Andrews Air Force Base Airshow 2011
ANDREWS AIR FORCE BASE 2011
Andrews Air Force Base – A Great Airshow
One of the highlights of each airshow season for the Dixie Wing of the CAF is the annual trip to Andrews Air Force Base. Typically, Andrews commits to the presence of many of the aircraft in the Dixie Wing inventory or owned by Dixie Wing members. Frequently the trip is made in formation with other aircraft which lends itself to a spirit of camaraderie and mutual support. We were to depart on Thursday, May 19, and I became an attentive viewer of the Weather Channel on Monday of that week. As the week began, there was a low pressure system sitting over the northeast with rain and low ceilings in and around Washington, D.C. There was concern about whether we would depart on May 19th as planned.
With my bags packed and flight gear ready, I was in the office on May 19, hastily completing a pre-trial order in a case that was scheduled to go to trial in June when I received word that I we would be departing Falcon Field at about 1:00 p.m. that afternoon. After taking care of things at the office, I arrived at the Dixie Wing around 12:30, and the C-45 was departing the airport at about the time of my arrival. The flight from Falcon Field to Salisbury, North Carolina (RUQ) was briefed. The plan was to proceed northeast and easterly around the southern perimeter of the low pressure system in hopes of making Suffolk, Virginia (FSQ) by nightfall. Then, we would have all the next day to make our way from Suffolk to Andrews Air Force Base. Following our briefing, I telephoned my assistant, Sarah Bartlett, and left word for her to find accommodations for us in Suffolk.
Day 1 – The Flight to Suffolk, Virginia
After carefully pre-flighting the Kate and inserting the coordinates for the flight plan to Salisbury in the KLN-90B, we were airborne shortly after 1:00 p.m. and arrived in Salisbury, North Carolina around 3:00 or 3:30 local time. We quickly refueled our aircraft, and I inserted the coordinates for the next leg to Suffolk. Our trip to Suffolk took us by way of Raleigh Durham, and we landed about two hours after our departure from Salisbury. We landed about 45 minutes prior to sunset. As we taxied on to the ramp, the airport appeared to be deserted. There was no one at the FBO. Calling my assistant, I got the telephone number of the hotel and the local cab company. In short order, we were met by an elderly gentlemen driving a well-worn station wagon who drove us to the hotel in Suffolk. A modest facility, it was patronized by construction workers and bikers, so we pilots felt right at home. We planned to get an early start the next day.
We were en route to the airport by 8:30 the following morning, and the weather into Andrews was marginal VFR. We had to file a special flight restricted zone flight plan to enter the Washington Air Defense Zone (“ADIZ”). We also had to telephone the Transportation Security Administration and obtain our waivers to fly into Andrews Air Force Base. The flight plan to enter the ADIZ is a typical protocol for any aircraft. However, because we were going to fly into a Prohibited Area, we had to have waivers for each pilot and each passenger flying into Andrews.
Willard Womack (a retired TWA Captain) and I were on the telephone at the same time filing our flight plans. Then, Willard telephoned the TSA and obtained waivers for both his airplane and my airplane. We were airborne by about 9:30, and Willard took off ahead of me. We flew north toward Washington, and as we did, we could hear military aircraft on the radio that were also en route to Andrews.
As we approached the Washington ADIZ, I was given a clearance direct to the OJAAY Intersection which placed us on basically a northerly heading. As we got closer to the Washington ADIZ, a controller gave me a clearance directly to the BROOKE VOR, and as I began to turn northwest toward that VOR, the lady controller asked me if I was turning northwest and I gave an affirmative response. She then said that she meant for me to fly to the NOTTINGHAM VOR, and I replied to her that the NOTTINGHAM VOR was out of service. A few moments later, a male controller came on the frequency and gave me a heading to fly 090 or due east. Eventually, we were given a clearance to proceed to directly to Andrews Air Force Base.
As I set up for a left downwind entry for Runway 19L, a Corsair flown by Jim Tobul appeared to the right of the Kate and overtook us. The tower cleared the Corsair to land first, and while we were on final approach, the tower controller gave us a go-around. Once again, we were on a left downwind pattern for Runway 19L. Eventually, we landed at the Andrews Air Force Base and were in communication with a controller for whom English was his second language. Because of the number of aircraft on the airport, we were instructed to keep our transponders on our discrete codes so that ground controller could sort us out on the ramp. Eventually, we made our way to the ramp area and shut down the airplane just behind the B-17 named “Memphis Belle” that had been owned by the late Dave Tallichet. hat aircraft had been flown to Andrews by Austin Wadsworth who is active in the airshow at Geneseo, New York.
Besides the B-17, there was an attractive C-47 on the ramp as well as an FM-2 Wildcat and SB2C Helldiver. In due course, we were met by Pop Wilson who had flown up in the C-45. We obtained fuel for our aircraft, our airshow badges, and a rental car for the trip to the hotel.
Our accommodations were at the National Harbor, about a 15 minute drive from Andrews Air Force Base. On the evening of our arrival, we took a water taxi to Alexandria City. The hotels, restaurants, and shops along the Potomac River were very scenic. In the distance from our hotel, one could see the Washington Monument.
