Latest Articles Appearing On Classic Warbirds.. Random Warbirds #7

BAC Strikemaster at Andrews AFB.

P-51D Mustang at Andrews AFB.

P-40E Warhawk at Andrews AFB.

Air Force Heritage Flight at Andrews AFB.

P-51A Mustang at Lockborne, Ohio.

P-51D Mustang at Lockborne Ohio.

P-51C Mustang at Lockborne, Ohio.

North American P-51 Mustang at Lockborne, Ohio’s Gathering of Mustangs.

P-51D at Andrews AFB.

P-51D at Andrews AFB.


MiG-17 at Nellis AFB, Nevada.

N2S-5 at the Udvar-Hazy Museum- NASM, Virginia

MiG-167 at Nellis AFB, Nevada.

Bell UH-1B at Nellis AFB, Nevada.

P-51C Mustang at Lockborne, Ohio.

P-38 Lightning at Lockborne, Ohio.

P-51D low pass, NAS Pensacola, Florida.

North American F-86F at Andrews AFB.

North American P-51D Mustang at Andrews AFB.

Cessna A-37 Dragonfly at Westover ARB, Masssachusetts.

Boeing EC-135G Airborne Command Post at Westover ARB, Massachusetts.

B-25J at Dayton, Ohio.

FG-1D Corsair at NAS Oceana, Virginia Beach, Virginia.

North American T-28 formation, NAS Patuxent River, Maryland.




Looking Back at 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.









Hanscom AFB’s 1989 and 1991 Air Shows

42nd Bomb Wing KC-135R based at Loring AFB, Maine. The base is now closed Air Force Base due to the BRAC. 

The two year period between 1989 and 1991 saw a pair of air shows at Massachusetts’ Hanscom AFB, to the west of Boston found in the suburb of Bedford. Twenty years has seen a huge turnover of military aircraft in the United States… look at what was displayed in the years on either side of Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

Westover Air Reserve Base – based C-5A Galaxy. It is parked in the desert at the AMARG now.

MC-130E Combat Talon complete with the now-retired Fulton Recovery System.

E-2 Hawkeye with a pair of shared  MiG-21 kills.

This E-2C is now retired and used as a training fuselage.

This S-3B has a pair of red radar installation kill markings inder the “702”

Marine Corps OV-10D Broncos were retired shortly after Desert Storm ended.

C-5A with European-style camouflage… a desert war with desert camouflage was not in the foreseeable future a few years earlier.

A Vermont ANG/158 FW F-16A ADF (Air Defense Variant). The 158th FW now flies the F-35B Lightning II.

Looks like a former Blue Angels “Boss” is now a CAG in  1991!! Captain Moneymaker retired as a Rear Admiral later on.

Kill markings on an EA-6 Prowler. HARM anti-radiation missiles were used heavily in the Gulf War.

Army AH-64A Apache. All Apaches are all now upgraded to a -D variant or later.

Air Force F-15B Eagle, assigned to the Luke AFB training wing at the time. All of the F-15 A and B models have long been retired.

Canadian Forces CT-133 Silver Star. Today, you’ll see the aircraft in Ace Maker markings!

MGM Grand Air normally operated from the civilian side of the Hanscom AFB airport… Bedford (KBED). Sports team charters was a specialty.

Grumman A-6E with partly-subdued markings.

439th AW C-5A – The Patriot Wing.

Myrtle Beach-based A-10s, still in European Theatre color schemes. Myrtle Beach isn’t a military base any more.

Air Force flight check C-29A was one of four procured, and all went on to serve with the FAA after Air Force use.

Marine Corps CH-53E in between a KC-135R and a C-141B/C Starlifter – the latter type has been retired since 2006.

AC-130H Spectres have been replaced with newer AC-130U/W/J versions.

This Block 42 F-16C was assigned to the Arizona Air National Guard, but was without unit markings then. Currently it is still in active use.

This F-16C was assigned to the 70th Fighter Squadron at Moody AFB; the Squadron was inactivated in November, shortly after the air show. It was resurrected as an A-10 squadron for a while, and is now inactive again.

Grumman EA-6A was the interim version between the A-6E Intruder and the EA-6B Prowler. Used during the Vietnam War, this aircraft was used as an Aggressor and jammer by West Coast based VAQ-33 at the time of the show, replacing retired EA-3 Skywarriors.

Grumman A-6E Intruder… all of the A-6s were retired with the arrival of F/A-18 Hornets.

Navy EA-6Bs are all retired as well… the Marines were the last squadrons to use this stretched A-6.

Marine Corps F/A-18A Hornet. VMFA-312 Checkerboards went on to wear “Fight’s On”on many of their jets.

EC-130E-II  communications aircraft. All -E versions are now retired from the U.S. military. This airframe was later converted to a HC-130P special operations aircraft.

Eglin AFB-based F-4E Phantom. This airframe was converted into a QF-4E target and written off in 2002.

S-3B with Desert Storm kill markings.

