Looking Back at the 2002 Dover AFB Air Show


With no current air show activity taking place and nothing realistically happening in the foreseeable future, I could not think of a better time than now but to go through my archive of negatives and slides and start scanning images from airshows I attended prior to digital SLR’s.

I chose Dover AFB to be one of my first scanning projects for no other reason than I truly enjoy photographing at this location. The Dover AFB show back then always had a more relaxed feel than some of the more popular east coast shows like Andrews, McGuire and Oceana. Back in 2002 my camera of choice was a Nikon N90s SLR. Although not a professional camera this model performed as if it was, with a very solid feel, fast auto-focus and a stainless-steel lens mount. During the mid-1990’s the camera sold easily for over $1000. Unbelievably, today you can pick up used, one of these superb advanced auto-focus 35mm film cameras for about $50.

Back in my film days I mostly used Kodak Kodachrome 64 for my slides and Kodak Royal Gold 100 for negatives. The scanner I am using to convert the slides and negatives is an Epson Perfection V850 Pro, flatbed scanner, driven by SilverFast Ai Studio 8 software. I am new to both the hardware and software, but after spending time with the combination, I am able to get fairly good results. Although I will say that the quality of your scans is highly influenced by the lighting conditions of the image. Gray days often yield more grainy results.

Back in 2002 the Dover AFB airshow took place on May 26th and May 27th. The weather at the base was quite hazy over the two days but the sun did shine at times so it was not a total gray affair. The show featured the USAF Thunderbirds and the US Army Golden Knights. What you will notice on each of the Thunderbirds F-16’s is the “Let’s Roll” nose art.

Let’s Roll is in reference to the famous words spoken by passenger Todd Beamer on board United Airlines Flight 93 as he led other passengers attempting to overthrow the hijackers on the 9/11/2001 flight, which was less than a year from the date of the Dover airshow. In addition to the Thunderbirds you will find “Lets’ Roll” nose art on the F-117 stealth fighter from Holloman AFB and the F-15C demo bird from Eglin AFB, both of which performed at Dover over the weekend.

Dale Snodgrass added to the variety and quality of the flying demonstration portion of the show with a single ship as well as joining up with the Eglin F-15C for the heritage flight, in an F-86 Sabre wearing USAF Skyblazers markings. Fowler Cary’s Thunderbird T-33 also participated in a flying demonstration that yielded good photographic opportunities.

Dover being a C-5 base provided an impressive display showing off their C-5B’s finesse and brute strength. Westover Air Reserve Base brought over their C-5A as well. Last but not least I must make mention that the US Navy rose to the occasion and truly provided one of the highlights of the show via an F-14D demo from VF-101 the Grim Reapers at Oceana Naval Air Station.

Looking back at this particular airshow at Dover in 2002 provided fond memories of an event that was conducted during quite uncertain times, being so close after the tragedy of 9/11. I am looking forward to future shows at Dover AFB when we can once again enjoy ourselves photographing and viewing the impressive displays in the air and on the ground, putting these current uncertain and challenging times behind us.

Howard German

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