THE 2017 ANDREWS AIR SHOW
The “2017 Joint Base Andrews Air Show – Breaking Barriers for 70 Years – Featuring the Thunderbirds and the Golden Knights” – was held on Saturday and Sunday, September 16 – 17, 2017. Andrews had a fabulous Air Show this year. As has been the case for the last few years, the air show parking for the public was at the FedEx Field parking lots, about 10 miles to the north off of the I-495 Beltway. The public was bussed to the north end of the static ramp off of Exit 9 on Route 337 and into the North Gate to the ramp. Years ago the public could drive on base and park on the South Ramp, but since 9-11 and for security reasons, no spectator cars were allowed on base for the Air Show. Surprisingly, and even with all the budget cutbacks and the Congressionally mandated “Sequester” still in effect, Andrews was able to muster 98 airplanes both on the Static Ramp and the Hot Ramp this year. Let’s just round it off and call it an even 100 on the ramp for “Andrews-2017”! And, considering NAS Oceana, only three hours south of DC, was also having their big air show in Virginia Beach on exactly the same weekend, still over 150,000 people showed up at Andrews for each of the Show Days! But before we go chasing airplanes, it might be nice to take a quick look at this very important Air Base that hosts not only the President of the United States but also Heads of State and just about every important government official in DC needing to go someplace.
A) WHAT’S ON BASE:
Joint Base Andrews (ADW / KADW) is a United States military facility located in Prince George’s County, Maryland, about 20 driving miles east of the center of Washington, DC, right off of the I-495 Beltway, in the City of Camp Springs, Maryland. The Base is under the jurisdiction of the United States Air Force 11th Wing (11WG), Air Force District of Washington (AFDW). In 2009, Andrews Air Force Base and Naval Air Facility Washington were merged to form “Joint Base Andrews”. Andrews is the home base of two famous Boeing VC-25A (B-747-200B) aircraft with Call Sign “Air Force One” when the President is on board that serve the President of the United States. The Base started in 1945. It has two parallel runways: 01L / 19R at 11,318 X 200 feet and 01R / 19L at 9,756 X 150 feet. There are an amazing amount of flying units and different aircraft types assigned to Joint Base Andrews:
1) 11th Wing (11WG / AFDW): The host unit at Andrews is the 11th Wing (11WG) assigned to the Air Force District of Washington (AFDW). The 11th Wing is responsible for maintaining emergency reaction rotary-wing airlift and other National Capital Region contingency response capabilities for national security and for organizing, training, equipping and deploying combat ready forces as required for Air and Space Expeditionary Forces (AEF’s). Its flying unit includes the First Helicopter Squadron with about 20 UH-1N Twin Huey VIP helicopters in dress-blue colors that will soon be up-graded to a new more advanced rotary air frame. Since 1969 the unit has provided local airlift for the Executive Department, high-ranking dignitaries, distinguished visitors, as well as support for emergency evacuation. The squadron maintains at least one helicopter on alert for short notice mission assignments.
2) 89th Airlift Wing (89AW), Air Mobility Command, Presidential Airlift Group: The 89th Airlift Wing, actually a tenant unit, is responsible for world-wide special air mission airlift, logistics and communications support for the President, Vice President, and other US senior leaders. “Air Force One” is assigned to the 89AW. The 89AW provides global “Special Air Mission” (aircraft Call Sign “SAM”) airlift, logistics, aerial port and communications for POTUS, as well as for the global mobility system as tasked by the White House, Chief of Staff USAF and the Air Mobility Command. The flying unit is the 89th Operations Group and consists of the following squadrons and aircraft:
a) 1st Airlift Squadron: C-32A/B, Air Force Two, a specially configured long range commercial blue and white Boeing 757-200 used for dedicated Vice Presidential (call sign “Air Force Two”) and Distinguished Visitor (DV/VIP) airlift, transport for the First Lady (FLOTUS), key Cabinet and Congressional Officials or even the President, when needed as an alternative aircraft. There are four C-32A and two C-32B special response aircraft that are based both at Andrews and Joint Base McGuire in New Jersey; C-40B/C Clipper, a commercial Boeing 737-700-BBJ, a medium range aircraft used to transport senior military commanders, US Cabinet officials, and key members of the US Congress on official flights within operational guidelines and rules of usage, and also to perform other approved operational support missions. There are four C-40B’s with secure voice/data communications and seven C-40C’s with standard VIP configurations based at Andrews, Pearl, Ramstein and Scott AFB’s.