Pennsylvania Air National Guard EC-130E(RR) Commando Solo aircraft have been replaced with newer EC-130J aircraft.


Collings Foundation B-17G. Destroyed in a crash at Windsor Locks CT in 2019.


Warbird line up at Bedford/Hanscom AFB including a C-47, C-1A, B-17G, and a C-45.

Side-Looking Airborne Radar (SLAR) aboard a Coast Guard HU-25B jet… these rare conversions, based at Cape Cod/Otis ANGB, tracked oil slicks purposely created during the War.

Another look at the rather rare EA-6A, with loads of paint touch-ups for corrosion control. That’s not an electronic camouflage scheme yet.

Air brakes deployed on a Grumman A-6E Intruder.

Maintenance work being done on a warbird B-25 Mitchell.

KC-135 based at Loring AFB wears a Moose zap identifying that it served in the Desert Storm conflict.

AH-64A Apache engine bay.

Army AH-64A Apache on display.

Sikorsky SH-3H Sea King, which was retired from the Navy, refurbished to SH-3T civilan standards, and was for sale in 2019.

One of the Golden Knights C-31As, used as transporting and platform for the Army’s Golden Knights parachute team. This airframe is now being prepared to be ferried (back) to the Netherlands, after Army retirement.


USMC CH-53E landing during the show.

USAF F-117A made flybys at the show, markings are of the 37th Tactical Fighter Wing, at that time from Tonopah, Nevada and then moved to Holloman AFB New Mexico shortly after Desert Storm ended, and being renamed the 49 TFW. Some of these jets are still in flyable storage.

Boeing B-52G from the 42BW, Limestone, Maine. All -Gs were retired shortly after the Gulf War.

B-1B making its appearance in the Massachusetts skies, with bright afterburners ablaze. The air shows at Hanscom made nearby I-95 the country’s slowest Interstate as spectators pulled over to watch the show. Massachusetts State Police had their hands full keeping the traffic from stopping and colliding with each other.

KC-135R tanker on display. This aircraft is still active in 2020.

Fuddy Duddy, a B-17G, was operated by the national Warplane Museum.

Above and below are a series of views of the static ramps from atop of the huge DC Hangar at Hanscom AFB…








The Perfect “10” of an Aircraft

Forty years and one day after it made its maiden flight, the Air Force has finally flown its first KC-10 west to the boneyard. 

KC-10A 860036 (MSN 48249/424) named the “Peace Maker” was the 50th of the 60 airframes built for the United States Air Force. It was delivered on December 2, 1986 to SAC (Strategic Air Command) and based at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina. 

Known officially as the “Extender” the KC-10 was affectionately called “The Ten”, “Gucci Jet”, “Duce” and “Big Sexy” by her aircrews. 

Tail number 860036 had accumulated 33,022.2 hours on the airframe when it became the first of the KC-10 Extenders to be retired to the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona on July 13th 2020. 

The KC-10 is a modified military version of the McDonnell Douglas Company DC-10-30CF (convertible freight) model. The Air Force ordered 60 aircraft which were built in Long Beach, California from 1981 to 1988. 

The KC-10 features a large cargo compartment in which a support load can be carried. Powered rollers and winches fitted in the compartment allow the aircraft to carry heavy loads. It can accommodate 75 passengers and nearly 170,000 pounds of cargo.


The aircraft is equipped with three main fuel tanks for refueling operations. It is also fitted with three additional fuel tanks under the cargo floor. The six tanks perform refueling operations more efficiently than KC-135 Stratotanker and can accomodate 356,000 pounds of fuel.

It was the October 1973 Yom Kippur War that highlighted the need for aerial refueling. Operation Nickel Grass was the name of the resupply mission of Israel from the United States. With the European nations dependence on Arab nation oil, all European nations except for Portugal, refused the United States to either overfly or land on the resupply missions. 

For 32 days MAC (Military Airlift Command) C-5 Galaxy flew 145 missions while C-141A Starlifters flew 421 missions. Without the use of Lajes in the Azores Islands the C-141A would not have had the range to reach Israel. The C-5 could make the flight without refueling. However, the trade off was to greatly reduce the C-5’s cargo capacity from 73 tons the Galaxy is capable of lifting to 32 tons.

However, in 1973 the C-5 crews were not trained for aerial refueling. The issue being the C-5 Galaxy creates a bow wave between the tanker and the Galaxy when refueling. Engineers felt the unusual angle required for aerial refueling by the C-5 would decrease the life cycle of the Galaxy’s wings. 

The lessons learned from Operation Nickel Grass reversed the mindset of the Air Force by demonstrating that two aircraft actually consume less fuel than one aircraft doing ground stops. The Air Force showed that with aerial refueling they could have accomplished the same airlift with 57 fewer C-141 and 44 fewer C-5 missions and saved 48.5 million pounds of fuel (about 25%). 

