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A Look at Past Participants at Otis Air National Guard Base’s Air Shows

 

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This Massachusetts Air National Guard F-106A was converted into a QF-106A drone after the host 102nd Fighter Wing transitioned to the F-15 Eagle. This aircraft was was destroyed in August, 1996

Mention the name “Otis” to any middle-aged or older Cape Cod local, and they’ll most likely remember the Air Force and Massachusetts Air National Guard aircraft, or the various Coast Guard patrol planes and Search and Rescue helicopters that have flown from the two runways that made up the Otis Air Force Base or the Air National Guard Base. More recently, the airport was named the Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod, and ultimately today’s Joint Base Cape Cod, after all Air Force and Air National Guard flying activity has ceased operations at the field.

The air base has some interesting history… it was built in the 1930s and opened for operations in 1938. It was named after a Boston-based flight surgeon and member of the local 101st Observation Squadron, Lt. Frank Otis, whose O-46A fatally crashed  during a cross country training flight in 1937. The first runway was part of the Massachusetts National Guard’s Camp Edwards; originally just the airport was named after Otis. Later, the entire air base area was renamed after Otis. During World War II, Camp Edwards played a significant role in Army troop training, but the U.S. Navy operated the airfield as a Naval Auxiliary Air Facility under the direction of nearby Naval Air Station Quonset Point.

F-86 Sabre restored at the old Otis ANGB

After World War II, the Cold War exploded, and the Air Force’s Air Defense Command took control of the air base and much of the surrounding area. The base had under it’s jurisdiction the Texas Towers radar arrays off the Massachusetts coastline, multiple air defense fighter squadrons (equipped with piston fighters, or later with these jets: F-86 Sabres, F-84 Thunderstreaks, F-100 Super Sabres, F-94 Starfighters, F-89 Scorpions, F-106 Delta Darts, and finally F-15 Eagles), and the 551st Airborne Early Warning Control Wing (operating the Lockheed Constellation-based EC-121 Warning Stars). At times, Alert tankers like the KC-97 and KC-135 were present too. Additionally, transports, trainers, and liaison aircraft frequently visited the “Cape” area.

F-106B Delta Dart of the 102nd Fighter Wing

In time, the Air Force closed up shop and the Massachusetts Air National Guard’s 102nd  Fighter Wing took control of the air operations at the field. The ANG unit flew F-106 Delta Darts, and then F-15A Eagles (many early Eagles came directly from Soesterberg AFB in the Netherlands as 32nd Fighter Group upgraded to the -C version of the Eagle).  The Coast Guard operated HU-16 Albatross SAR amphibians and HH-3F Pelican helicopters from Otis, and later HU-25 Falcons replaced the piston-engined Albatrosses and the Sikorsky HH-60 Jayhawk came home to roost, replacing the Pelicans.

The 102nd Fighter Wing lost it’s flying mission in 2008, and the Coast Guard took over the air  field’s operation. Today, what’s known as Joint Base Cape Cod is shared by the Coast Guard, Civil Air Patrol, and the Massachusetts Army National Guard. An Air Force long range radar facility and an Air National Guard Intelligence Wing are non-flying tenants as well.

The host unit’s F-15A in 102nd FW Commander’s markings (serial # 77-0102)

“Back in the day”, Otis hosted some great air shows, with Coast Guard and local New England flying mixed with active military jet teams and civilian aerobatic and warbird routines. The 102nd FW hosted many Air National Guard aircraft for static and flying displays, and active military aircraft were abundant too.

P-51 Mustang “Big Beautiful Doll” at Otis; after this photo was taken, the plane was sold and operated in Europe, crashing in 2011 after a non-fatal mid-air collision during an air show

Here is a look at a few of the participants… as you can tell, weather conditions could be foggy with low overcast or bright sunlight. Cape Cod is on the Atlantic Ocean, and many times morning overcast burned off and produced some nice skies for an air show, but there were other times that this wasn’t so!

VMAQ-2 EA-6B Prowler

A Fighting Jayhawk blasts off from Otis…  Kansas ANG’s B-1B Lancer begins its demo flight.

 

A T-38A Talon based at Moody AFB in Georgia.

