LANGLEY IN 2018 – THE AIR SHOW AND THE AIR BASE

By: Category: AirshowsBase VisitsEventsMilitary

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Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Virginia, had their big airshow on
Friday, Saturday and Sunday, May 18th - 20th, 2018. If anything,
Langley will get the award this year for having the longest official
title - "Air Power Over Hampton Roads 2018 Joint Base Langley Eustis Air 
and Space Expo".

For those of you who are not from the Norfolk area, "Hampton Roads"
does not refer to any asphalt "Road" at all. The body of water known
as "Hampton Roads" is one of the world's largest natural harbors (more
accurately called a "Roadstead" or a "Roads" for short. A "Roadstead"
is a body of sheltered water where ships can safely anchor without dragging 
or "snatching" bottom. Here in Hampton Roads it incorporates the mouths 
of the Elizabeth River, the Nansemond River and the James River and extends 
east to the Chesapeake Bay at the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel (HRBT) before
emptying into the Atlantic Ocean at the US Navy Joint Expeditionary
Base Fort Story point of land at the northern tip of Virginia Beach.

Hampton Roads is known for its large military presence, a deep
ice-free harbor, container ports, shipyards, coal yards, "Newport News
Shipbuilding" - the sole designer, builder and nuclear refueler of US
Navy aircraft carriers and one of two providers of US Navy nuclear
submarines; and it's also the site of "Naval Station Norfolk"- the
world's largest naval station with the largest concentration of US
Naval forces with over 75 ships alongside 14 piers and with 134 aircraft
and 11 hangers at the adjacent NAS Chambers Field, now a Det of nearby 
NAS Oceana. Langley just adds to the total Military Mix here!

A CLASSIC DESIGN:
With all this water around here, it is no wonder that when you enter
Langley AFB from the east you really have to cross bridges to get in;
either at the King Street Gate using the classic1930 King Street
Bridge or by a shorter bridge at the Main Gate at LaSalle Avenue (the
main entry point for the public coming to the Air Show) located right
near the Visitors Center where there is a grey B-52G bomber Gate Guard
(a little strange considering this is now home to the First Fighter
Wing, a state-of-the-art fighter base with two F-22A Raptor squadrons
assigned). As you drive into Langley you can't help but be amazed at
how many of the classic buildings from the 1930's have been
architecturally preserved and upgraded on the northern side where the
original base was located. Many of the WW2 brick hangers are still
there and have been enhanced with new hangers for its new high-tech
F-22 fighter mission.

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You can really see these architectural wonders
as you drive down Sweeney Blvd right near the flightline and through
the big tan arch that says you have entered "Fighter Country" with the
large new hangers reserved for the fighter squadrons - the 27th FS
(F-22A Raptors); the 94th FS (F-22A Raptors) and the 71st Fighter Training
Squadron, previously a F-15C Fighter Squadron and now a training squadron 
with black Aggressor T-38A Talons. A block away and parallel to the flightline 
is "Officer's Row", actually a few rows of beautiful classic brick houses 
under gigantic trees that are the homes to the senior officers on base. Even 
the roadways are "classically designed" in the older part of the base with curving
roads, landscaped rotaries and lots of big trees. This Langley AFB is
truly an architectural "Award Winner" for sure!

A CLASSIC HISTORY:
There's also a lot of history here too. The Base was named after
Samuel Langley, an "aerodynamics" pioneer who began experimenting with
airplanes in 1887 and built the first "steam airplane" (!!!) in 1896 and
designed other flying machines later. (i don't think he coordinated with Oliver
and Wilber at all!) Langley Field was the first US Air Service Base
built especially for air power and is the oldest continuously active
air force base in the world and in Virginia (hence, all the historic 
buildings all around here). The actual Air Base goes back to 1916 when 
the National Advisory Council for Aeronautics (NACA), the predecessor to
NASA, established a need for an airfield and proving ground for Army, Navy 
and NACA experimental aircraft development.

The present flat site near the water beat out 15 other sites and was
designated "Langley Field Proving Ground" in honor of Sam Langley who 
died in 1906. A 1920 aerial photo of the Base shows many of the roads 
on base that still exist today including the grand entrance at the King 
Street Bridge. In 1918 aircraft on the ramp included the J-4 Curtiss "Jenny"
and the deHavilland DH-4 bomber as well as hydrogen-filled dirigibles.
General Billy Mitchell's new bomber tactics were developed here in the
1920's using captured WW1 German Battleships to bomb off the
Chesapeake Bay Coast. Many of the brick buildings still remain.
Langley became a prime Anti-Submarine Warfare Base in the 1940's. On
May 25th, 1946, Langley became the headquarters of the newly formed
Tactical Air Command (TAC). Jet fighter-bombers started to arrive in
the 1950's and Langley became the main facility for peacetime air
sovereignty and wartime air defense tactics development. In January
1948, Langley Field officially became "Langley Air Force Base". During
the Cold War, Langley had quite a mix of fighters, transports and tankers
assigned here. 