b) 99th Airlift Squadron: C-20A/B/H Gulfstream III and IV, a twin engine executive airlift asset for transporting high-ranking government and DOD officials world-wide, with five aircraft based at Andrews and Ramstein, soon to be replaced due to limited life remaining on these airframes; C-37A/B Gulfstream V, a modified business jet used for world-wide ultra-long range Special Air Missions, with 10 aircraft based at Andrews, Belgium, Pearl, and MacDill with all aircraft equipped with secure voice and data communications and directional IR countermeasures for self-defense; C-21A Learjet, the military version of the Bombardier (Gates/Lear) Learjet 35 with 24 aircraft spread out between Andrews, Peterson, Ramstein and Scott AFB’s.
c) Presidential Airlift Group (PAG): The other squadron with the 89th AW is the “Presidential Airlift Group”, with its two VC-25A Air Force One (26000) aircraft, a specially configured Boeing B747-200B ultra extended range VIP transport equipped for airlifting the President and his entourage. Aircraft 26000 operates as call sign “Air Force One” when POTUS is on-board and “SAM-26000” (Special Air Mission) during non-Presidential flights. The USAF plans to replace the two VC-25A’s with a modified version of Boeing’s latest 747-8 extended range intercontinental airliner. The two current VC-25 airframes entered service in 1990 and each has five years estimated service life remaining and requires a life extension / block upgrade (SLEP) to remain viable until replacement aircraft are fielded in 2024. Both aircraft are housed in a giant highly secured hanger at the south end of the JBA USAF main west ramp.
Not based at Andrews but an integral part of Presidential airlift operations, and a frequent transient visitor to Andrews, are the “Marine One” helicopters that transport the President from the White House to Andrews to hook up with Air Force One or for local Presidential transport in the Capital Region or at remote locations accompanying Air Force One to distant locations. This Presidential Helicopter Squadron is known as Marine Helicopter Squadron One (HMX-1) “Nighthawks”, “The First and Finest”, based at nearby MCAF, Quantico, Va. HMX-1 aircraft include: (11) Sikorsky VH-3D and (1) UH-3D Sea Kings with the VH version the typical “Marine One” helicopter\o; (8) Sikorsky VH-60N and (1) UH-60N Black Hawk VIP helicopters; and an unknown number of Bell-Boeing MV-22B Osprey Tiltrotor aircraft in VIP configuration. In 2014 the Navy selected Sikorsky to develop the VH-92A (formerly VXX) to replace the VH-3D and the VH-60N helicopter fleet. Final Contractor Test Readiness and Flight Readiness Reviews will commence on two test aircraft in late 2018 and are planned to receive Milestone C status in 2019. Twenty-three VH-92A production aircraft are planned to enter service in 2020.
d) PAG Support Fleet: Another aspect of Presidential long range travel is the special transport aircraft that support the 89th AW when Air Force One makes long distance long duration trips. For example, if you watched the recent coverage of the Presidential trip to Davos, Switzerland for the World Economic Summit, he traveled with at least six VIP helicopters; two Marine One VH-60D blue and white VIP Black Hawks from HMX-1 “Nighthawks” out of MCAS Quantico and four additional UH-60’s support helos. These helicopters, and sometimes his larger VH-3D’s Sea King’s will have to accompany Air Force One to its final destination and will converge at JBA or Quantico for compression and transfer to larger AMC support aircraft. Bob Dorr noted in his “Air Force One” book, this transfer could involve as many as three C-5’s or even four C-17’s to get all the “stuff” that accompanies the President on distant trips: 6 VIP helicopters; 2 armored Presidential limousines; a special ambulance; and the other armored SUV’s for the Secret Service detachments – a small Presidential Air Force for sure!
