A Gem Show at Joint Base Andrews


The Joint Services Open House (JSOH) at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland is held every May around Armed Forces Day. The event showcases the personnel, aircraft, and other hardware from seven major American military operators, including the Air Force, Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, Homeland Defense/Customs and Border Patrol, and the Civil Air Patrol. The show on the whole is outstanding, but there are always a few hidden gems that have a special glitter that signifies that they have a special story to be told. Here are a few that I dug up at the show…

Biofuel Makes the Grade

A pair of performers (well, actually three) used biofuel during the JSOH show. Greg Poe has flown his ethanol-powered aerobatics routing for years now, but the Air Force Thunderbirds used a 50/50 mix of biomass fuel and JP-8 fuel in their two solo jets during Friday’s show, a first for the team. The Undersecretary of the Air Force, Erin Conaton, revealed at a planeside gathering why the Air Force is keen to develop this technology. The USAF uses close to two billion gallons of aviation fuel yearly, and hopes to reduce the amount of petroleum products it uses. The biomass fuel right now costs ten times the amount of regular JP-8 jet fuel, but once manufacturers bring the cost down, the Air Force stands ready to buy the alternative fuel. The Thunderbird F-16 use wasn’t a publicity stunt, but part of a certification process that has already approved the A-10, F-15, C-17 and F-22 to use the blended fuel. The Air Force hopes to certify all of their aircraft to use the biomass fuel blend by the end of 2012, Major Aaron Jelinek, the lead solo pilot in Thunderbird #5, noted no difference in handling during the flight, and others members of the Air Force and Department of Energy stated that the fuel mixture produces less soot and freezes at lower temperatures than the current 100% petroleum-JP-8 fuel.

Miss Mable Appears for the First Time

“Miss Mable” is the name of a one-of-a-kind Raytheon C-12J turboprop transport operated by the 46th Test Group’s 586th Test Squadron from Holloman AFB, New Mexico. The aircraft is an adaptation of the civilian Beech 1900C Airliner, with some interesting modifications aboard. There’s room for four specialized consoles and their operators within the lengthy cabin. One modification that makes this aircraft stand out is the inclusion of a pair of orange racks underneath the fuselage, capable of carrying stores, sensor pods, and other captive items. An advantage that Miss Mable has over fast jets in many test projects is cost… an F-16 costs 10 times per flight hour more to operate than the C-12J, equating to thousands of dollars!

CONA Tier One Show Aircraft

The Naval Centennial of Flight brought out five aircraft finished in throwback paint schemes. An MH-60S Knighthawk helicopter was finished in an early 1950’s gloss blue color, reminiscent of the styles seen during the Korean war. A T-45C Goshawk was finished in late 1930’s markings from those aircraft on the USS Wasp. A T-34C wore the markings of a pre-World War II Marine squadron, and a Raytheon T-6B was painted all yellow, in those colors used by primary training aircraft of the 1930s, 40s, and 50s. Finally, a Pensacola-based T-39 Sabreliner wore 1938-vintage USS Enterprise colors.

A Russian Jumbo at Andrews?

One of the largest aircraft present at the show was a Volga-Dneper Antonov 124. What’s a Russian operated aircraft doing at a military air show near our nation’s capital? Surprisingly (or not – in this free world economy) Volga Dneper has a Department of Defense contract to haul mine- and ambush-resistant armoured vehicles from the U.S. to places like Afghanistan and Iraq. Unlike the Air Force’s C-5 Galaxy, the AN-124 has an overhead crane capability used to hoist vehicles up to the rear cargo deck. One MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicle was displayed all hooked up and ready to be lifted into the huge aircraft, which is slightly larger than our C-5.

Wow, a Quiet and More Efficient C-5 Galaxy

The first production C-5M Super Galaxy was on display, flown in from nearby Dover (Delaware) AFB. There were three development aircraft modified for the C-5M test program, but the fourth (and first production variant) one was actually painted both inside and out, and fully instrumented with a glass cockpit and new General Electric CF-6 engines that’ll give increased performance and reduced noise.

Air Force Helicopters Await Replacement

The Air Force’s Common Vertical Lift Support Platform competition will pit a few of the world’s finest helicopter manufacturers against each other in an effort to win a bid to supply rotorcraft to replace Bell UH-1N helicopters. The twin Huey is used by Air Force security forces that guard nuclear missile launch sites and by the First Helicopter Squadron (based at Joint Base Andrews) to shuttle VIPs (other than the President) around the Washington DC area. Augusta Westland displayed a pair of helicopters, one a civilian AW-139 demonstrator, and the other the sole AW-139M military transport. For the company to be able to showcase their product in person to members of the 1st Helicopter Squadron on their home turf must have given their effort a new boost of energy, given the positive responses they received.
Overall, the JSOH at Andrews was full of interesting aircraft, people, and other attractions. A few aircraft stood out though, and these gems added to the sparkle of the yearly show.

Ken Kula

May 25, 2011

Photos by Ken Kula

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Ken Kula

Assignment and Content Editor, writer and photographer A New Englander all of my life, I've lived in New Hampshire since 1981. My passion for all things aviation began at a very early age, and I coupled this with my interest of photography during college in the late 1970s. I spent 32 years in the air traffic control industry, and concurrently, enjoyed my aviation photography and writing adventures, which continue today. I've been quite fortunate to have been mentored by some generous and gifted individuals. I enjoy contributing to this great site, and working with some very knowledgeable and equally passionate aviation followers.

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