Joint Base Andrews 2015 Air Show
Government budget cuts and a federal sequestration precipitated a four year suspension to the Joint Base Andrews air show. Returning with renewed enthusiasm, the theme for 2015 was “America’s Airfield: Celebrating History, Celebrating Freedom.” The celebration was an opportunity for the Joint Base to say “Thank You” to the community, the state and the National Capital Region for all of their incredible support. The air show was a culmination of weeklong activities in the National Capital Region, including the Air Force’s birthday and recognizing the U.S. Navy Reserve’s one hundred years of service.
On the Ramp
This year again continued Andrews’ familiar tradition of exhibiting a large arrangement of eclectic static display aircraft. Naturally, the Air Force was proud to show case some of their many assets. The mall of aircraft included: a MDANG A-10, Dyess AFB B-1B, CV-22, MAANG F-15, two Columbus AFB T-38s and T-6-II, Beale AFB U-2, DCANG F-16 and 459th ARW KC-135. There was also no shortage of helicopters. The kids loved sitting in the U.S. Army UH-1s, UH-60s, DC NG UH-72s, Coast Guard MH-65 and MH-60, turning numerous dials and flipping the many switches. The U.S. Navy was represented by two VFC-111 F-5s. Additional unusual aircraft included a Department of Homeland Security P-3 with radar dome and NASA’s Super Guppy. The Civil Air Patrol had an array of nearly two dozen different types of patrol planes from several nearby states. Further up the ramp there was a line of eight different home-built crafts from the Experimental Aircraft Association. Anchored by the “heavies” at either end was a Barksdale AFB B-52, Dover AFB C-5M, McGuire AFB C-17 and KC-10. As the estimated 100,000 attendees wandered the ramp examining the diverse and varied displays they were entertained by a compilation of pleasing background music provided by Jay Rabbit and his Air Show One audio production company.
Making its debut appearance at Andrews was the U.S. Air Force’s newest fifth-generation fighter, the F-35A Lightening-II from the 33 FW Eglin AFB, FL. Drawing lots of attention and surrounded by high security, the jet’s pilots and maintainers answered the many questions from an inquiring public. For the first time, Andrews-based Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration’s Aerial Measuring System (AMS) showed off their Bell 412HP and Beech King Air200 aircraft. AMS provides specialized real-time measurements of low level air and ground radiological contamination. The Bell carries external radiation detection pods; the Beech Kingair’s are internal. The unit’s trained experts maintain a state of readiness to respond to any radiological emergency at any time. A west coast team is based at Nellis Air Force Base, NV.
Before the official flying portion of the show started, the audience was treated to the unusual event of having a U-2 Dragon Lady break over the field and land with a chase car following close behind. Once over the runway, the U-2 pilot, wearing a space helmet, finds it impossible to know his exact altitude above the ground. The chase car, driven by another U-2 pilot, makes radio calls to the landing pilot for the final few feet, slowly guiding him to the surface.
With Matt Jolley announcing and Jay Rabbit’s appropriate selections of melodic interludes; from the head-on, a four-ship of weapon laden 113th Fighter Wing (DC ANG) F-16’s roared over the crowd, signifying the official opening. The Falcons then continued with several echelon passes in the pattern followed by a Missing Man Formation before breaking to land. With the F-16s secured in their shelters, where they stood “Alert” in vigilant watch over the Nation’s Capital Region, an 11th Wing UH-1N orbited high overhead. The UH-1 provided the jump platform for the U.S. Special Operations Command Parachute Team which brought the American flag to show center, while the U.S. Air Force Band played the National Anthem. The USSOCOM’s Para-Commandos are active duty military or Department of Defense civilians assigned to the Special Operations Command. Most are combat veterans with Special Operations backgrounds and have served with the US Army Special Forces, Army Rangers, Air Force Para-Rescuers, Navy SEALs or Special Operations Marines. All have full time jobs at the Special Operations Command Headquarters, located at MacDill Air Force Base, FL. With all jumpers safe on deck, a Joint Base Andrews 11th Wing UH-1N three-ship Muscle formation and 459th ARW KC-135 performed fly-pasts.
The civilian acts began with a very clever Kent Pietsch in his Piper Cub playing a Chuck Dramamine comic routine. With the announcer taking part in the skit and broadcasting radio calls over the loud speakers, Chuck, was acting as if he didn’t know how to fly the commandeered plane. The humorous act included dropping an aileron, tire and a roll of toilet paper that he cut it in half with the propeller. Later in the day Kent Pietsch “Jelly Belly” antics continued when he landed on top of a moving RV. It was fun entertainment for all ages. Following Kent, Scott Francis’ MX-2 aerobatic plane kept heads moving, as he flew up and down and, back and forth in front of the crowd. Scott flew the MX-2 so fast it was nearly impossible to photograph!
In honor of the 70th Anniversary to the end of World War II, B-25 Miss Hap, the world’s oldest B-25 flying and the personal plane of General Hap Arnold, flew with B-25 Panchito. On board Panchito was DAV retired Brigadier General George Bartlett who had flown seventy-five B-25 missions. Panchito piloted by its owner, Larry Kelly, has been traveling the country since 1997 with a loaded bomb bay educating the public about the Doolittle Raiders. Each bomb contains numerous signatures of B-25 veterans who starting leaving their mark since 1997. Mr. Kelly doesn’t how many signatures, but suspects there are hundreds- each with its own memorable story to tell.
The 70th anniversary was further observed with a war bird flight of two P-51 Mustangs (Quick Silver and Bald Eagle) one P-40 War Hawk (The Jackie C.) and a Corsair (JT 416) flying multiple racetrack formations. The planes then broke for individual strafing that included ground pyrotechnics. When the war birds landed, the large T-28 Trojan Horsemen trainer aircraft, with engines growling, taxied to continue the “battle.” The Trojan’s grand finale’ was a formation break-out with pyrotechnics and returning for a Missing Man to the playing of taps.
Before the final military demos, the ramp was engulfed with smoke, flames and lots of engine noise. The young and young at heart were on their feet and pressed to the fence when the Flash Fire Jet Truck fired up its ear-piercing engines. The small pick-up truck belched voluminous clouds of smoke and flames as it made its way up the ramp and on to the runway where he challenged David Windmiller’s Zivko Edge 540 to a race following Windmiller’s performance.
The crowd dared not give up their precious fence-line positions in anticipation of the F-22 Raptor demo. The audience was in awe as F-22 pilot Major John Taboo Cummings demonstrated the overwhelming capabilities of the stealth fighter. Following Taboo’s performance, he joined Jim Beasley in his Bald Eagle P-51 for the Heritage Flight tribute to our nation’s war veterans.
Finishing out the day’s flight syllabus and highlighting the show were the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds. Their red, white and blue F-16’s with smoke on, showed brilliant in the back drop of the beautiful blue sky and white puffy clouds. The team was precise and exciting with three surprise sneak passes.
The joint base is planning a 2017 show; one or two days depending on funding.