THE 2018 QUONSET POINT AIR SHOW – THE SHOW AND THE BASE
The Quonset Point Air Show for 2018, officially called the “2018 Rhode Island National Guard Open House Air Show”, was held on Saturday and Sunday, June 9th and 10th, at the Quonset State Airport in North Kingston Rhode Island. Considering that their prime supplier of static warbird airplanes – The Quonset AIr Museum – went bankrupt last year and had to junk or sell off all of their warbirds that were always on the ramp, the air show was still able to muster up over 60 airplanes both on the Hot Ramp and the Static Ramp for 2018. Actual current operational military aircraft however were only 10 airplanes, but if you throw in everybody that showed up into that mix, including the Blues, the Skytypers, the GA’s, and the stunt plane “Noisemakers”, we ended up with a grand total of 61 airplanes on the ramp. Quonset is called a “National Guard” air show because its Primary Sponsor is the “National Guard Association of Rhode Island”. That translates into the two RING tenant units on base at the “Quonset Air National Guard Base” – the USAF Air National Guard 143rd Airlift Wing (143AW) flying the C-130J-30 Stretch Super Hercules transport aircraft and the Army National Guard Aviation Support Facility for the 1st Battalion / 126th Aviation Regiment (1/126th) flying the UH-60 Blackhawk utility helicopter.
WHAT’S HERE NOW:
Quonset State Airport (NCO / KOQO / OQO) is in North Kingston, RI, and is officially called a “General Aviation” airport but is taking on the appearance of a military base more so each year: The 143AW Air Guard unit has recently added more buildings and real estate; the 1/126th Army Aviation Battalion just rebuilt all of their hangers and support space; Fire and Crash is provided by the 143AW and is currently rebuilding their main Fire Station and a new Airport Control Tower was recently built by the Air Guard and is now run by the 143AW. Snow removal and runway maintenance is jointly provided by both the RI State Airport Commission and the 143AW vehicles. There are two runways at Quonset: 16/34 is the primary at 7,504 feet and 5/23 is the secondary cross-wind at 4,000 feet. There is a 2015 Master Plan that calls for increased GA hangers, ramps and support services but none of this has happened yet. There is one relatively new and modern FBO facility near the old Control Tower called the “Providence Jet Center”. The State is also considering closing the cross-wind 5/23 runway to create a “major port in the construction of an off-shore wind turbine farm” for electrical power generation. (Opinion — a wind farm tower cluster near 16/34 would certainly create a dangerous obstruction for future air shows at Quonset. We hope this proposal is well studied before implementation!). Currently near 5/23 and near the old Carrier Pier to the northeast are major ship repair facilities, a fuel tank farm and the Block Island Ferry Terminal. Two years ago the State added a Railroad high platform station near the carrier pier and the State now provides train service from T.F. Greene Airport and Providence directly to the Air Show. Lots of attendees seem to be using the “Train To The Planes” setup. As of June 21, 2018, there were 24 aircraft based at Quonset: 11 are single-engine GA; 1 jet GA; and 12 military (6 Hercs at the 143AW and 6 Blackhawks at the Army 1/126.) There are 55 aircraft operations a day here with 55% military, 29% local GA, 12% transient GA and 4% air taxi; a quiet airport.
General Dynamics / Electric Boat also has a major facility to the east of the airport near the shoreline where major hull sections for nuclear attack submarines are manufactured and transported by barge to Groton, CT, where they are welded together for the final assembly process in the construction of the subs. Major new sub hangers have been recently built at Quonset. The giant hull sections are transported on large low multi-wheeled carriers to other hangers and the barges. As a “Top Secret Defense Plant”, absolutely no photography is permitted of the sub hull sections, carriers or the buildings owned by Electric Boat at Quonset, Offenders are subject to immediate arrest by EB Security Forces. Quonset Airport is about 10 miles from Newport, RI, home of the US Naval War College. As such, the transient Line at OQU continues to see some important USN and USAF VIP visitors and their aircraft including senior Pentagon officers, congressional and foreign dignitaries and even the President and Vice President on occasion. And of course OQU is my favorite because it is so close to Newport, with all those great restaurants and watering holes along the cobble stone streets and on Bannister Wharf and Bowen’s Wharf on the water near all the fancy yachts. Finally, there is a good chance that the aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy will be refurbished and moved from the Philadelphia Navy Yard, to the Coddington Piers right next to the Naval War College to become an Air Museum similar to the USS Intrepid in New York. The Navy has already approved this move. Lets hope this really happens!
