Wings Over Wayne 2019


Seymour Johnson Air Force Base hosted their bi-annual airshow, Wings Over Wayne (WOW) on April 27th and 28th. The 4th Fighter Wing and the 916th Air Refueling Wing were the hosts and the show was located on the 916th ramp.

Seymour Johnson is unique in that it is the only Air Force Base named for a Naval Aviator. Navy Lt. Seymour A. Johnson was a test pilot from Goldsboro, North Carolina who died in an airplane crash in 1941.
Seymour Johnson AFB has a single Runway 08/26. The sun angle for photography is challenging. It moves from left and in front to right and slightly behind at show’s end. If I am to be a transparent Photojournalist, I confess to being here solely for the F-15E Strike Eagles. Everything else is a bonus. I became an Eagle Guy in the early 1990s when I saw one for the first time turning final into Pope Air Force Base. It looked like a predator. The shape of the wings, her twin tails and two enormous engines had me hooked. So, now you know. Back to the story,

The 4th Fighter Wing traces its history back to before the United States entered World War II. The American Volunteers fought with the Royal Air Force flying the Supermarine Spitfire from 1940 to 1942 when they were absorbed into the 8th Air Force. Today’s 334th, 335th and 336th Fighter Squadrons were RAF Eagle Squadrons 71, 121 and 133, respectively. In addition to the 333rd Fighter Squadron, the four squadrons of the 4th Fighter Wing fly the F-15E Strike Eagle. The 333rd (“Lancers”, Red Tail flash) and the 334th (“Fighting Eagles”, Blue flash) are the F-15E training squadrons. The 335th (“Chiefs”, Green flash) and the 336th (“Rocketeers”, Yellow flash) are operational squadrons. A new Reserve squadron has stood up recently to help train and capitalize on already trained reservists. They use aircraft of the Lancers but have a few tail flashes for the 307th Fighter Squadron, the “Stingers”.

The 916th Air Refueling Wing is an Air Force Reserve Component flying the KC-135 Stratotanker. Two squadrons fall under the 916th. The 77th Air Refueling Squadron, “The Totin’ Tigers” and the 911th, “The Red Eagles”, which is an operational squadron geographically separated from MacDill AFB. The 916th is scheduled to begin receiving new KC-46 Pegasus tankers within a year. One of these KC-46 tankers flew in for static display.

Media events were held on the Thursday prior with the arrival of the F-35A Demonstration Team and the USAF Thunderbirds in addition to other aircraft arriving for static display. The aforementioned KC-46, an E-3 AWACS, B-52 Bomber, and a Spitfire arrived while we were there. Other statics found at the show were two F-22s from Langley AFB, two F-35As from Eglin AFB, an F-16 from Shaw AFB, a home based KC-135, a C-5 from Dover AFB, a C-130 from Little Rock, the P-51, “Swamp Fox”, a T-6 Texan II, a T-1, North Carolina State Police and Medical Helicopters, and six F-15Es from the hometown team.

The Show
Shortly after 10am, the first aircraft to fly are the home based Strike Eagles. Everyone runs to the show line to spot the Eagles roaring off loudly in afterburner. Six are launched but only four return overhead during the National Anthem. During recovery, the other two, assumed to be spares, reappear with spread formation tactical breaks to land. Some perform a missed approach and enter the pattern again. Matt Younkin also launched in that time period with the Black Daggers onboard his Beech 18. They would perform the flag drop but were unable on Saturday due to high winds. Matt Younkin would perform later in the Beech 18. He also participated in a night show for military personnel and families of the base.

Other performances included Randy Ball in his Mig 17, Greg Colyer in his T-33, “Ace Maker”, Bill Stein and Kevin Coleman in a formation act and separately as solos, Gene Soucy in his Grumman Showcat, Tora, Tora, Tora, “blew up” the airfield and Shockwave brought the heat. Unless I missed it, we did not see Randy Ball perform on Sunday. Sunday also started out cloudy and cool until about 1PM.

Military performances included the C-17 Globemaster III demonstration, the F-35A Demo Team (first time seeing the new demonstration), and the Combined Arms Demonstration. This demonstration featured six Strike Eagles, two A-10 Warthogs, a KC-135 and a C-17 with the Black Daggers onboard. Paratroopers, pyrotechnics, and flares were employed as Strike Eagles and Hogs attacked the airfield and suppressed ground forces. Airborne refueling was also demonstrated. The Thunderbirds then closed the show both days.

I would like to thank the many men and women of 4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs, a special friend in Protocol, the F-35A Demonstration Team, and the Thunderbirds for their time and polite accessibility. The media privileges afforded me are never taken for granted. The staff and volunteers of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base deserve a thank you for putting on a successful event and the daunting after-action cleanup of those casual, cluttery airshow fans.

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