2015 Event Review

2015 Great New England Air Show May 16-17, 2015
Location: Westover Air Reserve Base, Chicopee, Massachusetts.
Admission: FREE
Parking: FREE
Value: Excellent
Rating out of 10: 8.5
 
Display by the Italians
Vermont ANG

The 2015 Great New England Air Show took place on May 16 -17 on Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee, Massachusetts.  The show was open to the public and provided free entrance and free parking. The show featured 3 premier flying demonstrations – the F-22 Raptor, the Canadian Snowbirds and the U.S. Navy Blue Angels in their very first appearance at Westover.

The show started with a flight of the C-5 Galaxy.  Lockheed Martin’s impressive transport aircraft, one of the largest military aircraft in the world (247’ length, 223’ wingspan, 65’ height), since 1969 has provided the US Air Force with heavy intercontinental-range strategic airlift capability able to carry oversized load, for a gross weight of 840,000 pounds. Next to take off was the P-51 Mustang. The P-51 Mustang took its first flight in October 1940 and was notably used during World War II and the Korean War as a long-range single-seat fighter and fighter-bomber. It was also used by the Royal Air Force as a tactical-reconnaissance aircraft during World War II.

Sean D. Tucker performed unbelievable stunts in his Team Oracle Challenger III Biplane.  Tucker earned his pilot’s certificate at age 17 and started out as a crop-duster and eventually started his own crop-dusting business.  But Tucker always had a fear of crashing.  To overcome this fear, Tucker took an aerobatic course and soon got hooked.  He has been performing aerobatic stunts for over 40 years – totaling more than 1,200 performances at more than 475 airshows. More than half of his maneuvers have never been duplicated by another aerobatic pilot. In order to maintain his level of performance, Tucker practices his aerobatic routine three times a day and endures a rigorous physical training schedule more than 340 days per year.  Now that’s dedication!  Tucker was named one of the 25 Living Legends of Flight by the National Air and Space Smithsonian and was also inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame.

Next came the War Birds – the B-25, FG1B Corsair and the TBM3 Avenger.  The B-25 Mitchell was an American twin-engine medium bomber that took its first flight in August 1940. It was used by many Allied air forces, in every theater of World War II and then by many other air forces after the war ended.  The B-25 gained its fame as the bomber using in the Doolittle Raid that attacked mainland Japan four months after the bombing at Pearl Harbor.  The mission was important to lifting the American spirits and alarming the Japanese who believed that their home island was safe from enemy forces.  The B-25 presented at this air show is the oldest flying B-25 and served as the personal plane of Henry Harley “Hap” Arnold who was the General of the Air Force and Commanding General of the USAF during World War II.  Arnold obtained his aviation instruction by the Wright Brothers and was one of the first military pilots in the world.  The FG-1D Corsair (also known as the F4U Corsair) was introduced in 1940 with the most powerful engine and largest diameter propeller of any fighter aircraft in history.  As a result, this was the first fighter to exceed 400mph.  The Corsair proved to be a mighty opponent during World War II with an 11 to 1 kill ratio and continued as an efficient fighter-bomber throughout the Korean War. The General Motors TBM Avenger (also known as the TBF Avenger when manufactured by Grumman) was a torpedo bomber built for the U.S. Navy and Marines.  It entered service in 1942 and first saw action at the Battle of Midway.  It was one of the outstanding torpedo bombers of WWII. Following these amazing warbirds was Rob Holland flying the Window World MXS-RH by MX Aircraft.  Rob is one of the most decorated and innovative aerobatic pilots in the world today.  He has won four consecutive U.S. National Aerobatic Championships and two-time defending World Freestyle Aerobatic Champion.  Rob has accumulated over 11,000 flight hours in more than 170 types of aircraft.  The MXS aircraft was designed to set a new standard in unlimited performance aircraft.  It is a single-seat, carbon fiber aircraft using state-of-the-art composite materials and engineering skills to create an aircraft with a unique combination of performance and durability.

Once again the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor put on an unbelievable solo performance and also teamed up with the P-51 for the nostalgic heritage flight.  This single-seat, twin engine, all weather stealth tactical fighter aircraft can reach a maximum speed of 1,498mph while covering a range of 1,839 miles.  It has been hailed as the most outstanding fighter plan ever built.  Unfortunately, the high cost of the aircraft along with the development of the more versatile and lower cost F-35 led to the end of F-22 production. 