3) Air Force District Washington (AFDW): This massive administrative unit at JB Andrews is composed of two Wings, one Group, and two Ceremonial Units: the 11th Wing that runs the whole Base; the 79th Medical Wing; the USAF Operations Group, mostly at the Pentagon; the Air Force Band and the USAF Honor Guard, all tied into the Executive Support Functions for the National Capital Region (NCR).
4) Marine Transport Squadron One (VMR-1): VMR-1 “Roadrunners”, a USMC Reserve Squadron under NAVAIR Systems Command, maintains a Detachment (Det.) at Andrews currently operating with a number of U-35D aircraft, a twin-engine Cessna Citation Ultra Encore Model 560 business jet configured for VIP executive transport out of the DC area. VMR-1 will soon convert to the C-40 Clipper, a medium range commercial Boeing 737-700 in a VIP configuration.
5) Army Jet Detachment: the C-20B/D Gulfstream, a Gulfstream III and IV twin-engined executive jet; the C-37A/B, a Gulfstream GV and G550 model twin-jet; the UC-35C/D, an advanced Cessna Citation.
6) Fleet Logistics Support Squadron One (VR-1): VR-1 is a Naval Reserve Unit at JBA that operates the C-37B, the twin-jet Gulfstream G550;
7) Civil Air Patrol: The CAP operate a number of Cessna-182’s out of Andrews.
8) 457th Airlift Squadron: The 457th AS is a part of the 357th Air Mobility Wing, Air Mobility Command, 18th Air Force. It operates the C-21 Learjet aircraft, a militarized Learjet Model 35 and 36 providing executive airlift services.
9) Fleet Logistics Support Squadron Five Three: VR-53 “Capital Express” is a Naval Reserve Squadron that operates the Lockheed C-130T Hercules aircraft out of Andrews, with a Det. based out of NAS Sigonella, Italy, specializing in air transport for personnel or cargo.
10) 113th Fighter Wing, 121st Fighter Squadron, DC Air National Guard, Air Combat Command-gained, Air Mobility Command-gained: The 113th Wing, known as the “Capital Guardians”, provides air sovereignty forces to defend the Nation’s Capital, and also provides fighter, airlift and support forces capable of local, national and global employment. The 113th Operations Group under the 113th Wing consists of two flying squadrons: the 121st Fighter Squadron operates the F-16C/D Fighting Falcon (“Viper”). The 201st Airlift Squadron operates the C-38A Courier, a Gulfstream G-100, the military version of the Gulfstream V, and the C-40C Clipper, a VIP configured Boeing 737-700.
11) 459th Air Refueling Wing (459AR), Air Force Reserve Command, Air Mobility Command-gained: The 459th AR flying unit is the 459th Operations Group that includes the 756th Air Refueling Squadron and the 459th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron. The 459th transitioned from the C-141 Starlifter in 2003 and now flies the Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker.
12) Naval Air Facility Washington (NAFW): NAFW maintains a Joint Partnership as the supporting component of Joint Base Andrews – NAFW Washington and is a Naval Reserve air installation supporting the three operational squadrons: VR-1, VR-53 and VMR Andrews. The squadrons execute missions with C-37B (Gulfstream G550), C-20D (Gulfstream III), Naval C-130T Hercules, and UC-35D (Cessna Citation Encore Model 560) aircraft to support VIP transport, Navy airlift and Marine Corps. VIP flights.
13) Maryland State Police Aviation Division: the unit at JBA is one of seven locations in Maryland that the State Police operate out of. The MDSP Aviation Equipment includes: (10) Augusta Westland AW139 helicopters, (1) Beechcraft B300 King Air 350 and (1) Cessna P210N pressurized Centurion, any of which can be assigned to JBA.
14) Federal Aviation Administration: The FAA operates an aircraft building at JBA. Transient FAA operated aircraft out of the FAA Flight Center in Atlantic City come into JBA on occasion.
B) WHAT’S ON THE GROUND:
Once every two years or so, Joint Base Andrews, known before 2003 as Andrews Air Force Base, puts on a Joint Services Air Show. As a joint military aviation air show, all flying military services are represented – USAF, USN, USMC, USCG and the USCBP. In years past, it was a pure current military show with many current military aircraft represented on the ramp. Due to budget restrictions, 2017 saw less military aircraft on the ramps but the Base made up for it by bringing some beautiful warbirds and private planes to supplement a nice collection of active military aircraft, along with the stars of the show, the Thunderbirds and the Golden Knights, to generate almost 100 planes on the ground as part of the show or nearby operational aircraft close enough to see. We congratulate Andrews on putting together another great show in 2017!!!