WHAT WAS HERE:
Quonset Airport has quite a history, first as a major Naval Air Station in WW2 where the future President George H.W. Bush learned the knack of landing a TBM-3A “Avenger” at training sessions here and at nearby USN OLF Charlestown (“Charlie Town”); and now as home to the RIANG 143AW “Rhode Warriors” and their C-130J Super Hercs. Construction of NAS Quonset Point began in 1939 with the leveling and filling in of land to create a triangular 3-runway Naval Air Base and also deep water dredging to create an adjacent carrier pier for two large Essex-class attack carriers, that still exists today. Albert Khan, the famous 1940’s Industrial Architect, designed most of the Base layout and buildings. The first buildings were the waterfront hangers to the east for the PBY-5A Catalinas, some of which are still used today for building the sub sections for EB. The first fighters that were based here were for training and later were for the Carrier Wings that were based here such as the Vought F4U Corsair and the TBM-3A Avenger torpedo bomber. Later in the Cold War the Base saw the arrival of land-based patrol squadrons operating the P2V “Neptune” and carrier-based anti-submarine and airborne early warning squadrons operating the S-2 Tracker, the E-1 Tracer and various modified versions of the A-1 Skyraider.
NAS Quonset Point was also home of Arctic Development Squadron 6 (VX-6 and later VXE-6) operating the LC-47 Skytrain, the LP-2J Neptune, the C-54 Skymaster, the C-121 Constellation and eventually the LC-130F and the LC-130R Herclese “Snowbirds” as well as the HH-52 Seaguard and the SH-3 Sea King helicopters. That Arctic Mission now works out of the NYANG 109th AW at the Stratton ANGB at Schenectady, NY, flying the LC-130H Hercules airlifters with the modified wheeled-ski landing gear. The aircraft are specifically designed to support the US National Science Foundation and their research work at the South Pole. Quonset was also home to the major Aircraft Overhaul and Repair (O&R) Facility, later named the Naval Air Rework Facility (NARF), later moved to Oceana, but now called the Fleet Readiness Center (FRC). The largest Depot sized FRC’s on the east coast are now at Oceana, JAX and Cherry Point. With its deep water pier, Quonset was also home to several Essex-class aircraft carriers and their Carrier Air Groups (CAG) fighter squadrons and later larger carriers in the 1960’s. That continued until 28 June 1974 when NAS Quonset Point and nearby OLF Charlestown were closed as a result of budget cutbacks as the Vietnam War slowed down. In 1975 the Base real estate was sold to the State of Rhode Island and became the current Quonset State Airport. The surrounding facilities were made into an Industrial Park. In the 1990’s General Dynamics / Electric Boat took over many of the large buildings and hangers along the eastern coastline to manufacture nuclear submarine hull sections. Many other buildings became major ship repair facilities on and near the old carrier pier.
THE 143AW AT QUONSET:
In 1985 the 143rd Airlift Wing of the RIANG moved their C-130H’s from the commercial T.F. Greene Airport near Providence to relocate to a new ANG Facility at the west end of the Quonset State Airport. In 2001 the unit converted to the C-130J-30 Super Hercules stretch version, which is their current aircraft. The 143rd “Air Group” started out in 1955 as a RIANG Special Operations Squadron flying the smaller Grumman SA-16 “Albatross” and the U-10D Super Courier out of the T.F. Greene Airport near Providence. In 1968 they switched to the HU-16 version of the Albatross and became a Special Operations Group. In 1972 the 143AG again switched to the Fairchild C-119G/L “Flying Boxcar”. In 1975 the 143rd became a Tactical Airlift Group and now was assigned the C-130A “Hercules” airlifters. In 1980 the 143rd TAG started moving from the Greene Airport to their new home at the west end of Quonset State Airport. In 1985 the 143rd was selected for conversion to the C-130E Model and in 1989 they went to the H Model Herc. In 1995 the 143rd was elevated to Wing status and in July 2001 started to convert to the C-130J 6-bladed Super Hercules. They now fly six C-130J-30 “Stretch” Super Hercules aircraft out of Quonset.