Viewing Airplanes and Banter with Other Pilots
One of the great attractions for flying to an airshow is to meet other pilots and learn about their airplanes. Jim Tobul’s Corsair had been substantially destroyed in a crash where his father lost his life. Recently, however, Jim had the Corsair restored to flying status. Another interesting person was Lieutenant Colonel Andy McVicker who flies the U-2 for the Air force. McVicker had been a Marine Corps Harrier pilot and made an inter-service transfer to the Air Force. The U-2 program has some unique requirements of pilots. They are flying alone (frequently over hostile territory) and there is always the potential for the aircraft being downed and the pilots losing their lives or becoming captives. U-2 pilots must be very self-reliant. Also, the aircraft has some unique flying qualities. With centerline landing gear, it basically a tail dragger, and the pilot has to be keenly aware of the landing gear’s configuration, especially on landing. It has outriggers on the wingtips which provide the wingtips with support until the aircraft departs. On landing, there will be a second U-2 pilot at the airport calling out speeds and altitudes to the flying pilot upon landing. Because the U-2 is such a clean airframe with a high aspect ratio wing, it must be flown at very precise speeds. At certain altitudes, I believe there is a 5 knot margin between redline and stall speed. Although designed by Kelly Johnson’s team at the Lockheed Skunk Works in the mid-1950s, the U-2 airframe as soldiered on for decades and still plies its trade in the rarified atmosphere over battlefields and hostile territories.
Austin Wadsworth gave me a tour of the “Memphis Belle” B-17. Compared to my Kate, it was a massive aircraft. The cockpit is filled with levers and switches reminiscent of art deco styling, and the aircraft has a massive wing area. If you enter the aircraft from a door in the tail, you have to walk through the waste gun area, over the belly turret, over and above the bomb bay, and below the dorsal turret. After winding your way through this labyrinth, you finally arrive at the cockpit. The throttle, propeller, mixture and engine controls, together with the flight instruments is an imposing sight. Below the flight deck is the station for the navigator as well as the station for the bombardier. After giving me a tour of the airplane, we exited by way of a door in the belly below the flight deck.
While standing by the Kate, Tony Stein and I made the acquaintance of Goto Masararu, a flight engineer in the Japanese Self Defense Force. He pointed out that the stenciled language on the tail of the Kate declare that the aircraft is a Japanese Navy Type Zero Fighter. Obviously, whoever prepared the stencil on the rear of the Kate did not read Japanese. Apparently, the stenciled language from a Japanese Zero was arbitrarily depicted on the tail of the Kate. He enjoyed spending time with the aircraft and having his photograph taken in the pilot’s seat of the Kate.
The Trip Home
By Monday morning, May 23rd, it was time for us to make our way home. Tony and I had been running fuel calculations on the flight to Andrews and had concluded that at 24 inches of manifold pressure at 1800 rpm and with the mixture pulled back to about 50 degrees rich of peak EGT, the fuel flow could be brought back to about 28 gallons per hour. With 110 gallons of fuel, the Kate has an endurance of 3 hours and 40 minutes at that power setting. The weather over Virginia and northern portions of Carolina was scattered to broken at about 1,000 to 1,500 feet. We planned to make Salisbury, North Carolina as our first fuel stop. We obtained the ATIS and picked up our clearance at about 10:15, and it was about 45 minutes later before we were airborne. There was quite a queue of aircraft assembled for departure from Andrews on Monday morning. These aircraft included the B-17 (Memphis Belle), two F-15s and other aircraft. Before departing Andrews, we had to file an ADIZ flight plan as well as obtain authorization from the TSA.
Upon departing Andrews, our handling by ATC was courteous and efficient as we made our way toward the BROOKE VOR southwest of the Washington ADIZ. The air traffic controller anticipated our need for flight following, and we received flight following all the way to our destination. Flying southwest, Tony and I were constantly making calculations about our fuel burn and ground speed. As we approached Salisbury, North Carolina, we decided the Kate could easily make another 15 minutes of flying time Monroe, North Carolina (EQY). Landing at Monroe, we had the aircraft topped off, borrowed a courtesy car, and made our way in town for some lunch. We had been airborne in the Kate 2 hours and 57 minutes. The canopy structure in the airplane has the effect of a greenhouse, and it was very warm. We took on lots of fuel for our last leg home. The Kate took on 79 gallons of fuel, 51 gallons in the left tank and 28 gallons in the right tank suggested the airplane still had about 1 more hour of flying time with its 110 gallon fuel capacity. While in Monroe, Tony and I got to spend some time with Bob Russell who runs the airshow at Monroe. Bob expressed interest in having the Kate and the Zero at the Monroe Airshow in the fall. In due course, we made our way southwest to Falcon Field, the flight requiring 2 hours and 16 minutes. We then had the chore of positioning the aircraft in the Dixie Wing hangar. Dusk was approaching by the time we departed the airport.
The trip to Andrews was an adventure that involved navigating in and around complex air space over Charlotte, North Carolina and Washington, D.C. Together with the air space considerations, adverse weather conditions made the trip all the more challenging. Besides those considerations, interaction with the TSA was required to enter and exit the Andrews Air Force Base Prohibited Area. Finally, in an attempt to economize and make the aircraft efficient, one had to be consciously aware of his ground speed and fuel consumption to minimize the fuel stops on this long cross country trip.
The interaction with fellow pilots discussing their airplanes was certainly a very enjoyable experience at the air show. Andrews Air Force Base is always a great show, and this show was no exception.