The Air Show Static Ramp and Hot Ramp were on the Air Force aide of Joint Base Andrews, which is the west side adjacent to the longer 12,000 foot runway 01L/19R. The south ramp orange mesh fence line was right near Hanger 04, a double hanger which was also the PAO Command Center for the Show. Beyond this fence line was the large Andrews AFB Passenger Terminal (PAX) and the Operations Center for the Air Force side of the Base. The PAX was kept active during the show for certain priority flights. Next to Operations was the Control Tower and next to the Tower was a massive hexagon-shaped hanger that is so large that it can be seen from anywhere on the Base. This is the special building where the two Presidential Transport “Air Force One” aircraft – a highly modified Boeing 747-200B designated as VC-25A and currently having tail numbers 28000 and 29000 – are stored and maintained. The south show line ramp started at the southernmost Hanger-4.
HOT RAMP: I think we could say that the Hot Ramp really started at the PAX Terminal that you could easily see from the edges of the orange mesh fence line, and better yet with 10X50 glasses. There were two VIP blue and white C-20B Gulfstream’s, the C-32B / Boeing 757 call sign “Air Force Two”, and two C-40A / Boeing 737-700 Clippers; all five from the Presidential Airlift Squadron of the 89th Airlift Wing, Air Mobility Command, all holding at the VIP Lounge of the Terminal. Near the orange fence line were the GEICO Skytypers Air Show Team with their six SNJ-2 Texans. In the distance were the six warbirds that were part of the Prowlers of the Pacific/Tora-Tora-Tora demo – a Goodyear FG-1D (F4U) Corsair, a Douglas SBD-5 Dauntless, a replica Nakajima B5N “Kate”, a Curtiss SB2C Hell Diver, a Mitsubishi A6M “Zero” and an Aichi D3A “Val”. Nearby was Jim Beasley’s P-51 Mustang, another FG-1D Corsair, and the C-31A Fokker F27 Friendship Jump Plane for the US Army Golden Knights Parachute Team up from Ft. Bragg, NC. In the distance by the Tower was a KC-135R Tanker that just arrived, the two F-22A Raptors from the Raptor Demo Team up from Langley AFB (FF) Virginia, Matt Chapman’s yellow Emery-Riddle Extra 330LX mono-wing stunt plane, Patty Wagstaff’s blue and white Cirrus Extra 330S single wing stunt plane, an unusual South Korean KAI T-50A “Golden Eagle” supersonic advanced trainer, currently being marketed by Lockheed-Martin as a candidate for the USAF next-gen T-X Trainer, and the Thunderbirds TB-1 to TB-6 at Show Center at the far north end of the ramp.
STATIC RAMP: Inside that bright orange mesh fence line resides the “Static Ramp” where you could get up close and personal to the planes and crew members from the squadrons. Starting at the south end near Hanger-4 we had a mix of old and new: our old friend, the B-25J Mitchell Bomber “Panchito” from the Delaware Aviation Museum in Georgetown, DE; the Douglas C-47, W7 “Whiskey 7” down from the National Warplane Museum in Genesco, NY; the Boeing Flying Fortress B-17F “Memphis Belle” (41-24485) commonly known as the “Movie Memphis Belle”, really a B-17G out of Geneseo; the Boeing B-29 Superfortress heavy bomber “Doc”, one of only two flying Superfortresses in the world, recently restored and owned by “Doc’s Friends, Inc.” based in Wichita; a C-17A Globemaster III from the 62nd AW / 446th AW-AFRC out of McChord AFC, WA; a Vans Aircraft RV-12 low wing home-built; a Tecnam P92 Eaglet, an Italian light that looks exactly like a C-172; a 1955 Japanese Fuji LM-1 Nikko communications aircraft, actually a version of a Beech T-34 Mentor; a 1940 yellow Stinson 10A “Voyager” named “Bloody Mary”; a 1948 Ryan Air “Navion” in a USN grey color scheme; a CAF North American AT-6A Texan in “Ghost Squadron” grey from the American Air Power Museum in Dallas; a CAF TBM-3E Avenger in dark blue “Marines” colors from CAF Culpeper, VA; a CAF 1942 Stinson L-5 Sentinel “Bird Dog” in olive drab “Gayleann” colors; a C-172 and a C-182 from the local TSS Flying Club; nearby on the Hot Ramp side of the wire, four Bell AH-1 Attack Cobras from the Cobra Demo Team; a Beechcraft Model 36 Bonanza as a private MedEvac owned by “Compassion Airlift” out of Manassas, VA.
