Airshow Review: 2014 Rhode Island Air National Guard Open House

 The US Navy Blue Angels

The US Navy Blue Angels

A couple of weekends ago, Ann and I made the trip from Ottawa to Rhode Island, to see the RI ANG Open House Air Show. The lineup was too good to pass up on a show that was within a day's drive, so we packed up and went. The weather was unbelievably cooperative as the forecast had called for rain on Saturday right up until that morning. Sunday was to be partly cloudy, so we opted to skip Saturday's show (oops, once we saw the beautiful clear weather) and go Sunday. The weather Sunday wasn't as great, but still good, and all the same we weren't disappointed. This year's lineup was an impressive one, ranging from civilian aerobatic acts, to vintage warbirds, to modern combat aircraft and the US Navy Blue Angels. Entry to the show was very well organized, even with the enhanced security (no coolers or backpacks allowed). The National Guard troops doing the screening were friendly and efficient.

 USAF Boeing C-17 Globemaster III

USAF Boeing C-17 Globemaster III

On to the show itself, Sean D. Tucker took to the air first in the Oracle Challenger III biplane performing an exciting routine demonstrating his skills and his aircraft's incredible power and maneuverability. The Challenger III is tiny, but 400hp in a 1200lb aircraft is an impressive thing. Next up was the Collings Foundation's Grumman FM-2 Wildcat with a fairly short demo with some nice passes. Following the Wildcat, the John Klatt Airshows Air National Guard MX-S and Jack Link's Extra 300L took off together to do a duo act with some exciting close maneuvering and smoke work. Following them was Rob Holland's thrilling routine in his MX-S/RH, with many moves appearing to defy physics and possibly his sanity. Mr. Holland pushes his act a little further every time I see it, always introducing a new maneuver or two with each year. Lessening the intensity a bit, Julie Clark took her wonderfully polished Beech T-34 up for a spin with a routine focusing more on graceful precision flying than wild stunts. First of the day's Mustangs to take to the air, Mark Murphy's P-51D "Never Miss" made a lovely racket with her Packard Merlin, with Mr. Murphy putting his aircraft through a nice aerobatic display.

 Sean D. Tucker in the Oracle Challenger III

Sean D. Tucker in the Oracle Challenger III

With a brief interlude of the Geico Skytypers taking off in their SNJ's and the TF-51 Mustang "Bum Steer" taking off to warm up for their displays, the USAF's F-22 Raptor then took to the skies. At that point, I was happy enough and the show could have ended there. The Raptor was more remarkable than I expected, looking very sci-fi ish with its low observable shape and vectoring exhaust nozzles. It was pushed through a fast paced routine that showcased its incredible maneuverability (especially for an aircraft its size!) which at times seemed like an impossibility, with it performing stalls and hovering type moves much like the smaller aerobatic planes earlier. The Raptor was then joined by the TF-51 and another Mustang, the P-51D "Bald Eagle" to perform several passes for the USAF Heritage Flight. The Raptor with the two Mustangs was a beautiful sight, the pinnacle of fighter aircraft from the World War II and the modern age together. Following a couple of brief solo passes by each of the three aircraft, they landed to be replaced in the sky by the 6 ship formation act the Geico Skytypers. The Skytypers put on a solid show of nice 4 ship formation maneuvers with two solos adding in some exciting head on passes and other stunts.

 USAF F-22 Raptor

USAF F-22 Raptor

Next up was the USMC MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft. I hadn't seen one since living in Halifax, NS in the early 2000's when one was at Shearwater for testing, and seeing it demonstrated in RI did not disappoint. It performed some high speed passes followed by some precision hover and transitioning moves showing its unique capabilities. Another Collings Foundation aircraft, the Douglas A-1E Skyraider was next with some nice passes with possibly the best light of the day yielding some very good photo opportunities. Sean D. Tucker then gave another high-energy performance in the Challenger III, followed by the ridiculously fun Jack Link's Jet WACO "Screamin' Sasquatch". The Jet WACO is a 1929 Taperwing WACO with a GE CJ610 turbojet engine added, resulting in what was demonstrated as an almost non-existent takeoff run to vertical flight. It was fun to watch and it made a lot of racket too!

 US Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey

US Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey

With the Jet WACO returning to the ground, the Horsemen aerobatic team to the skies in their Grumman 'Cats, with a pair of F8F Bearcats and a F7F Tigercat, none of which I'd ever seen in person before. The Horsemen flew a beautiful routine with the big radials of their 'Cats making a lovely sound. Once the Grumman fighters were on the ground, the Blue Angels' support C-130 Hercules "Fat Albert" roared into the air. "Fat Albert" did some great high speed passes followed by a demonstration of the short-field assault landing, kicking up debris and then proceeding to reverse taxi and turn in front of the crowd to make its way back to the tarmac.

 Blue Angels' C-130T "Fat Albert"

Blue Angels' C-130T "Fat Albert"

The final part of the show was the much awaited Blue Angels, with a slight delay due to technical issues with their number 5 aircraft resulting in their two-seater number 7 F/A-18 Hornet being subbed in for the performance. The Blue Angels were every bit as impressive as expected, with the 4 ship diamond showing some super-tight formation work and the two solos performing some very exciting individual and duo maneuvers. The Blue Angels routine came to a close after the two solos joined the rest of the team for several 6 ship formations and then coming back to earth.

 US Navy Blue Angels

US Navy Blue Angels

All in all, the RI ANG Open House was well worth the trip and one I will be most likely making again. Well organized, good location, and an excellent lineup made it a show that was one of the better ones I've seen in a while. Enjoy the gallery below of some more shots of the show! For even more photos of the show, check out my Flickr page.