Air Show

This weekend was the annual Joint Service Open House Air Show at Andrews Air Force Base outside of Washington, D.C.  This event is free for the general public and attracts many historical airplanes, obtains popular aerial entertainment acts like the Blue Angels, and offers a large display of airplanes and helicopters currently being used by the Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force – hence the “joint service” part of the title.

My objective for the day was to find the B-24 Liberator from WWII display.  I had a particular interest in this plane because my grandfather flew it on dangerous missions out of Foggia, Italy to Ploiesti, Romania with the objective of destroying German oil and war equipment supply production targets in 1944.  The B-24 was also used in the Pacific Theater of Operations during the war, and a popular book called Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, describes the particular experience of a bombardier on that aspect of the war.

When I found the B-24, we stood in line to gain admission, and donated $5 to the Commemorative Air Force B-29/B-24 Squadron to also get access to the cockpit.  The interior was a lot smaller than I had expected, and headroom was a challenge at times with several “near misses.”  Overall, it was a special experience, for me, to step back in time and try to envision my grandfather seated in that cockpit on an 8-hour mission in tight formation with 15 other bombers.

The CAF also offers B-24 flight experiences, but I will have to miss it this year due to a scheduling conflict.  Crossing my fingers that the other touring B-24 comes to town again this fall for a 2nd chance to go up.

Another interesting plane we spotted, parked very close to the B-24, was the 1960s NASA Super Guppy.  This oddly shaped plane was originally developed in 1962 as an equipment and spacecraft component transport plane for the Gemini, Apollo, and Skylab space programs.    

All I could think about is that it looked like a parrot fish, or when the nose was open, a decapitated parrot fish!  Am I right, or what?  Now that I look at the photo again, I can maybe see a bottlenose dolphin.  Seriously, who thought of this design?

Parrot Fish

Going back to WWII aircraft, my other favorites on site, besides the B-24, were the P-21 Mustang and the C-47, a military version of the civilian D-3 that was used to transport paratroopers to Normandy on D-Day in its modified C-53 form, to drop supplies on the entrenched troops in Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge, and to defy a Soviet blockade in 1948 in order to provide needed food to the people trapped in Berlin (the Berlin Airlift), plus many other operations in the Pacific.

P-21 Mustang

C-47 Skytrain

Another display favorite was a Darth Vader EA-6B Prowler with its wings folded up as if it was parked on a carrier.  Of course, this was an air show after all, so the day was not limited to the static displays on the ground.  We were able to watch several trick planes take to the skies, as well as some other small aircraft, like the T-6 Texan and the F4U Corsair, and two aircraft with hovering capabilities – the AV-8B Harrier and the MV-22 Osprey.

EA-6B tail art
Harrier showing off for the crowd
Osprey – is it a helicopter or is it a plane?  Who knows!

Unfortunately we were unable to stay for the star attraction – the crowd pleasing Blue Angels and their famous precision aerobatics maneuvers.  But I did get a nice photo of the bright blue and yellow F/A-18 Hornets waiting on the ground!  Overall, what a fun day of activities – and it was free!  I love free things to do in D.C.  I think this air show is definitely going on my calendar next year!

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