At the north end of the ramp we had more good statics: first was a 2010 Augusta Westland Aerospace AW139 “Rotorcraft”, a 15-seat medium-sized twin-engined military helicopter being developed by Boeing / Leonardo as an MH-139 to economically replace existing USAF current UH-1N Huey’s now used for ICBM field security and support. Next was a Super King Air 350ER C-12 Huron owned by the US Customs and Border Protection out of San Diego, set up with special IR radar and data links; next to it was a USCBP 33-foot “SAFE” patrol and interception boat similar to the USCG gray aluminum SAR boats with the orange inflated edges; a USBCP French-built Aerospatiale/Eurocopter (now Airbus) AS-350 “Ecureil” (Squirrel) “A-Star” single-engined light utility helicopter; then four CAP C-172’s; a larger 8-passenger CAP Australian Grippsland GA-8 “AirVan-8”, out of Martin State Airport, MD; a C-40C Clipper / Boeing BBJ 737-400 assigned to the newly-activated 213th Maintenance Squadron DCANG, as a part of the 121st FS / 113th Wing at JBA; then logically placed, an F-16C Viper from the DCANG, 113th Wing, 86-330, “DC” with blue “Capital Guardians” special tail art with a full display of inert bombs and missiles; a Eurocopter/Airbus LUH-72A “Lakota” Light Utility Helicopter, the military version of the UH-145 now being built by EDADS North America, from Det-1 / A-Co / 1st of the 224th from the DC-NG out of Ft. Belvoir, DC; then a Korea Aerospace Industry (KAI) T-50A “Golden Eagle”, a South Korean supersonic advanced trainer and light combat aircraft, now being seriously marketed by Lockheed-Martin as a candidate for the USAF Next-Gen TX-1 Trainer Program to replace the current almost 60-year old Northrop T-38C Talon Trainer; ironically, and with perfect product- placement in mind, sitting next to the T-50 was a 50 year old Northrop T-38C Talon trainer (67-850) from Columbus AFB ( CB), 50th FTS “Strikin’ Snakes”, 14th FTW, 14th OG, AETC; (a second T-50 was on the south Hot Ramp); next to it was a UH-60M MedEvac Black Hawk from the DC-AG out of Ft. Belvoir.