AIR FORCE ONE !!!
I arrived early at the Quonset Point Air Show grounds on late Thursday afternoon and decided to go over to the old Control Tower lot and see what was going on. As I came in on 403, I saw to my amazement the distinct white and blue tail of SAM (Special Air Mission) 28000 “Air Force One” (a VC-25A), the Boeing 747-200 used by the President of the United States as the “Airborne Oval Office”. As I drove right next to the plane in the lot on the fence line it even had a black SUV van at the boarding stair with the US and Presidential flags on the bumper corners. A real Ringer for Air Force One BUT it wasn’t Air Force One! It was the Evergreen B-747-200 that was at the Quonset Show last year in its original Evergreen colors, the now bankrupt Air Cargo carrier, that was owned (and apparently still is owned) by a New York entraupener who had planned in 2017 to paint the exterior to be an exact replica (though now SAM 26000) of Air Force One! Well, it looks like he successfully did the paint job to the Evergreen 747 over the Winter here at Quonset right where it now sits. The Providence Journal reported last year that the Owner of the ex-Evergreen Boeing 747-212B (N485EV), one of ten 747 cargo jets that Evergreen owned before they went bankrupt, was purchased by Ari Scharf, president of NYC-based Franklyn Exhibits, who now controls the aircraft. Scharf is a Boston native who now lives in New York and is of Jewish heritage. He said he hoped to pay for the full conversion to AF-1 by selling the engines. He said he will ultimately ship the engine-less B747 by barge to NYC and then on to the Washington, DC area to become a permanent exhibit until 2023. Scharf’s company is paying the State of Rhode Island $2,000 per week to park the big jet at Quonset. No one knows who his other financial backers are. The website printed on the fuselage (www.airforceoneexperience.com) says he plans to redo the interior to match the real Air Force One exactly, then barge the whole show, Presidential black van with flags included, down to DC via New York at some date in the future. But right now it is parked within easy viewing distance for everyone to see anytime right by the old Control Tower parking lot. There is another website on the plane labeled (www.myairforceone.com). The main public entry on Saturday was through “Gate-1” at the east end that was right next to this AF-1 replica. Gee – It’s nice to have your own Air Force One airplane! And then there was that old CCR song that goes “And then the band played ‘Hail To The Chief’ “! Well, we had it here at the Quonset Air Show with our own Air Force One on display for the crowd to see up close!
THE STATIC LINE:
As you walked the Static Line from the public entry Security Control Point at Gate #1, you could easily see what was sadly missing this year were the 26 warbirds from the Quonset Air Museum, that were usually a main attraction at this show and were always wheeled out to the show ramp. Through lack of funding and with no “White Knight” coming to the rescue, most of the Museum’s beautifully restored warbirds have either been junked or sold off in a “Fire Sale” to other aviation museums. Sad also because some of those warbirds were being planned to be placed on the flight deck of the restored carrier JFK when it is finally brought up to the Coddington Pier in Newport. There was only one Museum beauty shown at show center of the Air Show static line – the beautifully restored and recently repainted F-14A Tomcat in VF-101 “Grim Reapers” colors (b/n 165591 / nose 206). I don’t know who now owns this F-14A now with the Museum gone. I found five other ex-Museum warbirds waiting for disposal near the old Museum Hanger but still in pretty good shape: a recently restored Grumman A-6E Intruder (155629 / 501); a white and blue Douglas A-4M Skyhawk (158148); an LTV A-7D Corsair II in SEA camo and AZ ANG tail band (75-0408); a Grumman C-1A Trader (136792); and a McDonnell-Douglas Navy F-4A Phantom II (in pieces). And that’s it! 21 airplanes and 5 missiles and only 6 are left in their Boneyard!
The ramp was pretty quiet early Saturday morning except for a few Media-types, some VIP’ers and a few base personnel families on patrol. I walked over to the public entry Gate #1 area at about 8:30. It was like Black Friday at K-Mart on the Day-After-Thanksgiving with 20,000 people waiting along the yellow security tape line for Security Forces to let them in at 9 AM. I think it was an air horn or something that rang at exactly 9 AM when the Masses were let in all at once! It was easily 10,000 plane-crazed people running, screaming, to get to the best spot on the orange fence line wire to watch the air show. I had to hide behind a Lemonade Cart to avoid being trampled to death!