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In January 1976, the First Tactical Fighter Wing was 
transferred to Langley from MacDill AFB, FL. The 1st TFW was the first 
USAF operational Wing to be equipped with the F-15A/B Eagle. In June 1992, 
Langley became the Headquarters of the newly formed Air Combat Command (ACC)
replacing TAC. Right after the 9-11 attacks in 2001, Langley became the TDY 
home to F-16 Vipers that rotated in from either the DCANG or the VAANG bases 
to be on Ready Alert here at Langley for enhanced Homeland Defense. Those 
Alert Hangers and ramp are still present at the far west end of the runway
near Armistead Ave. On December 15th, 2005, the 1st Fighter Wing, 27th
Fighter Squadron, became the Air Force's first operational F-22 Raptor
fighter squadron. The Wings complement of now 44 F-22's in the 27th
and 94th FS reached Full Operational Capability (FOC) on December 12th, 2007.

The assortment of recent aircraft assigned to Langely both in the Cold
War and currently is quite impressive. The 1950's saw TAC Tactical
Reconnaissance Wings, the old Continental Air Command Fighter Wings,
Bombardment Wings and Air Refueling Wings with RF-80, RB-26, F-80,
F-86, B-26, B-45, B-57, RB-57, F-100, KB-29 and KB-50 aircraft
assigned. The 1960's included Troop Carrier Wings, Tactical Airlift
Wings, and MAC Units with various C-130 Hercules aircraft assigned.
The 48th FIS was here from 1953 to 1991 with F-84G's, F-94C's, F-102A's, 
F-106's and F-15A's until 1991. Finally the Tactical Air Command and later
named the Air Combat Command moved in in 1977 with the three current 
squadrons with F-15A/B/C/D Eagles and are still here with two F-22A Raptor 
squadrons and a third converting to a T-38C Aggressor training FTS squadron.


FullSizeRender 2fWHAT'S HERE NOW:
It's not just the F-22's! The 633rd Air Base Wing at Langley
functions as the "Landlord" providing support and management for both
the USAF Base and the near-by Fort Eustis Army Transport Base. Under
the 633rd there are a number of key "Tenant" Units, including:

A) The First Fighter Wing (tail code FF) is composed of the 1st
Operations Group and the 1st Maintenance Group that both keep the F-22
Raptors Mission-Capable. Operational Squadrons of the 1st Operations 
Group include: 1) the 27th FS (22 F-22A Raptors) "The Fighting Eagles"; 
2) the 94th FS (22 F-22A Raptors) "Hat in the Ring", (that goes back to 
the days of Capt. Eddie Rickenbscker's SPAD XII of the 94th Aero Squadron of
WW1 fame); and 3) the 71st Fighter Training Squadron that gave up its
F-15's to become an Aggressor Training Squadron with black T-38A Talons
(think of the "Top Gun" Bad Guys!).

B) The 480th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing. This
is real Black Ops Classified Stuff!! The 480th ISR Wing operates and
maintains the Air Force "Distributed Common Ground System" or DCGS,
also known as the "Sentinel" Weapons System, conducting "imagery,
crypto-graphics, measurement and signature intelligence activities".
The ISR Wing has seven Group ISR units scattered world-wide doing
classified intel ops of which the 497th ISR Group is here at Langley
AFB. (The NY Times just had a major story on this ISR Unit at Langley
that was published on Sunday, June 17, 2018. To quote this recent NYT
feature story: "Langley Air Force Base in Virginia is home to part of
the 480th Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Wing, a Unit
of 6,000 deployed-in-place Cyber-Warriors. They work on what is known
as the "Ops Floor", a dimly lit room equipped with computers streaming
footage from drones circling over numerous battlefields". The story
goes into great detail about how very stressful the daily jobs of these 
Combat Cyber-Warriors each day on the "Ops Floor").

C) The 192nd Fighter Wing (Virginia Air National Guard). The 192nd FW
mission is to fly and maintain the F-22A Raptors at JBL-E through the
149th FS and support the ongoing intelligence mission through the
192nd Intelligence Squadron. The 192nd FW for years was based at the
Richmond Airport flying the B-26, F-84F, F-105D's, A-7D's and finally
F-16C/D's. In 2007 as a result of BRAC 2005, the 192nd FW relinquished 
its F-16C/D's and moved to Langley AFB to integrate with the regular Air 
Force as an associate unit of the 1st FW flying the F-22A Raptor. It was
specifically integrated with the 27th FS / 1st FW at Langley..

