Power in the Pines 2018
Power in the Pines 2018 was held May 5th and 6th at ‘America’s Premier Joint War-Fighting Base, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst (JB MDL) in central New Jersey. Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst is home to Air Force, Army, Marine, Navy and Coast Guard units. This sprawling base was created by the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) legislation and encompasses 42,000 acres spanning more than 20 miles across two counties and bordered by 10 townships and boroughs.
JB MDL is home to many DOD missions which were featured both in the air and on static display at Power in the Pines. Among the featured units were the New Jersey Air National Guard 108th Wing, U.S.A.F. 305th and 514th Air Mobility Wings, New Jersey Army National Guard 1-150th Assault Helicopter Battalion, United States Marine Corps Reserve helicopter squadrons HMLA-773 ‘Red Dogs’ and the HMM-772 ‘Hustlers’. Power in the Pines actually assembled over 100 civil and military static displays for the crowds enjoyment.
The skies of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst began buzzing with activity on Tuesday of airshow week with practice by ‘Team McGuire’ based KC-10A and C-17A aircraft simulating air-to-air refueling above and around the base. Thursday was arrival day and it did not disappoint. While large aircraft such as the C-17A Globemaster III, KC-10A Extender and KC-135R Stratotanker are commonplace in the pattern at JB MDL, it was exciting to witness the E-8 J-STARS arriving for static display doing pattern work for nearly an hour. It was later joined by the E-3 ‘AWACS’ Sentry and the F-22 Demonstration team. Static displays of A-10’s from the 175th FS of Middle River, MD, MV-22B from VMM-774 from NAS Norfolk and a C-130J-30 from Little Rock Air Force Base also arrived to mention but a few.
Friday had more arrivals to include F-16s from both the 177th FW in Atlantic City NJ and 55th FS of Shaw Air Force Base. They were joined by a T-38 of the 49th FTS of Columbus Air Force Base, a C-5M of the 9th Airlift Squadron in Dover Air Force Base, an F-15E from the 333rd FS in Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, and a P-3C Orion from NAS Jacksonville.
The airshow organizers moved the bi-annual airshow up one week earlier from its traditional Mother’s Day Weekend date. Despite not having a jet team for a headliner, the show drew respectable and enthusiastic crowds.
The JB MDL airshow was once again oversaw by David Schultz Airshows LLC who was also simultaneously overseeing the Leaseweb Mannassas Virginia Airshow 179 air miles away.
Power in the Pines 2018 featured the F-22 Raptor demo and a Heritage Flight. F-22 Demo pilot Major Paul ‘Loco’ Lopez II was flying double duty by performing Heritage Flights at both JB MDL and the Leaseweb Mannassas Virginia Airshow. Major Lopez departed in the Raptor from JB MDL as the show began and joined up with Andrew McKenna and his P-51 for the Heritage Flight in Manassas Virginia. He then returned to JB MDL for his F-22 demo and Heritage Flight with Jim Beasley, Jr. in his P-51 ‘Bald Eagle’. Major Lopez spent the weekend walking and talking with anyone that wanted to ask a question or just say hi. What makes Major Lopez so special is how infectious his smile is and how much he enjoys interacting with the crowds. There was not a spare moment all weekend that he didn’t stop to take a photo or shake hands with a fan. He was everywhere and is a spectacular Ambassador for the United States Air Force.
Power in the Pines was to be the public debut of the Canadian Forces CF-18 Demonstration Team NORAD 60th Anniversary paint scheme. Unfortunately ‘HORNET 1’ had some “unexpected maintenance” issues and couldn’t make the trip to JB MDL. The team arrived with a back up CF-18 adorned in an “operational grey” paint scheme. I spoke with this years demonstration pilot, Captain Stefan ‘Porcelain’ Porteous about a possible solution for this type of situation. I discovered last year that the previous years CF-18 demo jet isn’t painted over after the season. In fact the last several CF-18 demo hornets are nearly in full paint. I asked why doesn’t the team use one of these jets as the back up demo jet. Captain Porteous explained that is because when we are finished with that theme and we only want to focus on displaying the new theme.
