of Freedom: Honoring the Past, Protecting the Future

Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., 2014 Open House

Date: May 10, 2014

Time: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., gates open at 9 a.m.

Performances: Two performances from the F-22 Demonstration Team and two performances from the Heritage Flight Foundation. Our German Air Force friends will also fly the Tornado.

Entrance to the Open House will be through the West Gate. Free general parking will be available. Concessions and refreshments will be available throughout the day.

Check out the Schedule of Events and the Ramp Layout.

Static displays:

– A-10
– C-17
– F-117
– QF-16
– Plus many more!

Flying Aircraft:

– B-17
– AT-6
– GAF Tornado
– F-16C
– MQ-1
– MQ-9
– T-38
– QF-4
– Plus many more!

 

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Joe Kates

Joe Kates is the founder of Photorecon. Joe has been into aviation since he was a child and has a incredible amount of knowledge to do with planes or aviation in general. Today Joe is the owner and Managing Editor of Photorecon.

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