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Looking Back at the Blue Angels 60th Birthday Bash at RNLAF Leeuwarden


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Koninklijke Luchtmacht (RNLAF) Leeuwarden Open Dagen 2006

 

The year was 2006, and the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels Flight Demonstration Squadron as celebrating their 60th Anniversary. As part of their schedule, a short European tour was planned and executed, including a weekend at the RNLAF Leeuwarden, an air force base well northeast of the Netherlands’ largest city of Amsterdam. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to see another European air show, with a twist of Blues too. I chose to attend both the Friday and Saturday air shows, which were slightly different each day.

A fantastic flying and static display was presented, and now – some fourteen years later – it is well worth looking back at the event.

“Open Dagen”, or translated in English to “Open Days”, is a yearly tradition where Dutch military air bases rotate and one hosts an event open to the public for a weekend air show. This is the largest air show of the year in the Netherlands, and national pride in their air force is readily apparent. At the Leeuwarden air base, formation flying, solo routines and historic aircraft were all presented from one of the base’s two runways. The other runway and major taxiways were covered with parked aircraft on display, or space to stretch out and watch the almost five-hour long flying display.

The “home team” was led by a pair of solo military performers, the flashy F-16 demonstration as well as the PC-7 display. A large 9-ship F-16 flight, as well as an air refueling formation of a KDC-10 and F-16, and helicopter demos were all done with European flair.

A Netherlands heritage formation made up of a Spitfire, B-25 and the RNLAF F-16 demo ship was a highlight, with some great, close formation flying. Other foreign jet teams included the Patroille Suisse, Finland’s Midnight Hawks, a Portuguese Air Force 2-ship Alpha Jet team, and the Patroille de France. Of course, the Blue Angels flew their usual routine too.

A special Friday non-aerobatic flypast put the RAF’s Red Arrows in the lead of a formation with the Blue Angels F/A-18s below and behind the nine BAE Hawks. The Red Arrows had other weekend engagements, but made the short, cross-Channel flight for the Friday matinee salute to the Blue Angels.

In the ground, some very interesting military and civilian aircraft were displayed. An Austrian Shorts Skyvan, Finnish Fokker 27, Czech Air Force Antonov AN-26 and a new Polish CN-295 transport were just four aircraft not normally seen in North America.

Belgian and Royal Navy Sea Kings joined another Sikorsky helicopter, a German Army CH-53G. As far as heavy metal, a German F-4F, Turkish F-5-2000, Czech Saab JAS_39 Gripen joined multiple F-16s, including the RNLAF’s test aircraft, nicknames the “Orange Jumper” (Orange is the Netherland’s national color and identity).

Other warbirds on the ground included a DHC-2 Beaver, T-6 Texan, Fokker T-11 trainer, a Beech C-45, and a Piper L-4J. A pristine PBY Catalina was joined by a civilian Fokker 27 and Douglas DC-3C.

Unfortunately, the weather on Friday was overcast and hazy… but fortunately Saturday was the opposite… mainly clear blue skies, perfect for an air show. The Blue Angels attracted a lot of the attention at this Open Dagen, and performed brilliantly. The formation with the Red Arrows was a rare treat, seeing the two teams fly together. For me, my satisfaction also came from the diverse aircraft and operators at the show, from countries that I usually don’t see.

Looking Back at the 2006 Edwards AFB Air Show


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Late in October of 2006, the High Desert of California reverberated with the roar of jets in afterburner and piston engines growling with all of their might. The 2006 Edwards AFB Air Show went off without a hitch, with brilliant weather for flying and more than forty aircraft arrayed on the static display.

Edwards AFB is home to a number of interesting activities… the Air Force’s Test Pilot School, NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center, and the U.S. Air Force’s Flight Test Center too. The “old” Air Force Flight Test Museum was ramping up their collection and displayed a few restored gems on static display. There are some very interesting active aircraft that are displayed each year the show occurs too. The event draws large crowds from the Antelope Valley and the Los Angeles basin to the south. 

Highlights in 2006 included the nine-ship formation flight of all the models of Air Force test activity aircraft, from fighters and tankers to transports and bombers. A four-ship Air Force Heritage Flight, led by a P-51 and including an Edwards F-22, Seymour-Johnson F-15E Strike Eagle and a Davis-Monthan AFB-based A-10… the latter two were also the solo demonstration teams’ mounts as they were part of the weekend flying display. A Lockheed Skunk Works F-117 “Stealth Fighter” was in the skies, as were the Air Force’s Thunderbirds team.