Once that “Flash Mob” faded into the dust, I quietly walked the Line to get my Nose Count: Right next the Gate #1 was the roped off ex-Evergreen cargo plane B-747-200, now dressed up in a pretty accurate “Air Force One” (SAM-26000) paint job. Next, near the wire was a KC-135R Stratotanker air refueler from the 101st Air Refueling Wing (101ARW) “Maineiacs” out of Bangor ANGB with 4 red engine covers dedicated to members of the New England Patriots starting line: “Dynasty 11 Edelmas, Dynasty 87 Gronkowski, Dynasty 12 Brady (who?), Dynasty 53 Bruschi; next to the tanker was a C-130J-30 Stretched Super Hercules from the local 143rd Airlift Wing “Rhode Warriors” RIANG with a red “Rhode Island” tail band; a P-3C Orion that was supposed to be parked next to the Herc but was parked half a mile away on a remote ramp by the water (Did it have secret blisters? Why bring it?); a CAP C-172; an F/A-18C Hornet from VFA-37 ” Ragin’ Bulls” out of Oceana from CVW-8 “AJ” from the USS George H.W. Bush with a “Bull” tail art and a “ESTOCIN” inner tail logo in honor of Squadron Commander Estocin who recently won a command award; a restored 1940 Douglas DC-3 owned by Christopher Siderwicz out of Cape Cod Airfield in Barnstable, Mass., on the Cape, with a not too perfect white paint job on the airplane, which was previously a Provincetown-Boston Airways (PBA) puddle-jumper and before that did an original stint with American Airlines starting in 1940; eight General Aviation single engine light planes in a roped off area, with the most interesting one being a grey 1948 Cessna 140; the Army National Guard had an area with a MRAP, a HUMVEE, a M114-155mm Howitzer and two Blackhawks – a UH-60A utility helicopter and a UH-60A MEDEVAC helo; the ex-Museum F-14A Grumman Tomcat recently restored in a somewhat customized gloss grey paint job to resemble a VF-101 “Grim Reapers” CAG Bird out of Oceana (so, who owns this Cat now???); a 2018 Cirrus SR-22T in “Whelan” colors out of Barnstable Airport on the Cape; an unusual Cirrus 2018 SF-50 fixed-wing 7-seater with a rear-mounted single Williams FJ-33-5A 2,000 lb. thrust turbo-fan jet engine mounted on the top of the rear fuselage, also in Whelan colors (NB: both Whelan planes were fenced off in a secure Whelan guest Chalet area not open for public viewing, unless you really wanted to buy one of the planes); outside the Army National Guard Aviation Unit were two Vietnam-era Gate Guards – a Bell AH-1 Cobra Gun Ship attack helicopter and a Bell UH-1 Huey (Iroquois) utility helicopter; then a new USN Boeing P-8A Poseidon ASW/ASUW aircraft (B737-800ERX) out of Navy JAX; a Grumman E-2C Hawkeye from VAW-124 “Bear Aces” assigned to the USS George H.W. Bush out of NS Norfolk Chambers Field; an HH-60 Pave Hawk helo from the 106th Rescue Wing (106RQW / 102RSQ) out of Francis S. Gabrieski ANGB, Westhampton Beach, LI, NY; a T-6 Texan II from Columbus AFB; a twin-Beech Model 76 Duchess with a “T” tail; a 2005 Horizon Aviation Cessna 172S; and another RIANG C-130J-30 Super Hercules from the 143AW “Rhode Warriors”.