Based at Barnes Municipal Airport in Westfield Massachusetts, this 104th Fighter Wing A-10A would later be replaced by the 102nd FW’s F-15s in a BRAC-associated move.

“CAPE88” was the call sign of the 102nd FW’s C-12F

Just a “quick” flight from NAS Oceana, this VF-32 F-14B Tomcat is a big jet, but dwarfed by the C-5 Galaxy behind it.

Coast Guard HH-3F Pelican was a familiar sight around Cape Cod, with a longer endurance than many helicopters of the time.

One of the 102nd FW’s T-33A trainers – which also became a target aircraft for Air Defense Command training exercises

Navy UH-46D of HC-8 Dragon Whales was used for resupply and special missions

 

Beech C-12J was based at Otis ANGB and operated by the 102nd FW; it was used for transport for the State’s National Guard units

Selfridge, Michigan based Michigan ANG F-4D Phantom

A McGuire AFB – based KC-10A Extender in the old MAC color scheme

A low-viz color scheme for a Michigan ANG F-4D Phantom

Lockheed C-141B Starlifter in old-style Military Airlift Command colors

South Dakota Air National Guard Vought A-7D Corsair II

An Oklahoma-based Northrop T-38A in an all-white color scheme, that would be changed within a decade to a more camoflaged look.

This two-seat F-106B was used for flight training for the 102nd FW.

An Ohio Air National Guard KC-135E Stratotanker.

A Coast Guard flypast… featuring a HU-25A Falcon leading a HH-3P Pelican

VF-143 Pukin Dogs F-14A parked before the flight demonstration on an overcast Cape Cod day.

A pair of F-106 Delta Darts of the 102nd FW taxi out to depart during an air show

CAG bird of the VF-143 Pukin Dogs parked close to the crowd during an air show weekend at Otis

A Maineiacs KC-135E tanker, based in Bangor, Maine, arrives on a clear, blue – skied Friday afternoon for a weekend air show.

Based at nearby NAS South Weymouth, this VP-92 “Minutemen” P-3 Orion “shows the flag” during their air show arrival

The odd – looking appearance of the F-117A Nighthawk really ramped up the excitement for an Otis air show!

F-117A on the deck at Otis ANGB

This AT-38B offered advanced training for pilots that would go into tactical and strategic fighters and bombers in the Air Force

A look to the future… this 33rd FW F-15C was the flight demo pilot’s mount during an Otis air show (where the host 102nd FW flew F-106s), today, the 102nd FW has merged with the 104th FW and flies the F-15C

Book Review: So I Bought an Air Force…

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#44-84634, registered as N351BD, soars through the airspace over Cape Cod during an air show. This airframe was imported by Will Martin and MACO Sales Financial Corporation in 1963.

OK warbird fans, how many of you enjoy a good flyby by a North American P-51 Mustang? As of early 2020, upwards of one hundred fifty Mustangs are mentioned on the FAA’s civil register, and believe it or not, at least one sixth of that total didn’t come out of the U.S. military’s aircraft boneyards in Arizona. A very interesting read and a different side of history awaits you when reading “So I Bought An Air Force: The True Story of a Gritty Midwesterner in Somoza’s Nicaragua” by Mr. W.W. Martin (© 2013 Two Harbors Press, Minneapolis, MN).

Book cover

Will Martin answered an advertisement in Trade-A-Plane in the early 1960s for the sale of a large number of World War II-vintage aircraft for sale in Nicaragua. This group included Republic P-47s, Beech C-45s, and North American P-51s, all being retired from the Nicaraguan Air Force as the military branch received modern replacements. What should have been, by American business standards, a straightforward deal ultimately became complicated due to personalities and certain events that were beyond his control. Still, Mr. Martin purchased many airframes and facilitated their entry into the American market.

 

#44-73029, N51JB was another P-51 Mustang brought to the U.S. via W. W. Martin’s MACO Sales Financial Corporation.

Will Martin’s memoirs in this book detail his long attachment to aviation, from initial flying experiences to warbird operations (he originally planned for other, more experienced pilots to fly the purchased planes up to America for him). The process to rejuvenate and fly the aircraft he purchased from Nicaragua to Texas (to clear U.S. customs), and then up to the Chicago, Illinois area where he lived, offered plenty of  logistical roadblocks which the author had to overcome. Will Martin ended up flying many of the aircraft on their northerly delivery flights, including many Mustangs.