On static, a NASA F-15 with the Quiet Boom test article was just one of the interesting non-flying aircraft. Another NASA aircraft, the Space Shuttle-carrying B-747 was parked, but without a Shuttle atop of it. Numerous West Coast warbirds, such as an SBD Dauntless, F8F Bearcat, F6F Hellcat, Beech 17 Staggerwing and a dozen more interesting pieces of history were also on hand. Also, TROUT99, a 412th Flight Test Squadron aircraft normally used by the Air Force Chief of Staff as their personal transport, as well as a test bed aircraft for the Air Force Flight Test Center, shone in the bright sunlight too. C-135C 61-2669 routinely used the call sign TROUT99, but was retired some eight months before the air show. It was turned over to the Flight Test Museum earlier this year. 

Here’s a selection of photos from this 2006 air show, enjoy!

ClassicWarbirds.net Random Warbirds #4

 

C-47 at Bridgeport Connecticut before the D-Day celebration in 2019.

Here’s number four in our series of random warbird photos, enjoy!

North American P-51D Mustang at Barnes ANGB.

Mitsubishi A6M3 “Zero” at Merrill Field, Anchorage, Alaska.

Sikorsky UH-34D at Westfield, Massachusetts.

Nanchang CJ-6 formation, Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Nanchang CJ-6s at Lakeland, Florida.

Art Nalls’ Sea Harrier FA.2 at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland.

RAAF DHC-4 Caribou approaching the Avalon, Australia runway.

Fairchild C-119G Flying Boxcar at a Valliant Air Command air show at Titusville, Florida.  

North American RA-5C Vigilante at the National Naval Aviation Museum, Pensacola, Florida.

Douglas A-26 air tanker at Abbotsford, British Columbia.

Grumman Cat Flight of an F7F Tigercat leading a pair of F8F Bearcats at Quonset Point, Rhode Island.

Aermacchi MB-326H jet trainer of the RAAF at Avalon, Australia.

Avro Lancaster Mk. X at Ottawa Ontario.

1942 Lysander IIIA landing at RAF Fairford.

SOKO 522 at Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

1959 Scottish Aviation Twin Pioneer CC.2 arriving at RAF Fairford for a RIAT show.

General Dynamics F-111E, formerly based at RAF Upper Heyford, U.K. 

Grumman A-6E TRAM Intruder at a New England Escadrille air show in Manchester, New Hampshire.

Mig-17 (possibly an “F” version) and a Massachusetts ANG F-15A  Eagle at Manchester, New Hampshire.

Republic P-47D at Manchester, New Hampshire.

Yakovlev YAK-9UM at Avalon, Australia.

McDonnell Douglas YC-15 on display at Edwards AFB, California.

Northrop YF-23 Advanced Technology Fighter at Edwards AFB, California.

 

 

 

 

Looking Back: The F-18 Hornet Pre-Prototypes

 

All photos by Bob Finch

Around the time when Northrop’s YF-17 Cobra lost the U.S. Air Force’s Lightweight Fighter competition in the early 1970s, the U.S. Navy focused on creating a lightweight fighter of its own. Under direction of Congress, the YF-17 and its lightweight fighter technologies became the steppingstone for the F-18 Hornet.

Identified to replace the LTV A-7 Corsair II, the McDonnell A-4 Skyhawk and McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom IIs in service, Northrop partnered with McDonnell Douglas to modify the YF-17 into a carrier-capable multi-mission aircraft. It was during this time that Bob Finch saw prototypes of the F-17 Cobra, acting as F/A-18 Prototypes at both NAS Patuxent River and NAS Oceana, and took these photos.

 

 

After redesign, when compared to the YF-17 prototypes, about 10,000 pounds were added to the F-18 prototype, which included strengthening the fuselage for carrier operations, adding beefier landing gear and a larger tail hook, and creating more fuel tank space for increased volume. Originally, the first production versions were the F-18A single seat fighter and TF-18A twin-seat jets. Another variant was the A-18A, which would have been a specialized attack version, but those capabilities were folded into the F/A-18A Hornet instead of a different, stand-alone version.

Northrop’s F-18L (Lightweight) version was expected to attract export orders, but in the end, Northrop and McDonnell Douglas wrestled through a series of law suits that ended with McDonnell Douglas as the principal manufacturer and Northrop receiving a financial settlement and the production of the rear part of new airframes. The “L” version didn’t attract much interest.

 

 

Nowadays, integration of the F-18 Super Hornets have allowed all but a few of the F/A-18A, B, C, and D “Legacy” Hornets to be retired, some forty-five years after the Hornet program was first launched.

 

 

This is what the original YF-17 prototypes looked like, acting as Navy Hornet prototypes. “201570” in the photo above is not a Navy Bureau Number, but actually is the Air Force serial 72-1570.