The KC-10 was developed from the 1973 Advanced Tanker Cargo Aircraft (ATCA) Program. The Air Force sought to augment the KC-135, C-5 and C-141 fleet with a wide-body aircraft that could fulfill the need for a new military tanker and a heavy cargo transport. Both Boeing and McDonnell Douglas entered into the bidding. The Air Force considered buying a combination of 747’s and DC-10’s. However, with billions of dollars trimmed from the defense budget, the Air Force could select only one. 

On December 19, 1977 the Air Force announced that a military version of the DC-10 would carry out the new tanker / cargo mission. Officials cited price, life-cycle costs and maintainability as key selection criteria. Perhaps the greatest factor was the size of the smaller KC-10 which could operate from more airports than the fully loaded B-747. 

Entering operational U.S.A.F. service in October 1981, the KC-10 offered some distinct advantages. It was the first aerial tanker designed with two independent refueling systems. It is equipped with both a flying boom and a hose-and-drogue. The KC-10 could refuel aircraft using either system on the same mission. Aerial refueling operators liked the KC-10 because their job was less fatiguing on long flights. Unlike earlier tankers, in which they had to lie prone for refueling, operators performed their tasks in the KC-10 while seated in an air conditioned compartment. 

The Air Force set out to prove the KC-10’s value. On June 21, 1982 the Extender set two world records on one mission. The KC-10 flew within 750 miles of the South Pole establishing the southernmost air refueling ever conducted. The Extender also offloaded 67,400 pounds of aviation fuel to a C-141B that was conducting airdrop resupply mission to the Antarctic South Pole station. 

In October 1983 the KC-10 saw its first combat support missions during Operation Urgent Fury, the invasion of the Island of Grenada. 

By 1986, both the bombing of TWA flight 840 over Greece and the “La Belle” discotheque bombing in West Berlin Germany were tied to Libya. President Ronald Reagan authorized a response code named Operation El Dorado Canyon. It would be a defining moment for the KC-10 as once again the European nations denied overfly and landing rights for the mission. Without the overflight being permitted, the route from England to Libya around Europe added 1,300 nautical miles to the trip each way. This made the mission an additional 5,000 nautical miles and added another six to seven hours to the mission. 

A combination of KC-10’s and KC-135’s were used for the mission. Approximately 28 tankers in all were used. The KC-10 having twice the range of the KC-135 were selected to escort the strike package all the way to Libya and back to England. The KC-135’s would refuel the KC-10’s keeping them full for the final push to the target. 

Before the raid the KC-10 was not stationed in Europe and many of Air Forces F-111 and EF-111 pilots stationed at RAF Lakenheath had never seen one. Furthermore, none of the pilots had ever refueled from the Extender and certainly never did so at night under radio silence. The strike package was refueled four times while en-route to their targets using the ‘mother tanker’ concept. The ‘mother tanker concept refers to each strike package would stay with one designated KC-10 all the way to the target area.

The KC-10 would also support Operation Just Cause in 1989, the invasion of Panama. 

By 1990, Operation Desert Shield required an air refueling bridge across the Atlantic Ocean utilizing nearly 100 tankers flying 4,967 sorties while offloading 28.2 million gallons of aviation fuel. By the time Desert Storm began on January 17, 1991, 46 KC-10’s were operating in support of operations. The KC-10 being able to receive air refueling was again tasked with staying on station while the KC-135’s delivered fuel to them. 

By 1992 the Air Force reorganized the KC-10’s under SAC’s command and transferred them from Barksdale, March and Seymour Johnson Air Force Base’s to the newly created AMC (Air Mobility Command) and relocated them to McGuire and Travis Air Force Base’s. 

The KC-10 would continue to serve in every major American war and operation until this day.  

In January 2020, the beginning of the end of Air Force service by the KC-10 was signaled. The Air Force had planned to retire 16 KC-10s this year (FY21). The House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee’s markup of the fiscal 2021 National Defense Authorization Act requires the Air Force to maintain a minimum of 50 primary mission inventory KC-10s in 2021, 38 in 2022, and 26 in 2023. 

I contacted 1st Lt USAF Emma Quirk of the HQ Air Mobility Command Public Affairs to inquire on how 860036 was selected as the first air frame for retirement. Lt Quirk explained; “The KC-10 program office created a migration plan that retires aircraft with the highest potential to level depot workload, increase aircraft availability, avoid program costs, and maintain proportional Command Control Module (CCM) and Wing-mounted Aerial Refueling Pod (WARP) capabilities.”

“The first airframe chosen for retirement was due a depot C-check.  To avoid overhaul costs, aircraft #86-0036 was flown to the boneyard. The Air Force has no plans to return retired KC-10s to active duty as we transition to a tanker fleet mix of KC-135 and KC-46 airframes”

The 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona may not be the last stop for 860036. Her airframe and parts will keep the fleet flying for years to come. 

Sometimes you just get lucky and I just happened to catch 860036 returning from its final training mission sortie on March 18th. This is a photo of 860036, callsign DUCE30 on final for landing on its final pass in the pattern at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst on that day.

All photos provided by and taken by U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Sean Hetz and Master Sergeant Joseph A. Vigil, except those three included by David F. Brown.

The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement