The Westover Air Show 2018: Some Planes, Some History, and Even an Astronaut

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The Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee, Mass., home of the 439th Airlift Wing and their big C-5's of the Air Force Reserve Command, held their first air show since May of 2015 on Saturday and Sunday, July 14th and 15th, 2018. The air show, officially called "The Great New England Air & Space Show", was attended by well over 400,000 air show fans according to official estimates. It was once again sponsored by the "Galaxy Community Council", a local civilian community support group for the C-5M Super Galaxy base personnel that are stationed here.

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The flying show included demonstrations by the C-17A, KC-135R, C-5M, the "Shockwave" Jet Truck, the T-33 "Ace Maker II", "Pacific Prowlers" WW2 CAF Warbirds, Bill Stein's Aerobatic Stunt Plane, the "Team Fast Track" jump team, the 5-ship "Skytypers" demo team, and the star attraction of the show - the USAF "Thunderbirds" Air Demonstration Squadron. This air show had no "Ramp Fillers". Westover had 10 WW2 Warbirds and 62 current operational military aircraft on both the Hot Ramp and the Static Ramp - an impressive aircraft lineup in this current era of continuing military operational budget cuts.

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A) THE "KICK-OFF BREAKFAST":

The actual Air Show events began on Friday morning at 6:30 AM when people started arriving for the 7:30 "Kickoff Breakfast" sponsored by the Galaxy Community Council for 630 invited guests and held in the sprawling Fuel Cell Hanger at the south end of the ramp. This year's show celebrated the 70th Anniversary of the Air Force Reserve Command and incorporated elements of the C-5 Galaxy community, space and cyberspace with command speakers and honorees. The Keynote speaker was Col. Catherine "Cady" Coleman, (USAF Ret.), a retired NASA astronaut and local resident from nearby Shelburne, Mass. Col. Coleman was selected in part because "Space" was added to the name of the Show to recognize the contributions the Air Force has made to the space program plus the fact that she is a "local". She received a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry from MIT and a Doctorate degree in "Polymer Science and Engineering" (Wow!) from the nearby University of Massachusetts. She said "...in the course of her studies she essentially commuted from western Mass to NASA Houston for 26 years." She was always so busy with the US Air Force and space travel that this year's air show is only the second time that she has had the opportunity to attend. She said "I have lived to come to this air show because it has got a reputation like you wouldn't believe in the world!"

B) THE ASTRONAUT:

Dr. Cady Coleman is a chemist, a retired USAF full Colonel, and a former NASA Astronaut with over 180 days spent in space accumulated during two Space Shuttle missions and a 6-month expedition to the International Space Station (ISS). She launched and landed aboard the Russian Soyuz spacecraft and acted as the Lead Science Officer during her tenure aboard the ISS, performing the second ever free-flyer robotic capture in space. In her spare time aboard the ISS, Cady played the flute flying 220 miles above the earth, joining the Jethro Tull flutist Ian Anderson for a duet between earth and space. She also coached actress Sandra Bullock in preparation for Bullock's role as a stranded astronaut in the movie "Gravity". After returning to Earth, she became an Innovation Lead for NASA's Office of the Chief Technologist at NASA's Headquarters in Washington before retiring from NASA after 26 years. Currently, she is a technical consultant for Microgravity Research and a public speaker for STEM and STEAM, a new educational movement that incorporates Art + Design, the "A", into the standard STEM specialties. Cady is also on numerous technical teams and science Boards of Directors. Her great quote on Friday was: "This Air Show has the power to change lives. People are coming to this Breakfast, people will be coming all day, people are coming all weekend. And many of them, whether young or old, are going to see somebody or something that they never thought could be in their world, and they are going to realize that it's closer than they think."

C) THE C-5M DEDICATION:

Finally at 10:00 M, after the Breakfast was finished, and the last coffee was poured and all the dignitaries made their final speeches, the small stage was quickly dismantled and then quite dramatically, the large hanger doors of the giant Fuel Cell Hanger were opened to reveal a new C-5M "Super Galaxy" parked close to the hanger with an area roped off with orange fencing around the aircraft. There was a short naming ceremony for the dedication of the "Spirit of Chicopee", the first upgraded C-5M to arrive at the base in January. The 439AW will convert all 8 of their C-5 Galaxies to be C-5M "Super Galaxies" to be completed later this year. The C-5M is a re-engined version of the US Military's largest aircraft. Along with being quieter, the new General Electric CF6-80C2-L1F (F-138-GE-100) turbofan commercial engines are more efficient and provide 22% more thrust. The C-5M will also have an all-digital "glass cockpit" with mostly digital displays. After the dedication speeches, the "Golden Knights" jumped from their US Army C-31A "Troopship" jump plane (a version of a Fokker F27 Friendship airliner) from 12,500 feet in free-fall, opening at 7,500 with smoke canisters first with a single jumper flying the POW / MIA flag and next with the full team doing a Starburst free fall with smoke, all landing in sequence exactly hitting the "T" target placed between the wing and the tail of the C-5M. After unhooking their chutes, the Team Leader, Sgt. Teigh Statler, gave the team transfer baton to USAF veteran Joe Caputo, of South Hadley, who, in 1955, was a C-124 "Globemaster II" crew member stationed here at Westover AFB. Once the chutes were all tucked way, the orange fencing was partially opened to allow the 600 VIP guests access to see the C-5M up close and board the cabin with the ramps and clam shell doors opened. The Static Ramp remained closed all day Friday for positioning arriving aircraft.

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D) THE "K-LIFT" RIDE:

At 11:00 AM the small group of Media were escorted to the southeast corner of the hanger ramp near the arrival taxiway where they were allowed to board the "K-Lift", a large trailer-sized hydraulic flat-bed scissor platform lift used for servicing and loading the C-5's, to get some high shots of arriving static aircraft. Some, not wishing to go to such high altitudes, were allowed to view arriving aircraft right at the ramp access point off of the taxiway for planes turning into the static ramp. Thank you PAO and Sgt. Andrew Biscoe for the turn view.

E) WHAT'S HERE:

Westover Air Reserve Base (CEF / KCEF) is the largest Air Reserve Base in the world in terms of area. It has two large runways with 05/23 at 11,597 feet and 15/33 at 7,082 feet. Until 2011, it was a back-up emergency landing site for the NASA Space Shuttle. During the Cold War in the 1960's it was a famous B-52 SAC Base right out of the movies "Dr. Strangelove" and "A Gathering of Eagles" with many B-52 Stratofortress Strategic Bombers stationed here, with many ready on 5-minute Ready Alert to do a MITO water-injection rapid take-off with 15-second separation to get as many of the Wing airborne to go and nuke the Soviet Union. The SAC Crew Alert Bunkers with the multiple tunnel egress ramps where crews would run to the blue "Alert" vans, still exist today as the Civilian Terminal at the south end of the long runway. There are still two Alert Ramps done in the famous SAC "Christmas Tree" layout with seven bomber positions on 45 degree side ramps off the Alert ramp designed for instant access to the long runway and instant launch. Some of the B-52 "Nose Hangers" designed to enclose the front half of the bomber, still exist south of the C-5 Hanger and are now commercially leased. The Nuclear Weapons Storage Bunkers still exist at the east side of the long runway and could probably be quickly reactivated if need be. Near the weapons bunkers is an alternate underground 40,000 sq. ft. SAC Command Bunker called "The Notch" that was able to withstand nuclear bombs exploding nearby with 36 inch walls and a 24 inch reinforced ceiling and was built into Bare Mountain to the east of the Base. The "Notch" at Westover AFB was designed to take over SAC Command and Control if SAC's main underground C3 Facility Offutt AFB, NE, and later in Cheyenne Mountain, CO, were knocked out in a nuclear exchange. The layout of Westover ARB is still a classic circular layout from the 1950's with many of the Cold War hangers and buildings still remaining. It still has a rail link and very large fuel storage facilities. Westover is still a major USAF base that is still "Ready To Go" to quickly become a USAF "Global Strike Command" major bomber base if the need arrises or we enter a "Cold War-2". Currently the host unit is the 439AW of the 4th AF of the AFRC as an operationally gained unit of the AMC. Due to its location as one of the few remaining active military bases in the northeast US, Westover AFB is transited by many different military aircraft of all services and has a very busy T-Ramp daily.

F) SOME HISTORY:

Westover started up in August of 1939 in anticipation of the start of WW2 when it was named "Northeast Air Base", soon becoming "Westover Field", and later Westover AFB in 1948, in honor of Maj. Gen. Oscar Westover, CO of the AAC in the1930's. Initially the base had smaller training planes assigned to it but later in 1941, the "Heavy Metal" started arriving with various Bomb Groups during WW2 with a mix of first the Douglas B-18 "Bolo", then the Boeing B-17C/D/G/F "Flying Fortress", the Consolidated B-24 "Liberator" for convoy escort > missions over the Atlantic, the Douglas A-26 Invader", the North American B-25J " Mitchell", the Martin B-26 "Marauder" and even later in the War, the massive Boeing B-29 "Superfortress" used in training squadrons, in addition to C-47 "Skytrain" Troop Carriers and P-47 "Thunderbolt" fighter squadrons making this base a very busy place for sure! After WW2 Westover changed dramatically and became a MATS Air Transport Command base. The Navy even moved in in the early 1950's with their C-54 / R5D transports with the VR-5 transport squadron. When the Cold War heated up, the Air Defense Command came to Westover first with F-86 Sabres, for a while the F-104A Starfighter, and later the Convair F-102A Delta Dagger into the 1960's, with all fighters tied in with the SAGE C3 air intercept control system. Boeing KC-97G Stratotankers were on base until 1965. In 1956 General Curtis LeMay's Strategic Air Command moved in with their Boeing B-52B/C/D heavy long range bombers with the 99th Bomb Wing from 1956 to 1974. Supporting KC-135 tankers from the 99th ARS also remained at Westover from 1957 until 1974. In addition to SAC, starting in April of 1966, the 337th Airlift Squadron started started operating out of Westover, first with the Fairchild C-119 Flying Box Car, then the Douglas C-124 Globemaster II, then the Lockheed C-130 Hercules and finally converting to the C-5 Galaxy in 1987. The 337th AS is now part of the 439th AW at Westover. Westover was turned over to the AFRC on May 19, 1974 when SAC departed. Currently the 439th AW / AFRC / AMC beds down officially 8 C-5M Super Galaxies at Westover, with many visiting C-5's rotating in as well as other aircraft transiting.

In August 1990, Westover was tasked as the major refueling stop for the Gulf War Airlift. Due to its strategic east coast location, expensive runways, and large fuel storage capacity and a rail head on base, Westover was a vital component in on-going world-wide military transport operations. In September 1990, Westover was designated as the staging base for all Desert Shield / Desert Storm C-5 operations by the Military Airlift Command, now the Air Mobility Command. In October 2001, the 439th AW played a vital part in supporting "Operation Iraqi Freedom" and "Operation Enduring Freedom" and continues supporting current operations in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan and other world-wide locations that the US military operates in as well as for humanitarian relief operation where needed.

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G) THE AIR SHOW LINE UP;

There were 72 airplanes on the Hot Ramp and the Static Ramp. First up by the public parking at the north ramp was a fenced in Warbird area with 11 warbirds; closest for immediate runway launch were the CAF Dixie Wing "Prowlers of the Pacific" who came in with four substitute classics: a Navy Douglas SBD-5 "Dauntless"; a replica Nakajima B5N "Kate". (This same aircraft was built in 1969 for the movie "Tora Tora Tora" by combining the airframes of a SNJ-4 with a tail of a BT-13); a Marines Grumman TBM-3F "Avenger" and a Navy Vought F4U-1D "Corsair". Also in the Warbird Box were; the B-17G-110-VE Flying Fortress "Yankee Lady" from the Yankee Air Museum in Willow Run Airport, MI, that did a few revenue flights; a T-33 Shooting Star "Ace Maker II" in original light grey USAF colors; a P-51D Mustang "Never Miss" owned by Russell Cecil and Dave Murphy out of Perth NY, with a yellow nose, invasion stripes and green wing tops; a Supermarine Spitfire Mk.IX in UK camo; US Army PT-17 bi-wing open cockpit trainer with a blue fuselage and yellow tail and wings; a 1935 DeHavilland Tiger Moth DH-82A bi-plane trainer with a yellow fuselage and silver wings; and a 1958 Cessna 175 yellow seaplane with Bavmann Floats. Next to the warbirds but out on the inactive runway were two C-5M's for the Galaxy Demo with one in reserve. On the other side of the large fence was the flying Hot Ramp with; the "Fast Tracks" jump plane, a Cessna 208 Caravan that seats 9 to 14 people; the US Army Golden Knights jump plane, a yellow and white Fokker C-31A "Troopship", a special version of the Fokker F-27-400M Friendship" airliner; of course, the Thunderbirds TB-1 to TB-7; then the five SNJ-2 "Skytypers"; also on the air side of the wire, the KC-135R demo tanker from the 97AMW, 19AF, AETC out of Altus AFB, OK and the C-17A demo aircraft from the 437AW, AMC, out of Charleston AFB, SC.

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On the public ramp side of the wire were the static aircraft displays: working our way down from the upper north end of the ramp, first we hit a new C-5M Super Galaxy from the 436AW-AMC / 516AW-AFRC out of Dover; next were two F-16C's from the 20th FW out of Shaw, both loaded up with assorted inert ordinance; next door were three A-10C Hogs from the 190th FS, "Skullbangers"' from the ID ANG out of Gowen Field ANGB, Boise, ID; doing traffic duty above the ramp and the parking lots was a Mass, State Police Aviation Unit Eurocopter AS355; back on the ramp, an AC-130J Hercules "Shadow / Ghostrider" Gunship from the 73rd Special Operations Squadron, 1st Sp Ops Wing, SOC, out of Hurlburt Field, FL; next a KC-10A "Extender" tanker from the 305AMW-AMC / 514AMW-AFRC; and two F-16C's from the 158th FW, VT ANG, "The Green Mountain Boys / Minutemen", with green tail art and "70th Anniversary 1946-2016" logos out of Burlington ANGB, VT.

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Walking further south on the static ramp we found another cluster of new and current Military birds: a black T-38C Talon from the 509th BW, Global Strike Command, ACC, from Whiteman AFB, (WM) MO, that assists in training B-2A bomber pilots; then another black T-38C Talon from the 71st Fighter Training Squadron "Ironmen" of the 1st FW out of Langley AFB; A CAP 8-passenger GippsAero GA8 AirVan 8; a KC-135R Stratotanker from the 157ARW / 133rd ARS NHANG out of Pease ANGB, NH; two Marine helos from HMLA-269 out of MCAS New River, NC - a UH-1Y "Yankee" Venom (Twin Huey) utility helo with rocket pods and a AH-1W "Whiskey" Super Cobra Attack Helo: a 300 year old B-52H heavy bomber from the 307th Bomb Wing, 93rd Bomb (Training) Squadron, FTU, AF Global Strike Command, Barksdale AFB, LA, "BD" tail, with "Hawgwild" nose art with a charging Wild Boar Pig (with an A-10 "Hog" in the dust); a T-6A Texan II from the 41st FTS, out of Columbus AFB (CB), OH; a white Raytheon Hawker Beechcraft T-1A "Jayhawk" (Beech T-400A) with Tuskegee Airmen nose art and a red tail band from the 99FTS /AETC out of Randolf AFB (RA), TX; a C-130 Hercules from the 910th AW, AFRC, Youngstown ARB, OH; a C-17A from the 445th AW, AFRC, Wright-Patterson AFB, OH; two Navy grey wings out of Chambers Field, NAS Norfolk, VA - an E-2C 8-blade Hawkeye from VAW-120 "Greyhawks" and a C-2A Greyhound also from VAW-120 (since they are a training squadron they use both the C-2A and the E-2C in VAW-120); the "Pie'ce de R'esistance" of the air show - two brand new Lockheed-Martin USAF F-35A Lightning II all-weather stealth multi-role conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) fighters from the 58th FS / 33rd FW, out of Eglin, AFB, FL (non-flying) and roped off with heavy security all locked and loaded.

Even the Army was here - an AH-64 (no unit ID); a VIP gloss blue Bell UH-1N Twin Huey from the 11th Wing, out of JB Andrews, DC; a beautiful white with a red band USCG EDADS HC-144A "Ocean Sentry" twin-engined medium range SAR aircraft, based on the AIrbus (CASA/IPTN) CN-235 design, out of USCGAS Cape Cod; an Marine MV-22 Osprey from Medium Tiltrotor Squadron VMMT-204 "Raptors", 2nd MAW, out of MCAS New River, NC; a Navy P-8A Poseidon from VP-30 "Pro's Nest" out of NAS JAX; an F-15E Strike Eagle from the 414th FG, AFRC, 944th FW, out of Seymour-Johnson (SJ), NC; a F-15C Eagle from the 104th FW, " Barnstormers", MA ANG, out of Barns ANGB, Westfield, MA; a couple of cross-country visitors from NAS Whidbey Island, WA - two EF-18G Growlers from VAQ-130 "Zappers" part of CAW-3 from the carrier USS Truman (AC), aircraft 503 and 502; next door the C-5M Super Galaxy "Spirit of Chicopee" that was dedicated this morning from the 439AW "Patriot Wing", AFRC, here at Westover; the TB-8 F-16A looking like a toy hidden in the massive C-5 main hanger at the far south end of the ramp, a dirty white and orange Navy T-6 Texan II trainer with an "E" tail, from TAW-5 down at NAS Whiting Field, in Milton, FL; a Sikorsky HH-60M MedEvac Blackhawk from Det.-1, Charlie Company, 3rd Battalion, 126th Brigade, USANG, out of Barnes ANGB over at nearby Westfield, MA; and that was it! I think that makes 72 airplanes!!

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H) THE FLYING SHOW!!!!

