2015 Great New England Air Show

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Warbirds at the 2015 Westover ARB/Great New England Air Show The sky over western Massachusetts, at the foot of the Berkshires, filled with the sights and sounds of the Great New England Air Show in mid May, 2015.  The show celebrated three quarters of a century of aviation history and security that the Westover Air Reserve Base has provided for the people of the Pioneer Valley and New England.  Over those 75 years, Westover’s missions have changed numerous times, and may change again in the not-too-distant future. A sparkling flying display was assembled for the weekend.  Some interesting warbird activity was part of the show;  the loudest one wasn’t a warbird in the true definition of the term.  Commemorating a truly historical event, the Royal Canadian Air Force’s CF-18 Hornet Demonstration Team supplied their specially decorated aircraft in a 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain paint scheme.  The jet is painted in No. 1 Squadron (RCAF) colors, which was active during the Battle of Britain.  Around a hundred Canadians flew in combat during the campaign, and hundreds more kept their Hurricanes and Spitfires  repaired and serviceable.  These men were part of Winston Churchill’s “Few” . The Geico Skytypers in their SNJ-2s led a handful of warbirds into the air, which included a dissimilar four-ship formation with the American Airpower Museum’s B-25 Mitchell Miss Hap and FG-1D Corsair Skyboss, Charles Lynch’s TBM-3U Avenger She’s the Boss, and Mark Murphy’s P-51D Never Miss.  The Heritage flight contained the F-22 and Jim Beasley in his P-51D Bald Eagle. On the ground, some big planes of the warbird community turned out to take part in the celebration.  The B-17G Yankee Lady joined Second Chance, a true World War II C-47 veteran, and Spooky, an AC-47 gunship.  A Grumman HU-16 Albatross joined a few smaller planes – training and liaison aircraft, and a Bell 47, similar to the made-famous-by-TV MASH helicopter. The base began operations in 1940, named after Major General Oscar Westover who died in a plane crash in 1938.  During World War II, the facility provided training to B-17 and B-24 heavy bomber crews and anti-submarine patrols along the Atlantic coast.  After the war, it’s strategic location close to Europe led to it being re-tasked as a transportation hub.  It provided logistical support for C-54 and C-47 aircraft operating in would later be known as the Berlin Airlift.  From 1955 through 1974, Westover’s key geographic location made it a prime B-52 and KC-135 base for the Strategic Air Command.  Around the same time, interceptor operations for the Air Defense Command, in defense of the Northeastern U.S., saw many front line jet fighters in the air; F-84, F-86, F-89, F-102 and F-104 jets once called Westover home. After those aircraft left, the base reverted to transport operations again, under the command of the Air Force Reserve.  C-123K, C-130 tactical, and C-5A strategic transports have all moved on, but the current 16 C-5B Galaxies of the Patriot Wing serve both within the U.S. and around the globe.  On the horizon, things may change at the western Massachusetts base again.  Plans are to cut in half the number of planes based here, from 16 to 8.  The C-5Bs will be upgraded to C-5M Super Galaxies, and additional maintenance operations of the Air Force Reserve’s C-5 fleet may be accomplished at the base.  Additionally, the base is one of four finalists in a competition for the basing of the Air Force Reserve’s new KC-46A tanker/transport. Close to 375,000 spectators attended the weekend-long air show.  They received a taste of the past through the warbirds that gathered for the 75th anniversary of the base, both in the air and on the ground. A big thank you comes from the ClassicWarbirds.net staff to the Public Affairs Office staff at Westover ARB for great access to cover this show!

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