 

This book reveals how the warbirds were imported, mostly during 1963, from Central America… and soon entered the civilian aviation world in the U.S.. Along the way, Will crashed three of the aircraft, and lived to tell the harrowing experiences.

 

N51EA, #44-72483, aircraft photographed when owned and flown by Don Davidson during the 1980s. It now resides at the Military Aviation Museum in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

A few of the chapters of the book include: Bitten By the Flying Bug, Machine Guns and Mercenaries, Of Transports and Trainers, B-26 Bronco-Busting, Wheels Up, Thunderbolt Down; the first chapter is entitled Crash. Don’t be misled by the chapter titles, not everything went badly in this story, but there’s plenty of excitement and insight by this now well-experienced aviator. In fact, Will Martin flew one of his imported Mustangs, named “El Gato Rapido” for many years after he began the import business.

 

Mustang #44-63675, now registered in the U.S. as N1751D.

I found the book fascinating on multiple levels. Doing business before the age of cell phones, electronic funds transfer and GPS sure seemed complicated, and took some time to complete each step of the aircraft importing process in the 1960s. Commercial air travel, like his initial Pan American Airlines DC-7 trip to Nicaragua, sounded more luxurious than today’s “buses” in the air. Politics in the Central American country didn’t always operate “by the book”, leading to some frustration and apprehension. The Mustangs represented what seemed to be a good investment, with eager buyers here in America looking for a mode of high-speed executive travel before the days of corporate jets. Add to that many short stories and anecdotes about warbirds in service with another country, and their care and maintenance habits makes great reading for any warbird enthusiast, and indeed anyone interested in aviation.

 

#44-72483 at Westfield, Massachusetts during the 1980s.

According to the research book Warbirds Worldwide Directory, at least twenty six P-51s were imported to the U.S. by Will Martin’s company, MACO Sales Financial Corporation of Chicago Illinois. More than a handful are still flying, more than fifty years after their international journeys ended in America. I’ve included photos of four aircraft that I’ve seen that are part of the group of Mustangs that Mr. Martin imported.

 

#44-63675 at the EAA’s AirVenture 2019.

Thank you Will W. Martin, for writing your memorable book, and thru hindsight, (since the P-51 is a favorite of mine) thank you for bringing so many aircraft back to the warbird community.

 

Editor’s note: RIP Jeffrey Pino and Nick Tramontano, who perished during a crash of Big Beautiful Doll – in the cover photo – in February, 2016.

 

 

RIAT at RAF Cottesmore

NIMROD MR2

The Royal International Air Tattoo is a yearly gathering of military aircraft, aircrews, and aviation history rolled into almost a week of blazing afterburners, low passes, aerobatics and esprit de corps.

Military personnel from dozens of air forces (Air Force, Navy, Marines, Police and a few other branches) have their chances to mingle and to learn from each other. Aviation enthusiasts have their own groups… formal and informal. Packages for up to six days of aviation photographic access to the airfield might cost a pretty penny to some, but it is well worth in for enthusiasts from the U.K and around the world to see and record some rare military craft in person.

MIRAGE 4P

There are always surprises each year regarding attendees and special colors adorning aircraft, but the venue for each show for decades has been RAF Fairford, in Gloucestershire, England since 1985. Well, almost every show. For two years – 2000 and 2001, the show was held at RAF Cottesmore, in Rutland, England. The base once was a former multi-national Tornado training base and most recently home to the Joint Harrier Force of the the U.K.. The main runway and other airfield surfaces at Fairford were being repaved and repaired during that time, and a tradition had to be put on hold. Luckily Cottesmore was another sprawling base with plenty of room for static aircraft displays, and the runway was plenty long enough for all attending aircraft.

SPITFIRE LFMKXV1e

Some awesome aircraft were displayed at RAF Cottesmore, including curtain calls of European stalwarts like the Italian F-104 Starfighters and French Mirage IVPs. Here too were some elegant warbirds, like Spitfires, Hurricanes, Blenheim and many more. Here’s a look at a number of aircraft on display during the two years at Cottesmore, all types here have been retired by their prospective military branches:

This Andover C1PR was the RAF’s Open Skies aircraft into the early 2000’s.