After a walk through the food stands and the air show toy stands and a few window frame salesman, we came to more great Heavy Metal on the north ramp: first up was a blue and white VIP Beech King Air 200 C-12 “Huron” from the 89th AW; then another blue and white VIP C-21 Learjet from the 457th Airlift Squadron, 375th Air Mobility Wing; then a dark grey F-15E Strike Eagle out of Seymour-Johnson AFB (SJ) arriving with a full bomb load with six inert Mk-A2 500# bombs on each wing and with one inert AIM-9 missile on each wing-tip launch rail (max ordinance load is 15 @ 500 # bombs and 2 to 8 AIM missiles); then we had two A-10C Hogs with Rhino-teeth nose art and an inert bomb load from the 303rd FS out of Whitman AFB (KS); a KC-135R Stratotanker with a yellow and black checkered tail band from the 459th ARW out of JBA; A M-D KC-10A Extender tanker from the 60th AMW / 349th AMW-AFRC out of Travis AFB, CA; then, something new and very different – a Textron AirLand “Scorpion” light ground attack and ISR jet aircraft in a low-visibility grey in competition for the USAF next-gen (TX-OAX) ground-pounder. (In February 2018, the Scorpion was unfortunately eliminated from the USAF light attack aircraft competition in favor of the Swiss Pilatus PC-9, now the Beechcraft AT-6 “Wolverine” and the Brazilian Embraer A-29 “Super Tucano”). Then, quite appropriately, right next to the Scorpion, the AT-6 “Wolverine”- an AT-6 Texan II (from the Raytheon Aircraft Company – the military version of the Beech / Swiss Pilatus PC-9 MkII) from the 14th OG at Columbus AFB (CB). Then, right next to the AT-6, a grey Army Beechcraft RC-12K “Guardrail”, an airborne signals intelligence (SIGNET) collection platform based on the Beechcraft Super King Air and Beech 1900 Huron airframe. Next a Raytheon / Hawker / Beechcraft T-1A / T-400 Jayhawk, out of Columbus AFB, MS; then a Bell UH-1N VIP Huey assigned to the 1st Helicopter Squadron, 11th Wing, USAF District Washington Capital Region, providing administrative airlift in the DC area; next a series of colorful homebuilt aircraft – a bright orange composite fiberglass “Harmon Rocket” mono-wing; a Vans RV-7 mono-wing; a Vans RV-6A and a Pazmany PL2 mono-wing. Next to the Kit-Planes was quite a contrast; a Lockheed-Martin C-5M Super Galaxy from the 436th AW / 512th AW-AFRC down from Dover AFB and next to it a Rockwell B-1B “Bone” from the 28th Bomb Squadron of the 7th Bomb Wing, Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC) out of Dyess AFB, TX, with “Bones” nose art and with “WA-WPS/CC” on the tail. In a nearby hanger was a 1972 Bell UH-1N (72-8562) blue and white VIP Twin-Huey from the 1st Helicopter Squadron, 11th WG, here at JBA and the two back-up two-seat Thunderbird F-16D’s, TB-7 and TB-8. Finally, at the extreme north end of the ramp was where the busses were bringing in the public from the FedEx Field parking lots over 10 miles away. Right next to that bus turn-round at a roped off area but still pretty close was the ramp for nine UH-1N blue and white VIP Huey’s with two on “Ready-Alert” for either a DC-Capital Region emergency or some big-wheel Congressman or a Cabinet Head who might need a quick ride somewhere.
C) WHAT’S IN THE AIR;
The Andrews Flying Show started at 10:30 AM with the National Anthem and the Flag Drop by the US Army “Golden Knights”. Next was an operational takeoff by a KC-135R tanker from the local 459th ARW. The four AH-1F Cobra gunships painted up in olive drab and gold from the US Army Sky Soldiers Cobra Tactical Helicopter Demo Team went up next with a 4-ship display that was right out of ” Apocalypse Now” and the Vietnam War with a diamond lead-in and multilevel ground attack profiles – they should have played Wagner’s “The Ride of the Valkyries”. Next was Kent Pietsch in his yellow Piper J-3 Cub teamed up with a T-6 Texan and later Chris Darnell got into the act with his Jet Truck with fire and smoke going 325 mph. Then we had the P-51 demo, then it was Patty Wagstaff doing her superb stunt demo followed by Tora-Tora-Tora going up with their Jap warbird fighters with two 4-ship delta maneuvers. Next was what looked like an F-16 but was really a South Korean T-50A doing a neat high-performance demo. Tora x 3 came back with a pyro show with two flights of 4 blowing up the place, then the 8-ship doing a pretty hot “Wall of Fire”. The T-6 Warbird was up next for a cool aerobatic demo followed by the B-25 “Panchito” with a bomb run and a bit of pyro. Then the B-25 joined up with the B-17 and the C-47 for a few low laps around the circuit. The real “Star” the show, the “new” B-29 “Doc” went up for a few laps followed by the GEICO Skytypers doing their usual 6-ship run-in followed by their two 3-ship ground and air attack demo. Matt Chapman was up next in his yellow Emory-Riddle Extra 330LX for some wild 8G rotations and ending it by racing the Jet Truck. Kent Pietsch next went up in his little 65 hp Piper J3 “Interstate Cadet” again for his crazy “Can’t Fly” comedy routine, ending it with a perfect 70 mph landing on the Camper Truck with the 30 foot landing strip on top. The P-51 went up to hold for a while to the east. Then we had another Star of the Show go up – the F-22 Raptor Demo out of Langley with major Dan Dickerson on the stick. He gave us a Fast and Furious Raptor show with a beautiful example of thrust vectoring at altitude with a controlled flat spin, a vertical rotation, a backward slide, a dead stop rotation, some burner passes, a 360 flat to vertical, a slow Alpha-Pass down to 90 kts with an opened weapons bay transitioning to a high speed vertical climb out, into a split-S, to an “Inverted Tuck” into a ” Hoover Pitch-Up” ending with a cool “Photo Pass” with a “Stiff Pitch-Up”. What a “B-O” Tear-Ass performance. Maj. Dickerson headed out to the west to join up with Andrew McKenna in his P-51D to set up for the “Heritage Flight”, always a patriotic winner at every show. They both came in left to right then went around behind the crowd line and came in low over the crowd line and did a reverse split to the left and right. The Mustang came back for a low high-speed pass and landed and the Raptor came back for his Burner Pass and lined up for landing. Gotta hand it to Jay Rabbit for doing a great job as the announcer with a lot of facts and Wayne Boggs as Air Boss with perfect in-air coordination. Good job guys!!
