Quonset Point’s Air Show in Top Form After Hiatus
After taking an uncharacteristic year off in 2013, the (almost annual) Rhode Island National Guard Open House and Air Show roared back to life in mid-May, 2014 with an entertaining combination of past favorite and first-time performers. The organizers weaved a fine air show tapestry containing both historic and current cutting edge aircraft, flown by some of the biggest names in the industry. Held earlier in the year than in the past, the weekend show dodged early rain and low ceilings and was blessed with blue skies and puffy clouds during Saturday’s and Sunday’s flying.
The former Naval Air Station Quonset Point is the home of the Rhode Island Air National Guard’s 143rd Airlift Wing and their C-130Js, and the Army National Guard’s A Company, 1st Battalion, 126th Aviation Regiment equipped with UH-60A/L helicopters. As with most military Open House, both home-based units had examples of their aircraft on display. Unlike many recent shows, there was no combined arms demonstration this year; in past shows these local units teamed up to present some of their capabilities in a “combined arms” demonstration.
Ground displays were widely varied, with a mix of civilian and military aircraft available for people to walk up to, touch, talk to their crewmembers, and even climb aboard. Pristine classics like a WACO UPF-7 and Beech Bonanza gleamed in the sunshine. Chris and Corrine McLaughlin displayed their Cessna Skyhawk that carried them from Nantucket to the tip of South America and back to raise awareness for human organ donors; Chris is living proof that the program saves lives. An Air National Guard A-10, once common in New England skies, travelled from Kansas City MO to take part in the diverse military static display. A trio of training aircraft from Sheppard AFB in Wichita Falls TX shared the ramp with a local KC-135 air tanker from New Hampshire and a pair of Westfield MA-based F-15 Eagles. The Quonset Air Museum brought a large part of their collection out from their adjacent hangar too.
One of the big draws of any Quonset air show is the proximity to the flying display. The runway seems closer to the crowd than at most other shows, and the taxi routes to and from the “hot” ramp puts pilots and their planes in front of many spectators. Civilian performers included Sean D. Tucker, Rob Holland, Julie Clark, and John Klatt. New to the Rhode Island skies (and also the air show circuit this year) was John’s Screaming Sasquatch Jet WACO piloted by Jeff Boerboon and sponsored by Jack Link’s. The biplane with its’ auxiliary jet engine lived up to its billing as it really did “Feed Your Wild Side” as one watched it dart around the Quonset Point skies.
This 2014 show was rich with airborne warbird activity as well. Rob Collings flew a series of passes in the Collings Foundation’s FM-2 Wildcat and AD-5 Skyraider; the latter aircraft was based at NAS Quonset Point during its Navy service. The Bremont Horsemen warbird formation team was led by Steve Hinton in a Grumman F7F Tigercat, with Dan Friedkin and Ed Shipley glued to his wings in a pair of F8F Bearcats. A trio of P-51 Mustangs were on hand; two flew in a Heritage formation while Mark Murphy flew a solo aerobatic routine in another. Finally, the GEICO Skytypers in their SNJ-2 trainers supplied lots of smoke and noise, and some interesting formation maneuvers for the crowd.
The air show presented three military flight demonstrations, any one of which could headline an air show. The Air Force F-22 Raptor flew an individual and Heritage flight routine, a Marine MV-22 Osprey demonstrated its unique transitional flight capabilities, and the featured attraction – The Navy’s Blue Angels – drew rapt attention from young and old alike.
By the time the five hour-long flying display ended each afternoon, a cross section of cutting edge aviation technology that spanned almost nine decades had been presented in the Rhode Island skies. The yearly air show has gained a reputation as a must-see event for families and aviation enthusiasts living in the northeastern U.S.. This year’s show presented aircraft from the 1930s through today; it was quite a history lesson for young and old alike, and well worth the wait after last year’s hiatus.