Beale Air Force Base is a really cool place. It is the home of the 9th Reconnaissance Wing; the home base for the RQ-4 Global Hawk Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) and the U-2 “Dragon Lady” spyplane. It was a privilege to meet some great guys like the base commander, Brig General Robert Otto, Major Pat “Rock” Hudson and many others who were very nice to my dad and me. Ellen Hatfield, the Public Affairs Officer went way out of her way to take care of the media and especially us.
A Brief Summary of the U-2 and Global Hawk
The U-2 was designed by the late Kelly Johnson of the Lockheed Corporation for a fast, high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft. It is expected to retire in 2014 or so, so they can get more time to field the Global Hawk to replace the U-2.
The Global Hawk was designed by Northrop Grumman to replace the U-2 spyplane. It is a UAV, so they will be more expendable than the piloted U-2, but the Global Hawk pilots will be based right out of Beale AFB flying it with a computer, which will reduce casualties.
Anyway, here’s my review of the 2009 Beale Airshow:
Whoosh! As four T-38 Talon jet trainers took of in a blast of speed and sound at 10:30, the Beale 2009 Airshow had begun! The T-38s disappeared, but that doesn’t mean that the show was over! In a very patriotic beginning, Tim Decker and Warren Pietsch took of in a shiny red Pitts S2B and a clipped wing Taylorcraft and climbed to 11,000 feet, where they circled a lone parachutist holding the American flag, while the National Anthem was sung. And then, General Otto and special guest General Chuck Yeager gave speeches on the announcer’s stand, and I was lucky enough to be introduced to General Yeager by General Otto, the base commander!
Then, at 11:05, a sleek and elegant U-2 spyplane took off and climbed to 70,000 feet while Tim and Warren landed.
After that, Swoosh! The four T-38s did a pass for the photographers, and boy did we get some good shots! Then 2 more passes followed, and then the T-38s landed. At 11:25, 10 parachutists jumped from 12,000 feet, but one’s parachute didn’t inflate, and as the crowd gasped, his finally parachute inflated (close call, huh?)! At 11:30, Warren Pietsch took off in his sleek clipped wing Taylorcraft, and did an absolutely amazing aerobatic routine.
Suddenly, his brother Kent was in the sky trying in vain to steal attention. Apparently, Kent was in an awful hurry, because his aileron fell off while he and his brother were fooling around! Then, one of his tires came off! When the announcer, Gordon Bowman-Jones, was announcing that Kent had paperwork to do, toilet paper fell out, and the crowed went crazy with concern and laughs! When Kent finally landed, he jumped out and kissed the ground! When Kent was done embracing the ground and Warren had lifted the spirits of everyone in the crowd, Tim Decker became airborne in his shiny red Pitts S2B. As always, his amazing heart-pounding performance wowed the crowd. Spins and twists and tumbles and everything imaginable was happening in the sky as this talented pilot got everything out of his Pitts S2B. Then…………. wait, where’s the sound effect that goes behind this sentence? There is none. That’s the beauty of the U-2, and when it flew over at 70,000 feet, no one heard a thing, which is good because when it’s spying over enemy nations no one can hear it coming!
At 12:00, John Collver took off in a WWII-painted AT-6 Texan and twisted around at ground level as if he had a Zero behind him! It’s amazing what these guys can do with their planes! After that, Major Paul “Harb” Brown flew a demo flight in an A-10 Thunderbolt II (unofficially called the Warthog) to show off the A-10’s nimbleness but also its durability and accuracy. Maybe when I grow up I’ll join the Air Force!
Then, the amazing, the spectacular, the awesome…… Eddie Andreini took off in his souped - up Super Stearman! Eddie sure ripped up the sky with that baby! He twisted and turned and tumbled and I bet all the birds were watching him with awe!
Suddenly, out of nowhere, the spectacularly nimble F-16 Fighting Falcon (unofficially called the Viper) shot overhead! Major David “Booster” Graham exhibited the F-16’s dogfighting superiority, and when he lit the afterburners…. that thing skyrocketed toward the glistening sun until it was out of sight! Those bad guys better watch out…
Then, the P-51 Mustang piloted by Kevin Eldridge from Planes of Fame Air Museum took off and joined up with the F-16 and A-10 for the Heritage Flight. My good friends, photographers Sagar Pathak and Clark Cook, I’m sure got some amazing shots, too!
Mysteriously, The Patriots Jet Team took off and then disappeared… but no one got a second chance to think because Tim Weber and the Geico Extra 300 ripped up the skies in the form of aerobatics. While he was performing, his music (that’s right, he’s a musician as well!) was playing in the background. It was great!
Then the four Patriots came in from the right and did a couple of fast passes, but that was just the beginning. The Patriots broke up and did knifedges, loops, hammerheads (yes – hammerheads in jets!), sneak passes and much more, giving the Beale 2009 Airshow a finale the crowd will never forget!
But it wasn’t over for me! I got to meet Tommy Napier, the A-10 Demo announcer,
Sgt. Sue Gregory, Airman 1st Class Chuck Broadway, Randy Gon, Beale’s Public Affairs Multimedia Communications officer, and U-2 pilot Lt. Col. Jon “Huggy” Huggins. I have to give special thanks to Huggy because he’s been very nice to my dad and me at several airshows. I also got to meet and interview the director of the show, Major Pat “Rock” Hudson, the A-10 pilot Major Paul “Harb” Brown, the F-16 pilot Major David “Booster” Graham, the Patriot’s lead pilot, Dean “Wilbur” Wright, and I was most honored when I got to meet Brig General Otto, and he even coined me! The soldiers I met and showed the coin to, said they had never seen one like that before and were very jealous!
And remember, be sure to check out the Beale 2010 show! It’ll be one of your favorites, I promise!
Some of these photos were taken by me but most were by my dad. I got to be a cameraman for www.airshowtime.com. The last two are courtesy of the USAF
Again, very special thanks to Ellen Hatfield, of the Beale Public Affairs Office