I think that's what everybody came for! At least to watch the Thunderbirds anyway. The big difference at this show was there was only one Stunt Flyer - Bill Stein and his Zivco Edge 540 doing a high and low show. At 10:15 the flying show started. The KC-135R demo and the Knights F-27 launched early and held, the Base Chaplin said an opening prayer, then there was an 11-gun salute for visiting Brig. Gen. Steven B. Parker, Deputy CO, 22nd AF, Dobbins ARB, GA, who holds an outstanding CV. Then brief remarks by Col. Scott "Bull" Durham, Base CO and Lt. Gen. Maryanne Miller, CO and Chief of the AFRC, who came up from the Pentagon in DC for the Westover Air Show. Then, the flying started: the Golden Knights C-31A (F27) was setting up at 12,500; first we had the single jumper opening up at 5,000 with the American Flag while Bill Stein did circles around the jumper in his color-changing Zivko Edge 540 and at 3,000 the National Anthem started being played. Then we had 9 jumpers out with smoke and 5 of them carrying the Flags of the 5 New England States (Sorry New York!). The KC-135R out of Altus AFB, the "Schoolhouse" for KC-135 and C-5 training, did his demo: high speed, low speed and boom extended at 500 feet, and then something really special, a slow low pass 10 feet off the ground, unusual considering the "R" with the big engines have an engine low point of only 18 inches above the ground and anything more than a 4 degree bank would generate ground sparks, not too cool with with 200,000 pounds of JP-8 on board. BTW - that low pass was a success! Interesting fact : there are still 414 KC-135's still in the inventory of which 275 are in the AFRC. Chris Darnell next took "Shockwave" up to 375 mph and many ear drums are still recovering. A C-5M from our own 337AS / 439AW next did a nice demo for that monster of an airplane. A 2-ship Warbird take-off was next with Rob Collins and his Spitfire Mk IX, and Mark Murphy with his P-51D Mustang, both associated with the Collings Foundation. They did a 2-ship demo then solos while music from "Patton" and "Mustang Sally" was played nice and loud. The "Fast Track Jump Team" came in next with their Cessna Caravan 208 jump plane and did some unusual formations: first two jumpers with 100 foot streamers and red, white and blue smoke; then two jumpers in a stack formation somehow hanging motionless for a long time on the decent and finally a team free fall jump with 400 sq. ft. chutes and a 19,000 (no typo) sq. ft. US Flag with R/W/B smoke and 100 foot streamers. Next year they plan on having a 50,000 (still no typo) sq. ft. US Flag.

Then we had Greg "Wired" Colyer giving a nice demo in his T-33 "Ace Maker II" jet from the Korean War fame. Next we had the "Skytypers" 5-ship SNJ-2 formation out of Republic Airport, LI, NY, doing a good TAC Air and CAP / ACM demonstration with nice combinations of solos, 2-ship, 2 V 2, and diamond formations. The "Pacific Prowlers" from the CAF Dixie Wing were up next with their 4-ship and solo passes and pretend ACM moves with the replica Nakajima B5N "Kate" torpedo bomber. The good guys came in with a SBD-5 "Dauntless", a TBM-3F "Avenger" and a F4U-1D "Corsair". Of course, the good guys always win in this simulated ACM duel! BTW - the "Banana Pass" is really a right to left low slow "Photo Pass" with the plane tops showing - new buzz words being used lately! The C-17A Demo Team out of Charleston AFB, SC next did a nice 24 degree combat climb out at max power to the combat music of "Apocalypse Now" - Perfect - Thank you Jim Morrison and "The Doors"! Another good one - the C-17 demo ended with "Radar Love" by the Golden Earring ("My hand's wet on the wheel, I've been driven' all night " - like a long C-17 mission!!!). Lots of good passes! The Golden Knights next did another free-fall jump, followed by Bill Stein and his long aerobatic show with that Zivco Edge 540 that kept changing colors in the sun - different for sure! Next, that Jet Truck came a little too close to the parked T-Birds with those blasts of fire and white smoke. Again, very impressive! The Thunderbirds went up with a late start with wheels up at 3:35. They again did some of their classic moves: Arrowhead Loop; Calypso; Cross Over Break; Delta Burst; Diamond Cloverleaf Opener; Trail to Diamond; Diamond Roll; High Bomb Burst; Inverted Opposing Edge, the famous loud and 500 foot low Sneak Pass; a whole bunch more and concluding with the 6-ship Delta Pitch Out Break to Land. But you think you know all the moves but the Birds will put a new one in every once in a while!!!

The "Final Announcement" at 4:30 by Rick Pierson, the Show Announcer, was a little different, and I quote: "WILL AN ICE COLD BEER REPORT TO THE ANNOUNCER STAND IMMEDIATELY" !

See you at the next one!!!

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