After the Heritage Flight recovered, the Golden Knights Fokker C-21A took off again and the GEICO 6-ship later took off again to go out and hold. An operational blue and white C-32 Boeing 757 from the 89th AW took off mid-show: VP Pence or FLOTUS Melania heading out? Nope! Most thought the B-757 was heading up to Bedminster, NJ, to pick up POTUS and bring him back to the White House. After all, it’s Sunday night you know! Once they got the C-32 out of the Box, the Golden Knights did their full team Free-Fall from 10,000 feet into beautiful clear sky, flying their US and POW flags, all with high speed landings right on target. Another operational VIP blue and white snuck out, this time a B-737-700 C-40 Clipper. Kent Pietsch went up one more time – boy, he must love that yellow Piper Cub!! The silver P-51D Mustang took off again, this time with the F-4U Corsair to do a few 2-ship low passes. At 2:50 a VIP Huey from the 11th AW went up to shoot the “Max Crowd Line” with a 500-foot Photo-Pass — Everyone waved! OK, it’s 3:00 PM and the Thunderbirds started their opening Walk-Down and pre-launch Check-Out exactly on time. The Diamond had wheels-up at 3:15 – perfect, and the two Solos were right behind, one flat and low and one going ballistic high. It was a traditional near-perfect show with one or two new maneuvers added in. The Birds climbed down their ladders at about 4:15 and headed for the crowd line to pass out and sign brochures with the kids.
4:40 PM. Is it over? Not Quite!!! (Footnote: some of what follows is a total guess!) The POTUS Air Show with “Air Force One” is inbound from Bedminster, NJ! He’s not holding for any Air Show! At 4:42 a special B-757 C-32 loaded up with communications blisters lands and goes to the far south ramp beyond the Tower. (POTUS? Maybe!) Then a Rhode Island ANG C-130J Herc from the 143rd Airlift Wing lands and goes to the south ramp and follows the C-32. (Maybe it has the “Tank”- the Presidential armored lemo on board?). Then a KC-135R comes in (a POTUS tanker?). Then at 4:55 the Langley detachment departs – the two F-22’s and a black T-38C Talon. Another support plane lands – a C-17A. (For the POTUS SUV’s?) Then a new MD State Police Augusta Westland AW-139 helicopter launches, probably to check out the traffic on I-495 down by the FedEx Lots. No traffic problems here at JBA – no cars! The 200,000 spectators have been lined up in the heat for over an hour to get on to the busses and get back to their cars at FedEx. It’s moments like this seeing that huge loading line at the busses that I really appreciate the wonderful treatment 11th Wing and 89th AW PAO gave to the Media on that hot Sunday in September and provided the van that got us back to our cars that were parked on base. Thank you Maj. Stock, TSgt. Colys and Nicole Hawking, our PAO reps! By 5:30 I was going through the Golf Gate and the 2017 Andrews Air Show was really over for me! See you all back at JBA in two years for another one in 2019!!!