USAF C-22B was converted from an airliner that flew with Pan Am and National Airlines.

C-141B Starlifter, the type was retired in 2006.

RAF Canberra PR.9; the last of the Canberra line was retired on June 23, 2006.

Italian Air Force F-104S ASA Starfighter, the type was retired from service in 2005.

Belgian Army Allouette II (SE.313B) was used as a trainer until retirement in 2009.

Hellenic Air Force F-4E… the type was retired on May 5, 2017 from Greek service.

Royal Air Force Jaguar GR3A; the type was officially retired from RAF service in December, 2007.

USAF MH-53M Pave Low, the type was retired in 2008, some were used during the Vietnam War in the 1970s.

French Air Force Mirage IVP, a former nuclear bomber which stood down in 1996, but became a photo reconnaissance platform during the twilight of its caree

French Air force F.1C Mirage, in demonstration team colors. The last French F.1 was retired on June 13, 2014.

Spanish Air Force Mirage F1M; these were retired from Spanish service in 2013, but many were purchased by Draken Industries in the U.S. for adversary training, and some are already flying.

French Nord 262D transport, the type was slowly retired during the last decade, “AL” was parked in 2013.

RAF Nimrod MR2, the type was retired on June 28, 2011.

U.S. Army OH-58D; the type was retired on 2017 although some training airframes may remain in service.

The Piaggio/Douglas PD.808GE served as an Electronic Warfare aircraft, until being retired in 2003.

Westland Sea King HAR3 Search and Rescue helicopters were all retired by 2016.

Spitfire LF XVIe

Spitfire PR IX

Bolingbroke Mk IVT

Random Warbirds #1

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QF-100 drones after conversions at Mojave, CA… the type has been retired for a long time.

 

 

Ed Stead’s T.35 Vampire trainer during preflight at Burlington VT.

Good Day Everyone! Here’s a new feature that we’ll be running regularly in the pages of ClassicWarbirds.net. “Random Warbirds” will feature two dozen assorted warbirds at a time, sort of a box of assorted candy for the eyes!

 

AD-4NA Skyraider at Titusville, FL.

Anything might show up here… retired airframes, retired types, boneyard photos, airshow photos, you name it, as long as it’s a warbird. Each photo will have a caption too… with at least the type of aircraft you’re looking at and maybe much more.

Mustang at rest, Oshkosh WI.

 

With more than two dozen contributors worldwide, we have plenty to share. You can plan on every third weekend of each month, we’ll have a new volume. Of course, we add content every week, so be sure to visit us often!

 

Canadair CT-133 operated by Flight Systems Inc. at Mojave, CA.

 

 

Texas Raiders, Boeing B-17G, possibly at Oshkosh WI. 

 

 

Corsair in the sun.

 

 

Collings Foundation B-24 at a TICO air show sponsored by the Valiant Air Command. 

 

 

Grumman F7F Tigercat.

 

 

Curtiss P-40 Warhawk.

 

 

EAA AirVenture warbirds on the main ramp at Oshkosh WI.

 

 

George Baker’s Wirraway at TICO FL.

 

 

Rare P-51H Mustang at TICO FL.

 

 

DeHavilland Venom FB.54 at Mojave CA.

 

 

F-4G Wild Weasel at NAS Pensacola FL.

 

 

North American AT-6F over Massachusetts. The aircraft encountered an engine malfunction and crashed in 2010. RIP Reese Dill.

 

 

MiG-17 at Burlington, VT.

 

 

DeHavilland DH115 Vampire T.35 at Burlington VT.

 

 

Republic P-47 during a TICO air show in Titusville, FL.

 

 

Consolidated PBY-6A at dusk over central New York State, near Geneseo NY.

 

 

Canadian Car and Foundry Hurricane IIB at Geneseo, NY, the aircraft was lost due to a hangar fire in 1993.

 

 

AN-2 in Tennessee before an epic flight to Oshkosh WI.

 

 

McDonnell Douglas F-4G Wild Weasel at NAS Pensacola.

 

 

MiG-21UM (or similar) trainer at Oshkosh WI.