Looking Back: The 2002 NAS Norfolk Air Show


Continuing on a theme introduced a month ago; this is the second installment of photographs from airshows that I attended prior to the age of digital photography. I am not proceeding in any particular chronological order from my collection. I am merely examining the boxes upon boxes of photographs and pulling the best shows from the compilation of slides and negatives that I have amassed.
I have been attending airshows regularly since the mid 80’s, but due to the fact that I had little money to spend on a quality camera and lenses during that time, I am only converting photographs starting from the late 90’s to 2005. 2005 being the time I purchased my first Nikon digital camera.

As I mentioned in the previous article, I am using an Epson Perfection V850 Pro, flatbed scanner, driven by SilverFast Ai Studio 8 software to convert my Kodachrome 64 slides and Kodak Royal Gold 100 negative film. The camera of choice back in 2002 was a Nikon N90s SLR with assorted Nikon lenses.

I chose to convert the photographs from the 2002 Naval Station Norfolk Airshow to digital images because of the strength and variety of the aircraft displayed at the airshow. Scheduled in the month of April, the event was typically the first airshow of the season, (after a long winter of inactivity), for photographers living on the east coast. The airshow was one of the main attractions in the annual salute to NATO taking place within the Norfolk Virginia International Azalea Festival. The tradition of the International Azalea Festival was inspired by the establishment of NATO’s Allied Command Atlantic in Norfolk.

Unsettled weather is always a factor in late April in the Hampton Roads, Norfolk area. 2002 was no exception to this rule, with mixed hazy sunshine and cloudy conditions. On top of that challenge is the matter of shooting into the sun for the live aerial demonstrations. Nevertheless, Norfolk delivered a high quality mix of interesting static and live acts. Taxiing aircraft and the static display were treated with great lighting conditions, and this was certainly a substantial bonus for photography at Norfolk.
Let’s review some of the aircraft found at this show which sadly are no longer found in the US military’s inventory and/or no longer participating on the airshow circuit.

First and foremost I must make mention of the Georgia Air National Guard B-1B on static display. In addition, we were treated to a spectacular B-1B aerial demonstration from the Kansas Air National Guard. Additionally we witnessed an F-14D demo from VF-101, the Grim Reapers.

More jet action was found with the F-104 Starfighters team and F-86 as well as a Langley F-15C participation in the USAF heritage flight. Trainers had a significant footprint at the show with a Navy T-2C Buckeye and Airforce T-37 Tweet from Vance AFB.

Continuing on this theme of extinct markings we find Massachusetts based A-10’s, and a Virginia based F-16. Displaying attractively in sunlight was the “US Steel” logo nose art on a KC-135E from Pennsylvania. Another retired version in the static display was a C-130E from Little Rock AFB and a local based C-9B from Norfolk.

In closing, I would like to point out that a Turkish C-130 supporting the Turkish Stars was on site, and of course no NATO airshow could be without a NATO E-3 sitting on the ramp.

In reviewing this show from 2002 it certainly brings to mind all of the variety that existed in the static display and aerial demonstration portion of the airshows taking place almost twenty years ago. Variety, which I truly miss being represented at shows nowadays and it is quite unfortunate that this show, which was a real treasure, is no longer on the airshow schedule.

The reality of it is that the military has changed dramatically during the past twenty years and it is foolish to think those changes would not impact the scope and volume of aircraft at airshows. Leaner forces, global commitment, hardware commonality between services and tighter budgets are just a few of the reasons for the changes seen. Looking ahead my hope is that we can continue to maintain a high quality airshow and also strike a nice balance of representing the current inventory on static display and in the air.

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