THE 2022 MILWAUKEE AIR AND WATER SHOW
Back after a Covid induced break, my hometown welcomed the Milwaukee Air and Water show back to Downtown Milwaukee. This 2-day event held on July 23rd and 24th was once again held at Bradford Beach, on the shores of Lake Michigan. The headliner for this year’s show was the U.S. Navy Blue Angels and their Boeing FA-18 E/F Super Hornets along with their Lockheed C-130J Super Hercules, affectionately named “Fat Albert.” Several other airshow performers were on hand and included the U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor Demo Team, A-10C Thunderbolt II’s from the 127th Fighter Wing and one of only two flyable Boeing B-29 Superfortresses in the world, “DOC”.
All of the airshow performers once again used General Mitchell International Airport as they have in past years, being only 6 miles South of the Airshow Box. All of the military performers staged from the Milwaukee based 128th Air Refueling Wing which is located on the East side of the airport and adjacent to Runway 25 Left and 7 Right. This was the only runway available for all commercial and military traffic as the main Runway 19 Right and 1 Left was closed during this time frame for taxiway construction. The made the 6 story centrally located parking garage as the perfect place to capture all of the arrivals and departures. It is from this location that all of the following photos were taken.
As mentioned, the U.S. Navy Blue Angels were the headliner act of this years show. The Blue Angels recently transitioned to the Boeing F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet which provided the team with an advanced platform over the Legacy Boeing F/A-18 Hornets they flew previously. The Super Hornet is powered by a pair of General Electric F414-GE-400 Afterburning Turbofan engines, which gives the aircraft a top speed of 1,190 miles per hour and offers superior maneuverability over the Legacy Hornets. The team transitioned to the Super Hornet in 2021, this was their first visit to Milwaukee with the new aircraft.
In 2020 the Blue Angels commissioned a Lockheed C-130J Super Hercules to assume the role of “Fat Albert” to fly equipment and personnel to and from airshow sites. This C-130J is operated by the U.S. Marine Corps and was picked up from the Royal Air Force in 2019. The C-130 first flew 68 years ago and has been in production since 1954 and is the longest continually produced military aircraft in history. In addition to its transport duties, “Fat Albert” also performs in the airshow with a series of maneuvers that highlights how nimble this transport aircraft truly is.
The U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor Demo Team was also a highlight of the 2022 airshow. The F-22 Raptor Demo Team is based out of Joint Base Langley-Eustis Virginia with its current Commander being Major Joshua “Cabo” Gunderson. The Lockheed Martin F-22A Raptor is a fifth-generation air superiority fighter and is powered by a pair of Pratt & Whitney F-119-PW-110-100 afterburning turbofan engines that employs 2-dimensional thrust vectoring nozzles giving the F-22 a top speed of approximately 1,500 miles per hour. This thrust vectoring technology allows the F-22 to perform maneuvers that no other combat aircraft can. The F-22 is also part of the U.S. Air Force Heritage Flight program where today’s frontline combat aircraft fly alongside World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War era warbirds in a salute to Veterans past and present. The warbird represented at this year’s airshow was a World War II Era North American P-51D Mustang named “Happy Jack Go Buggy”.
My home state of Wisconsin was well represented with the Wisconsin Air National Guard providing aerial support in the form of my home town Milwaukee based 128TH Air Refueling Wing flying the Boring KC-135R Stratotanker. The 128th has been based at Mitchell International Airport since 1947 and has operated the KC-135 since 1977, when it replaced another Boeing product, the KC-97 Stratofreighter. The KC-135R is powered by four CFM International F108-CF-100 Turbofan engines that generate 21,600#’s of thrust each. The KC-135 has been in service since 1957, with approximately 400 converted to the “R” model.
The other flying unit of the Wisconsin Air National Guard was also represented by the Madison Wisconsin based 115th Fighter Wing flying the General Dynamics Lockheed Matin F-16C Block 30 Fighting Falcon. The 115th has flown F-16’s since 1993 and is scheduled to transition next year to the fifth generation Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II. Typically, the Truax Air National Guard based F-16’s carry very colorful tail markings, but with the unit retiring the type, these two examples were devoid of these tail markings and were transferred to other units shortly after this year’s airshow.
The Michigan Air National Guard was represented by a pair of Republic Fairchild A-10C Thunderbolt II’s, which are part of the 127th Wing based at Selfridge Air National Guard Base Michigan. The actual flying unit is the 107th Fighter Wing, nicknamed the “Red Devils”. The 107th Fighter Wing has operated the A-10 since 2008, with the unit itself able to trace its roots back to 1917 when the 107th Aero Squadron was formed.
The 71st Flying Training Squadron based at Joint Base Langley-Eustis Virginia flew a pair of gloss black Northrop T-38C Talons for the airshow. The 71st Fighter Squadron is better known by its nickname of the “Ironmen” with its primary mission being to conduct adversary air training for the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptors flown by other squadrons. The 71st Fighter Training Squadron has flown the T-38 since 2015 with the T-38 itself first taking flight in 1959.
The final military performer for this year’s airshow came in the form of a two-year-old Boeing P-8A Poseidon, assigned to Patrol Squadron 30 (VP-30). VP-30 is based at Naval Air Station Jacksonville Florida and is a Fleet Replacement Squadron. VP-30 is responsible for providing specific training to U.S. Navy and foreign military personnel on the P-8A. The Poseidon has largely replaced the turboprop powered Lockheed P-3 Orion in the maritime patrol and reconnaissance role. VP-30 has operated the P-8 since 2012, with the aircraft sharing its airframe with the widely popular Boeing 737-800.
Several civilian performers and warbirds were also part of the airshow this year and operated out of the Avflight Ramp located in the Northwest corner of the airport. The most notable being N69972, a 1944 built Boeing TB-29 Super Fortress and named “DOC”. This is one of only two flyable B-29 ‘s left in the world besides the Commemorative Air Force’s “FIFI”. This Wichita Kansas based warbird is flown and owned by Doc’s Friends, INC. and when not performing in the airshow also offered rides which help keep this rare warbird flying. This was “Doc’s” first visit to Milwaukee since the aircraft was returned to flying status in 2016.
It is also worth noting that a Boeing KC-46A Pegasus Tanker was also operating out of the 128th Air Refueling Wing ramp this weekend. This KC-46A was devoid of all squadron or unit markings except for serial number of 56067. This KC-46A is only 5 months old and was delivered to the U.S. Air Force in May of this year. The KC-46A is the first phase of modernizing the aging tanker force with greater refueling, cargo, and aero-medical evacuation capabilities. The KC-46A is based off the civilian Boeing 767-200 airframe.
General Mitchell International Airport is a joint use facility, and is the primary airport serving the Milwaukee area. This allowed plenty of opportunities to catch commercial airliners, business jets, and cargo aircraft as well.
Milwaukee is a very photographer friendly airport with several spots around the airport to capture all of the action civilian and military alike. This is a great alternative that allows you to still see parts of the airshow action. Until next time, “Blue Skies, To All!”