D) Langley also hosts: The USAF Command and Control Integration
Center (AFC2IC), a unit responsible for designing, developing and
integrating new C2 capabilities; also it is the Headquarters of the 
Air Combat Command (ACC); and also it is home to the F-22 Raptor Demo Team.

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E) Langley AFB also supports the adjacent and contiguous NASA Langley
Research Center (LRC), a large sprawling series of testing and
research facilities and aircraft ramps on the far west side of the Air
Base. NASA has a small Air Force of its own based on their own ramps. 
The aircraft include: (1) HU-25C "Guardian" Falcon Jet; (1) Cirrus SR22; 
(4) OV-10A Broncos; (1) Columbia-300; (1) Cessna 205 "Station Air"; 
(1) C-20B recently acquired from the 89th AW at Andrews; (1) Beech B200; 
(1) UC-12B -- quite a collection of NASA planes here!

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AN INTERVIEW WITH A THUNDERBIRD:
On Friday morning before the Practice Show, I was given an opportunity
by Public Affairs to interview one of the Thunderbirds. The Langley
Air Show was the first public appearance of the Thunderbirds since
Major Stephen Del Bagno, Thunderbird No. 4, the Slot Pilot, was killed
in a training mishap on April 4th at the Nevada Test and Training
Range at Nellis AFB. The Slot Pilot from last year, Major Nick "Khan"
Krajicek, was reactivated to take over that No. 4 position on the Team
for the remaining 2018 TB Show Schedule. PhotoRecon Magazine extends
its deepest condolences to the family and Team members for the tragic 
loss of Major Del Bagno. 

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Accompanying the Team on their first public performance at Langley Friday was 
Brig. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt, Commander of the 57th Wing at Nellis Air Force Base, 
who appeared on the flightline after the Team's 3:00 demonstration practice performance
on Friday in a brief private Team reception.

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In the morning I had the pleasure of speaking briefly with Capt. Will
Graeff, the Left Wing Pilot who flies the Thunderbird No. 2 jet. Will
immediately impressed me as being a real easy going friendly kind of
guy, who is very self-assured, professional, and displays an air of
total confidence in what he does. He was in no hurry and was willing
to answer all my questions as well as those of a local TV reporter
right next to me. He told me he always had a "passion" to fly and
"loves the excitement and joy of flying and now the responsibility of
flying Left Wing with the Thunderbirds both to the public and his
Teammates". His favorite maneuver is "the trail to diamond to clover
leaf and back to the diamond". Will said he is on his first year with
the T-Birds having joined in September after a grueling application
process. He said the selection process depends on hours flown,
aircraft types, your AF history, and multiple letters of
recommendation. 

The interview becomes critical; he was separately
interviewed by TB-7, TB-1 and the Wing Commander! His primary mission
is of course flying the performance each time perfectly but his
secondary mission is getting young people excited about joining the
Air Force at high schools, local events and even on the wire after a
performance. He admitted that the Team had a tough time dealing with
the tragic loss of their No. 4 Slot Pilot, Maj. Stephan Del Bagno,
"but you adjust and you keep going". He said he is from Seminole,
Florida and was part of the University of Florida's USAF ROTC program.
He admitted while in school he was thinking about being a Doctor and
even joining the CIA! After Vance AFB he started flying F-15E's,
T-38's, and F-16's before signing up with the T-Birds. He first flew
Cessna 150's then Diamond DA-20's. At Vance he trained on T-6 Texan
II's and T-38's. He flew F-15E's at RAF Lakenheath. He returned to
T-38's as an Instructor Pilot, then to F-16C Vipers. He has 1,400 hours
in the Air Force, with 200 combat hours and 750 in fighters. It sounds 
like he really loves his job!!!


FullSizeRender2jAIR SHOW STATIC LINE:
On Friday at about 11:00 Public Affairs released our small Platoon of
Media-Types to wander the Static Line unescorted on our own - we
certainly appreciated that freedom. There were very few VIP's on the
ramp to obstruct our views of the planes so it was a perfect release.
Unfortunately, Friday was threatening weather with early showers, a
low ceiling and a later a 4:30 downpour that created havoc with the
6:30 Concert setup. This was really going to be a musical air show.
Friday night there was supposed to be a Rock Concert with "Fantasia"
and " Link'in Bridge" with a night flying show and fireworks later. I
guess the rain changed that a little. Saturday had another Country
Rock Concert scheduled at 6:30 with "Trace Atkins" and "Ryan Daniel"
to perform. All the Concert seats varied from $25 up to $150, all in a
fenced in area with security. Of course you could always stand out in 
left field by the C-17 and listen to the whole thing for free... In the rain!
But they had really planned for a real Concert Air Show; the first of
its kind around the east in a long time!