Then there was the roped off “Hot Ramp” over on the 143 AW ANG Ramp: the Blue Angels BA-1 to BA-7. (Their C-130 Bert is still being worked on and didn’t make it.); the USCG SAR Sikorski HH-60 Jayhawk rescue helicopter on the remote Ready Alert grass pad out of Otis-Air Station Cape Cod, Falmouth; the Geico Skytypers with their five SNJ-2 /T-6 Texans out of Republic Airport, LI, NY; the USAF F-35A “Lightning II” Heritage Flight Air Demo Team with two F-35’s from the 56th FW (LF) out of Luke AFB, AZ; a single F-16CJ from the F-16 Viper East Demo Team from the 20th FW out of Shaw AFB, SC; two C-130J’s that were part of the C-130 2-ship Tac Air Demo; Greg “Wired” Colyer’s Lockheed TF-80C / T-33 Shooting Star with the “Ace Maker II” Demo Team; Michael Goulian’s Goodyear blue and grey carbon fiber mono-wing Extra 330SC; Mark Murphy’s P-51D Mustang “Never Miss” with a green wing top and a yellow nose; Charles Lynch’s glossy dark blue F4U Corsair “N51” patterned after Sen. John Glenn’s WW2 Corsair “God Speed” (nose logo) usually at the American Air Power Museum at Republic Airport in Farmingdale, LI, NY but based in West Albany, NY; Charles Lynch’s other plane, a TBM Avenger “She’s the Boss” out of Westchester Co. Apt. in White Plains, NY (named after his wife “Elizabeth” who I guess is the real “Boss”) and the same type of plane that the future President George H.W. Bush learned to fly in both here and at the “Charlie Town” OLF; Sean D. Tucker’s orange bi-plane Oracle Challenger III; the Oracle Teams new second orange aerobatic mono-wing stunt plane; Andrew McKenna’s 1944 silver gloss bare metal P-51D Mustang, especially certified and qualified for the F-35 Heritage Formation Flight, based in Arlington, VA and finally Hot Ramp credit must be given to the Army HU-60 Blackhawk doing photo passes along 16/34 at 10 AM for Crowd Shots.
THE FLYING LINE:
The Flying Show began at 0945 with the take off of the 143AW C-130J with the US Naval Academy Parachute Jump Team on board. The UH-60 Blackhawk made a few low photo passes at 1025 just before the opening speeches. The TBM Avenger and the F4U Corsair lifted off in a 2-ship launch at 1030 and held to the west. We had “Jumpers Away” at 1035 with a Free-Fall from 10,000 and Chutes Open at 3,000 in a clear CAVU blue sky. The Warbird 2-ship came back with a head on “Missing-Man” in honor of Ken Johansen, XO of the Skytypers, who died in a fatal crash at Republic Airport a few weeks ago. (PhotoRecon extends its condolences to Ken’s family and the Skytyper Team for their tragic loss.). The local boy, Michael Goulien, out of nearby Plymouth, Mass., was up next with his Goodyear Extra 330C aerobatic monoplane for a performance. Not to be outdone by Goulian, Sean D. Tucker went up right after with his Oracle Challenger III orange bi-wing stunt plane along with a new addition to the Oracle Team, Johnny DiGenero flying an Extra 330LX orange mono wing. Tucker announced that he is now starting a “Team Oracle” 2-ship Demo Team for future air shows. So far this outfit looks pretty good together!. The Air Boss, Capt. Dave Buckingham, next recovered his C-130J Jump Plane. Now it was time for Tim Tebow (No, not the famous ex-football player, but rather the German A330/A340 airliner Captain, who was subbing today for Greg “Wired” Colyer) to take up the USAF colored T-33 Shooting Star “Ace Maker II” for a slow graceful performance of this Korean War hero. Right after this the Skytypers launched their noisy SNJ- 5-ship and held for a while to the west. Chris Darnell then blew out everybody’s ear drums with the Shockwave Jet Truck doing a 360 mph blowout down 16/34. The Skytypers then came back for their usual well done WW2 5-ship Tac Air Demo. Next was a second parachute drop at 1200 Noon by the 101st Rescue Squadron from the 106th Rescue Wing out of West Hampton Beach, LI, NY jumping from the C-130J Jump Plane from the 143AW. Finally the morning ended with a FOD Sweep and a 30 minute Lunch Break.