The Power in the Pines airshow did manage to showcase two other debuts. First up was America’s newest jet powered fire truck ‘Aftershock’ driven by Mark Smith. Formerly known as the ‘Hawaiian Eagle Jet Fire Truck’, Aftershock has had a makeover and did not disappoint making multiple passes during the day with plenty of fire and smoke.
Next up was America’s newest civilian demonstration team ’Trojan Thunder’ in their military inspired themed T-28’s. Trojan Thunder is Jerry ‘Jive’ Kerby’s latest venture. The team was made up of six T-28’s flying a formation of four and two solos. Many of the pilots that make up Trojan Thunder were once members of the recently retired Trojan Horsemen formation team.
The C-17 demonstration for Power in the Pines was flown by a crew from Joint Base Charleston in a McGuire-based C-17. On Saturday, the crew received clearance for takeoff and lined up on Runway 24 for departure. As the crew applied power they had an issue with an engine described over the comms as “an engine just puked.” The crew had to temporarily delay their demo and move to their own aircraft from Charleston for the demonstration.
The weekend shows featured demonstrations from the American Airpower Museum’s B-25 ‘Miss Hap, Jim Beasley’s P-51 ‘Bald Eagle, Lee Leet’s T Mk 1 Short’s Tucano, Paul and Caroline Dougherty’s Christen Eagle II and military demonstrations by ‘Team McGuire’ KC-10A, KC-135R and C-17A and the NJ ArNG 1-150th Assault Helicopter Battalion.
JB MDL Public Affairs Office worked very hard at putting a great show experience together and they didn’t disappoint. They arranged media flight opportunities with the U.S. Army Golden Knights as well as set aside an elevated area near show center for photographers.
I joined the Gold Team of the U.S. Army’s Golden Knights Parachute Demonstration Team for their Saturday morning flight aboard their C-31A Troopship. The initial briefing was to dress warmly as you will be sitting next to the open jump doors. Even though the flight line temperature was near 72 degrees, at the planned jump altitude of 12,500 feet it was a mere 32 degrees.
I was teamed up with SSG Mike Koch who gave me my safety briefing and advised me of what I can expect on the flight. Now it was the Jump Master’s turn who held a briefing. Then it was time for the ‘dirt dive’. The team assembled and practiced the jump they would perform. Everyone moves in a coordinated way and they are checking each other for the correct positioning. Then the Jump Master calls everyone in to a close circle for their group prayer. This was my queue to get into the aircraft. SSG Koch strapped me in and then secured my cameras to the aircraft with bungee cords. He assured me they would be safe and remain in the aircraft, but that wouldn’t be the case for me if I were to unbuckle or pull anything out of my pockets during the flight. Before I knew it we had engine start and we were taxiing out. With power applied, the brakes were released and we were rolling. As the aircraft rotated to flight the Jump Master yelled out “America” followed by “sound off, let’s do this”. The team responded with “we are the greatest, let’s go!”
I took notice of each team members helmet which was adorned with the number four in the style of the U.S.A.F. Thunderbirds in memory of Thunderbird #4 Major Stephen “Cajun” Del Bagno who was lost in the weeks before.
The C-31A climbed to 12,500 feet where the jump master released the streamers above the jump zone to measure the wind. Everything on the first two jumpers is timed so that the American flag reaches the ground just as the final notes of the National Anthem are sung. As I set up the shot, I ask U.S. Army Golden Knight Sergeant Jason Bauder for advice on how to get the perfect shot. He tells me to set the camera to rapid fire and then he points out the open hatch and says focus just below the tail, I’ll be there. He adds with a laugh be ready because I’m only going to do it once. Before I know it he is out the hatch and presenting a salute as he vanishes behind the aircraft. Next up was the mass exit and the team moves with precision as they go out of the aircraft in very close proximity of each other. Then its time to return to the base meet the team on the ground as they repack their parachutes for the next jump. A tremendous experience that I am thankful the Golden knights allowed me to share with them.
The Power in the Pines show was a well planned and executed show and all involved deserve a well done for their efforts.