Thursday, May 3, 2018

Picture Perfect Day for an Air Show!

I read it had been seven years since the last air show at Joint Base Charleston (formerly known as the Charleston Air Force Base). The base, its personnel, and the big C-17 Globemaster cargo planes have been pretty busy with wars overseas.

So it was nice to hear that the gates would be open to the public on Saturday, April 28 for a first-rate display of American warplanes on display and others flying overhead with pinpoint precision and aerobatics.  The event was officially called the Joint Base Charleston 2018 Air & Space Expo.

B-1 Lancer bomber provided shade to dozens of air show patrons

There were an impressive number and variety of planes to see on the tarmac. Many were open for people to go aboard, with airmen and officers on hand to help them get in and out safely and talk and answer questions about what the planes do and what they do. 
B-52 Stratofortress from Barksdale Air Force Base near Shreveport, La., where Alesia and I lived years ago

The two display planes I was most eager to see up close were the two above: the B-1 and B-52 bombers. I saw B-52s regularly when we lived in Shreveport, La. The old warhorses were and continue to be based at Barksdale Air Force in Bossier City, just across the Red River from Shreveport. And I remember back in the 1980s seeing the, at that time, new B-1 when one came to Barksdale.  Both planes have seen a lot of action in Afghanistan and Iraq. 
A crowd checks out the U.S. Navy's Seahawk helicopter

The air show drew tens of thousands of people. We arrived in mid-afternoon and found the crowd size comfortable with plenty of room to walk around and see the planes up close. We didn't go inside any as the lines were pretty long.
U.S. Army M1 Abrams tank

An unexpected treat was seeing an M1 Abrams tank among the warplanes amid a few other U.S. Army vehicles.  A few days early I had seen an Abrams tank being transported east on I-26 toward Charleston. A crew member of this tank confirmed that was this Abrams being brought to the show from Fort Jackson in Columbia.  It was neat to be able to get so close (and to even sit on, as the kids behind me did) to such an armored beast.  

The crew is preparing to go home 

The Abrams tank crew was very friendly, as were the service members with all of the other military machines.  I asked a soldier if this Abrams had been in Iraq or Afghanistan and he said one visitor today said he recognized the tank's number from his own service in Iraq.  

Bradley Fighting Vehicle 

I think the above photo shows just how friendly and approachable the military folks were. And they were willing to not just pose for pictures but take some too!  

F-22 Raptor

It was also cool to see up close this F-22 Raptor, one of America's newest warplanes.  Sleek and stealthy, the Raptor was a star among stars on the flight line.  I think the F stands for Fierce!  

Cool shape and shadows!
This is a straight-on look at the F-22. This is an interesting composition, I feel, with the yellow runway lines intersecting with the plane's shadow and silhouette. 

A-10 Warthog Selfie!

This was a plane I also enjoyed seeing. A-10 "Warthogs" became known as tank killers in the first Persian Gulf war. 

U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt 

The A-10's real name is the Thunderbolt but what some feel is its unattractive appearance earned the negative. but respectful, Warthog label.  This low-flyer packs some punch with its missile systems and the 30 mm cannon located below its nose.  I became familiar with this plane in 1991 when I did a news story about them and the pending closing of what was then the Myrtle Beach Air Force Base. 
Apache attack helicopters are fierce! 
The lids atop these soldiers stopped me in my tracks. My first thought was 1st Cav, ala the movie "Apocolypse Now." But the patches worn by these soldiers indicated a different affiliation. A little research found that this type of hat is worn by U.S. Army Apache helicopter pilots.  Gives them a little more swagger wouldn't you agree?  

Osprey tiltrotor aircraft 
I was also excited to see this unique war plane among the many aircraft on display.  Official full name: Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey.  It's a hybrid airplane and helicopter that take off up like a chopper but also do a plane take off when the propellers are changed from pointing up (above) to straight ahead.  This Osprey is part of the U.S. Marine Corps.  The pilot is in the foregront talking to some visitors.  
The show is about to begin!

The Air Force Thunderbirds were not able to make this year's show. The show finale was ably taken over by the Aeroshell Aerobatics Team.  Four AT-6 "Texan" World War II-era training aircraft with veteran pilots at the stick put on a heck of a show.  

I was able to get these close-ups of two of the pilots as they prepared to start their show.  And what a show it would be!  

I know many people were disappointed to not see the Thunderbirds this year, but these brave pilots in these slower, smaller planes gave an excellent and exciting performance! 

Other fly-bys we saw included this Vietnam-era Soviet MiG-17 Fresco.

This is an Acemaker T-33 Shooting Star. Great name!  These first flew for the U.S. Air Force in 1948. 
It was cool to see the pilots of these planes interacting with the public, such as the pilot of this T-38 Talon (above) and this F-16 Fighting Falcon (below). 

Some final thanks to and gratitude for the men and women in our armed forces. 

And thanks too to Alesia who took some very good photographs herself and an excellent video of the Aeroshell team in action.  The day was indeed picture perfect!  

Yesterday, I created this piece from one of my favorite air show photographs: the panorama of a B-1 bomber serving as a big shade umbrella.  Alesia suggested a spot in the kitchen area and think it looks great. It will long serve as a reminder of the fun day documented in this post.  

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