The " Static Line" was really a "Shelter Line" at Langley this year.
Two years ago it was a ramp wide open to the sky. This year they had
built almost 40 aircraft shelters on the ramp. And that number would
be about right to "hide" all 44 assigned Raptors, 22 per squadron,
right on the flightline. At Nellis and D-M it's to keep them out of
the 110 degree sun, but why here? Rumors were that they were built to
hide the Raptors from Russian satellite overflights. Whatever, but
what happened at the Langley Show was that all the static birds were
under cover and mostly roped off except for two that were too large to
fit in - the C-17 and the V-22 Osprey and WAVY's News Helo that
wanted to stay on "Ready Alert" on the line if needed elsewhere.

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18 Shelters were of "Quonset Hut" design with reinforced curving 12
inch truss frames with canvas tops and solar photovoltaic electric
power generating panels in between each "Hut". These were large enough
for two T-38's to be placed in each. 19 Shelters were of aluminum beam
construction with one-direction sloping metal pitched roofs - pretty 
permanent designs! South of the show ramp were many new Air Force tan hangers
and beyond that were the classic 1930 brick hangers from WW II in outstanding
condition. So, where were the 40 Raptors and the 15 Talons? No one knew. 
Maybe at Oceana!

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Because of the impending bad weather for a rainy weekend, some planes
bugged out. Here's what was actually on the Line on Friday, Hot and Cold Ramps:
Remotely parked were the Thunderbirds and the two Raptors from the
F-22 Demo Team; the C-17A from the 167th AW, WVANG, out of
Martinsburg ANGB (open air); an F-22A Raptor, 1st FW, tail code FF,
from the 27th FS, "Fighting Eagles"; an F-15E Strike Eagle from the
335th FS, "Chiefs", SJ tail code out of Seymour-Johnson; a second
F-15E out of SJ from the 336th FS "Rocketeers"; an F-16C Viper out of
Shaw fully loaded up with four wing tanks and four inert AIM-9
missiles and centerline inert bombs on the hard points; two Talons in
the same shelter - a black T-38A from the 71st FTS "Ironmen" with the
1st FW and a T-38C from Columbus AFB, CB tail code, "Strikin' Eagles";
a T-6A Texan II from Columbus AFB; a second Shaw F-16C fully loaded
up with inert ordinance; a NASA (ex-USCG) HU-25C Falcon Jet from the 
adjacent NASA Langley Research Center (LRC) filled up with brass
testing pods and side electronic blisters; a NASA LRC Cirrus SR22; a NASA
LRC OV-1A Bronco; a B-1B "Bone" swing-wing bomber from the 57th Wing,
77th Weapons Squadron (WPS) out of Dyess AFB, Texas; a T-1 Jayhawk
from the 14th FTW, 48th FTS out of Columbus AFB; a Cessna 172 Skyhawk
from the Elizabeth City State University; the six SNJ-2 Texan
Skytypers on the Hot Ramp; a 1977 Beech V35B Bonanza with a "V" tail; a CAP 
C-172; a V-22 Osprey from VMM-744 "Wild Goose" squadron, MAG-49, 4th MAW, 
a Marine Reserve Unit based at Naval Station Norfolk, Chambers Field, Virginia; 
and finally a 1988 Bell-206L-3 "Long Ranger" from WAVY News as "Chopper-10". 
That makes 35 airplanes not counting the 3 or 4 stunt plane "Noise Makers" that
were safely tucked into a nice waterproof hanger.

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The sky brightened up between 2 and 4, the ceiling got up to about
2,000 minimum, and Rob Holland Holland was up in his MXS and Bill
Stein joined him later with his Edge 540 for a low 2-ship flying demo
to the music "Sun Shine In My Pocket" - really appropriate for a rain
threatening day. The F-22 Demo Team went up and found some blue sky to
play with for a few minutes. The T-Birds went up for a Flat Show at 3
PM. And Matt Younkin took his Twin Beech 18 up at 4 PM but had to
abort when a downpour hit at 4:30. I aborted too when it started to
rain and I made it to the I-64 Tunnel approach at 5 PM and sat in 
traffic for about an hour trying to get back to Norfolk!
Saturday was calling for more rain so I filed a Flight Plan back to
NYC Saturday morning and bailed out of the whole thing before the
Saturday rains hit. Radar did not look good. 

I hope they got all those concerts in. We'll try again in two years!!

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