The Canadian Snowbirds put on a spectacular performance commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.  The Battle of Britain was very important in that it was the first military confrontation won by air power and Germany’s first defeat in the war.  The Snowbirds flies CT-114 Tutors performing with nine planes.  The CT-114 Tutor is a Canadian-built jet that was used by the Canadian Forces as a basic pilot-training aircraft from 1963-2000.  The aerobatic squadron was formed in 1971 and performs approximately 60 air shows per year at 40 different locations throughout North America.  During performances, the Snowbirds fly at speeds ranging from 115mph to 370mph.  The distance between each Snowbird in many formations is about 4 feet.
The Canadians also demonstrated the performance of their CF-18 Hornet.  This fighter aircraft used by the Royal Canadian Air Force is based on the American F/A-18 Hornet.  The CF-18 can carry a crew of 1 or 2, reaching a maximum speed of Mach 1.8 (1,127mph).  To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain the top of the jet was painted in a green/earth camouflage pattern used during the Battle.  Winston Churchill is also depicted on the tail.

The GEICO Skytypers Airshow Team is a flight squadron of six pilots performing precision flight maneuvers using vintage WWII aircraft.  The SNJ-2 is a modification of the original SNJ designed by North American Aviation as a low-cost trainer with all the characteristics of a high-speed fighter.  It was used to train Allied pilots during WWII.  They are referred to as Skytypers because they perform low-level flying maneuvers while creating aerial smoke messages that are created via computer-controlled smoke puffs.

And flying last and so exciting were the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels.  The Blue Angels team was formed in 1946 and typically fly 70 shows at 34 locations throughout the U.S. each year.  The six-pilot team flies F/A-18 Hornets and perform tactical techniques taught to every naval aviator.  During their shows the pilots separate into the Diamond Formation (planes 1 through 4) and the lead and opposing solos (planes 5 and 6).  The Diamond usually flies at slower speeds (400mph) while the solos perform high speed maneuvers reaching speeds of 700mph (just under Mach 1).  In formation, the Blue Angels are separated by only 18” from wingtip to canopy.  The F/A-18 Hornets flow are former fleet aircraft that are nearly combat ready.  Modifications to the aircraft include removal of the gun and replacement with a smoke tank, and outfitting with a control stick spring system for more precise control. The Blue Angels use a U.S. Marine Corps C-130T Hercules, affectionately called “Fat Albert” to support them.  The C-130 was first introduced in 1954 as a tactical transport aircraft capable of using unprepared runways as short at 2,500 feet.

 

Performers included:
    U.S. Navy Blue Angels
US Army Golden Knights
F22 Raptor Demo Team
Geico Skytypers
Canadian CF-18 Demo Team
Canadian Snowbirds
P-51D Mustang
USAF Heritage flight F-22 & P-51
The Warbirds flight consisting of a B-25, P-51, FGB1 Corsair and TB3M Avenger
Sean D. Tucker and his Team Oracle Challenger III Biplane
Robb Holland
Static on display included:

- F15 Eagle – an American twin-engine, all-weather tactical fighter designed to gain and maintain air superiority in aerial combat.  It is among the most successful modern fighters.

- F16 Falcon – a single-engine, multi-role fighter aircraft, featuring a frameless bubble canopy for better visibility and a side-mounted control stick to ease control while maneuvering.  Pilots often refer to this plane as the “Viper” due to its resemblance to a viper snake.

- A10 Thunderbolt – an American twin-engine, straight wing jet aircraft designed for close air support, including attacking tanks, armored vehicles, and other ground targets.  It is more commonly known by its nickname the “Warthog.”

- B1 Lancer – a four-engine supersonic, variable-sweep wing, jet powered heavy strategic bomber.  It is a low-level penetrator with long range and Mach 1.25 speed capability at high altitude.

- B52 Stratofortress – a long range, subsonic, jet-powered strategic bomber capable of carrying up to 70,000 of weapons

- C5 Galaxy and the C5 Galaxy Engine – a large military transport aircraft providing heavy intercontinental-range strategic airlift capability.

- C-130 Hercules – a four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft designed as a troop, medivac, and cargo transport aircraft capable of using unprepared runways.

- KC-135 Stratotanker – a military aerial refueling aircraft , and many more...

Report and photography by Brian R. Veprek for The Aviation Magazine

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