North Kingstown, RI Quonset Point ANG Base Air Show 2015
Right on time; a banking, tight, two-ship section of Rhode Island Air National Guard C-130-Js came screaming in from crowd right to the conclusion of an inspiring rendition of the National Anthem. Back-dropped by the natural grandeur of the great Narragansett Bay, the 23rd annual Rhode Island National Guard Air Show was off and flying.
Following a Sean Tucker “Tease”, a contingent of four Dust-Off Army UH-60s kicked up lots of dry dirt when they lifted from their hidden pads sequestered behind a dense grove of tall trees. Two of the Blackhawks provided force protection for their counterparts who were laden with Humvee vehicles slung underneath, that were eventually deposited at show center. The four helicopters then joined up, giving cover to the ground troops below. When all was secure, these four local heroes executed multiple high speed fly-bys before departing back to their nests to the applause of an appreciative familial audience.
This year’s performer list showcased a number of flying teams. First up was a Northeast favorite, The GEICO Skytypers. Trailing lots of smoke, the group broke into their traditional diamond and solo formations. The six SN-Js crisscrossed the sky as fast as their roaring engines could travel, executing a wide selection of exciting maneuvers.
Civilian single plane demonstrations were provided by Mark Murphy flying his “Never Miss” P- 51, Gregory “Wired” Colyer in the Ace Maker T-33 jet and Jack Links’ Jet Waco. Along with Sean Tucker and his famous “Harrier” capable Pits Special, John Klatt performed breath-taking aerobatics in the Air National Guard MX-S. Award winning Rob Holland thrilled the crowd with his Window World MXS-RH. Following his performance and a race with the Shockwave Jet Truck, Rob gave a ride to a Normandy Invasion WWII veteran. What a thrill it must have been for the ninety-year-old!
The air show not only featured several jet teams, but had an international ambiance. Coming across the northern border, The Canadian Forces Snowbirds have appeared numerous times at North Kingstown. With their lights on, the nine CT-114 Tudors configured in a 3 x 3 array opened with a head-on to the crowd. To a call on the radio- “Go Big Diamond”, the formation shifted and turned their smoke on. The small red and white jets, contrasted against a clear blue atmosphere, formed a huge arrangement that nearly covered the entire sky. The solos then broke from the diamond with both performing maneuvers of constantly changing formations to the sound of popular music. Snowbird #10 narrated as the jets flew low and close to the crowd before executing their crowd favorite, “Big Heart in the Sky.”
The CF-18 Demonstration, approximating the same site schedule as the Canadian Forces Snowbirds with their first five 2015 shows venues in the USA, was one of the more anticipated acts of the show. Heads turned to admire the CF-188 magnificent paint scheme; a mural adorning both sides of the hornet, the entire top of the fuselage, both wings and tail. The painted image commemorated the United Kingdom’s 75th Anniversary of “The Battle of Britain.” As the fighter prepared for take-off, in the background, the audience heard those famous words uttered by Winston Churchill; “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.” The crowd was exuberant when 3 Wing’s/425 Tactical Fighter Squadron “Alouette” CF-188 Demo Pilot Capt. Denis “Cheech” Beaulieu performed square loops, multiple high-speed passes and tight turns before propelling the jet skyward. To an assortment of eclectic music of Beaulieu’s own choosing, the routine included flying the jet between 1,500 and 15,000 feet. During his routine “Cheech” pulled about 5.5 to 7G’s through the 360 Minimum Radius Turn and achieved a high speed pass of .95 mach. At the end of the 2015 air show season, the jet will be returned to the squadron in its standard grey paint design.
The unofficial international theme continued when the Swiss Breitling Jet Team taxied for their performance. It’s rare to see a foreign jet team perform at U.S. air shows, especially one making its North American debut. The Breitling team, based in Dijon France, is the world’s largest professional civilian jet team. Consisting of either former French Air Force or Patrouille de France pilots, most have also flown together as either aerobatic or competition pilots.
The seven jet performance opened with a head-on to the crowd. Over the loud speaker Team Leader Bothelin thanked the United States for liberating France and the French people during WWII. The performance was a meticulously choreographed ballet in the sky, orchestrated to the sounds of New Age music. The synchronized routine, adapted for different countries depending on regulations, reflected the team’s obsession with quality and perfection. The team’s display also mirrored the Breitling brand with precise movements as the jets flew between 62 and 435 mph with accelerations up to 8 G’s. The twenty minute performance concluded just as it opened, with a head-on to the crowd, as the jets pulled up and popped flares in a final bomb burst maneuver. The team has scheduled another North American tour for 2016. The jets will “winter” in Lakeland, FL.
The second high-performance military jet demo to perform was the U.S. Air Force F-16. Everyone was on their feet when the Viper struck, vaulting from the runway in full after-burner. Demo pilot Capt. Craig “Rocket” Baker sliced the New England air with Knife Edge passes, the Falcon Turn, the Sharks Tooth and a High Alpha pass culminating to a three-mile high Muscle Climb. “Rocket” continued to work the jet with High Speed passes and a tight 9G Minimum Radius Turn. Capt. Baker’s entire performance kept his F-16 in front of the crowd and in constant after-burner. Finishing with a Dedication Photo pass, he then joined on Jim Beasley’s “Bald Eagle” P-51 for the U.S.A.F. Heritage Flight.
Meanwhile on the ground, through-out the day, fans were invited to tour and speak with pilots accompanying their static display aircraft; a pair of MA ANG F-15s and MO ANG A-10s, a McGuire AFB C-17 and KC-10, RI NG UH-60s, a RI ANG C-130J, Quonset Museum Warbirds, Army artillery displays and a myriad of vendors.
The show’s headliner, The U.S. Navy Blue Angels, concluded the day’s non-stop flying activities. The Blues were tight, crisp and precise. For his first year as boss and being so early in the season, Capt. Thomas French has the Blue and Gold flying in impressive form.
The Rhode Island National Guard is preparing another world class show for 2016.