About 1230 it was time for one of the Big Shows of the day: It used to be called a “Combined Arms Demo”. Now it is called a “Capabilities Exercise”. (Same Thing!). Two C-130J’s launched in a MITO max power combat climb out. One split off for an air drop demo with a short field combat approach and minimum field landing. Very quickly the ramp came down and they unloaded a HUMVEE, all while Arabic music was playing! The 130 next did a back-up K-turn and a combat back-taxi and next did a max power short field take off in 1500 feet while under simulated small arms fire. The second 130, ” Rhodey-11″ came back in a low pass to act as a FAC to scout the area for Bad Guys. “Rhody-10” continued holding to the west. Once the “Friendlies” had totally secured the LZ, the Air boss safely recovered both aircraft on a normal glide slope approach. Now the “Aerobatic Box” over Quonset was clear for setting up the 3-ship Heritage Flight. First Major Jon “Rain” Waters, CO of the Viper-East F-16 Demo Team of the 20th FW out of Shaw, took his F-16CJ up to hold after a quick demo. Andrew McKenna was next up next with his silver gloss P-51D Mustang famous for not having a name (“No Name”?). Finally, Captain Andrew “DoJo” Olson, USAF F-35A Lightning II Heritage Flight Team Commander and Chief Pilot, from the 56th FW out of Luke AFB, did a burner take off and demonstration of his brand new F-35. It should be noted that only 10 civilian pilots are qualified to fly vintage warbirds in formation with modern Air Force single-ship demonstration teams that lately have been known to team up in some instances to form a 3-ship deltas with the fourth Warbird single. As a result, very few Warbird pilots in the US are certified by the USAF and qualified to fly the tight Heritage Flight Demos with the “Fast Movers” – A-10’s, F-15’s, F-16’s and now even the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning II. Likewise, only certain certified USAF demo pilots are qualified to fly tight with the “Slow Mover” warbirds. Before each air show season in April, all pilots are jointly trained at Davis-Monthan in the desert MOA’s of southern Arizona. And some don’t make the cut. Finally the 3-ship Heritage Formation sets up from the west and performs a couple passes up along the crowd line at 1500 feet. Then they circle around to the south and come in to the Box from behind the crowd line as the music plays “We Remember” and “Keep Em’ Flying”. Then, as the diamond comes overhead and heads to the north, the P-51 continues straight out and the two fighters do a cross-over break low over Narraganset Bay and line up for a number of low straight line passes over the runway before setting up to land. But actually they didn’t land; they headed west. Stand-by for Full Disclosure!
Then we had another 2-ship Warbird launch. Mark Murphy went up with his P-51D Mustang “Never Miss”, the one with the green wing and yellow nose, and Charlie Lynch was close behind with his dark blue “N51” F4U Corsair. Both warbirds did a nice 2-ship demo and a pretend ACM chase. I have no idea why, but after the warbirds taxied past the crowd line, Rob Reider, the Show Announcer, wanted to play “Sweet Caroline”. He did and got all 50,000 spectators to sing along with him! (In honor of Carline Kennedy, local Celeb?) Back to flying: Michael Goulian went up again for his long show in his Extra 330SC and thrilled the crowd with his hanging maneuvers. The Jet Truck did it again, this time at 372 mph and the chutes all held. The orange Team Oracle went up with Sean D. Tucker in his Oracle Challenger III, this time doing the Ribbon Cutting Act. The T-33 went up again. Finally, what everyone came for – The Blue Angels went up at 1500 without Bert and did their standard but safe 6, 4 and 2-ship routines with great music and great announcing and great program signing along the wire after the show.
But as Mr. Yogi Berra once said; “It’s never over ’till its over”! Well that was true for this air show if you waited long enough. Remember that 3-ship Heritage Flight that never landed and flew off into the sunset? Well, where did they go? To New York? Maybe? Yes, they took a leisurely ride west along the Long Island Coast to NY to fly over the “Belmont Stakes” horse race at the Belmont Park Race Track in Elmont, LI, NY near Queens, New York. Well, after completing that Mission, they did a short RTB back to Quonset Airport arriving in the pattern about 5:30. Apparently they got good mileage and were far from Bingo. So what do you do when you still have gas – Right, burn it off! And that they did! I was about the last person to leave the ramp and it was a good thing that I and a few others stayed. We got a good Burner Air Show, low and loud, for about 15 minutes with all three airplanes “Beating Up The Runway” with Burner Passes, getting rid of that extra fuel. I, along with a few of the Vendors still there, got “One Hell of a Show” until 6 PM. Just proves – Never go home till its absolutely over or they kick you out! Good way to avoid the traffic too!
See you all at the next one!