USA II 2017
In September 2017 we undertook our second tour to the USA in 2017. During our stay we visited two shows on the East Coast (JB Andrews and NAS Oceana) as well as one on the West Coast (MCAS Miramar). In between we visited a number of very interesting locations.
On Friday 15 September 2017 at 05.00 we met at the familiar meeting point at Schiphol. One fellow traveller would join us at Heathrow, so we were complete quickly. After a prosperous check in our plane left for Heathrow, after which we embarked our British Airways Boeing 747 to Washington DC. We arrived in time in Washington. After picking up our three cars we were on our way to Ronald Reagan Air Field. Here we were able to photograph our first military aircraft: two MH-65D Dauphins of the USCG. To kill the time, we enjoyed an hour at the landing/departure spot and those interested in civilian aircraft were able to photograph some interesting aircraft. The weather was good, so we decided to go sightseeing. We visited the White House and some other points of interest. After a quick bite we left for our hotel near Andrews AFB.
After an early rise and a quick breakfast on Saturday (16 September), we headed to the FedEx station to embark on our bus to Andrews AFB. The first bus took a wrong direction, followed by the other busses, including ours. Despite this detour we arrived at the airbase well in time. After entering the base a line with nice blue 1HS UH-1Ns was captured. After this the members of the group each went their own way to photograph as many aircraft on the static without people in view. For the most of the aircraft this was a succes. It was a sunny day, and an F-22, Tora Tora Tora (with several Harvards converted to Zeros), B-29, B-17, B-25, C-47, a brand new Lockheed Martin T-50A (with his brother on static) and a departing B-2A were conducting a flight-display. The Thunderbirds flew their show as well. The majority of our group were in the press area, but when the Thunderbirds started their display we suddenly had to leave. In the meantime the big outflow of spectators had started, so we joined the queue quickly. While in the queue some aircraft of the 89 AW arrived, umongst them a C-32A which rolled all the way down the runway, making it possible for us to capture it. Although it was the 70th anniversary of the USAF the show was somewhat disappointing, no large formation and only solo-display. It would have been nice to see the bombers all together in the air. After being dropped off at the FedEx station we departed for our hotel near Oceana.
On Sunday 17 September, the Oceana open house was on our program. The base opened at 8, so we were there in time. A parking spot was found closeby, and not long after that the first Hornets were captured. Unfortunately it was a cloudy day. The forecast was not good because of hurricane José, but it turned out to be not so bad. Despite of the relatively fair conditions the FAA reglementation prohibited the air power demo with Hornets. Because of our early arrival the static was not crowded. No obstacles on our pictures. The many colourfull on static and flightline were captured in sometimes sunny conditions. During the day a change of command of VFC-12 took place, celebrated with a formation of 4 F/A-18A/Bs. After the performance of the Blue Angels the base became less populated rapidly. We waited a little longer near our car to avoid traffic jams. Just before the exit of the base some preserved aircraft were photographed. A nice conclusion of a nice day. After a 30 minute drive we arrived at our hotel in Virginia Beach, with plenty of time left for a fine diner.
After hearing at Oceana the day before that there would be no flying activity in the morning on Monday 18 September, we decided to go to the museum at Virginia Beach. This proved to be a very nice decision, as there were plenty of WW 2 aircraft, of which the majority is in flying condition (the day before there were two of them at the static show at Oceana). For the most of us this was a first visit, and a welcome one! After the group picture in front of the B-25 we left for Oceana. After finding the landing spot quicly, it proved to be rather clouded. The aircraft didn’t use the best runway from our perspective, but despite this we managed to capture almost 50 Hornets, plus an AC-130W and a T-34. A little rain did not spoil the fun. At the end of the afternoon we left for our hotel in Virginia Beach.
On Tuesday (19 September) at 7AM we departed for the USMC museum in Quantico. This is relatively new and very worthwhile to visit. The displays are divided into themes. Some aircraft are quite good for photography, others are built nicely into dioramas and less easy to capture. The museum is not complete yet, so there were some aircraft missing. Despite the forecast it was sunny and warm (humid). At the end of the afternoon we went to the landing spot at Andrews AFB. As they use several runways it was a gamble of which one to go to. We were located good for some UC-35s, C-12s and C-37s. The F-16Cs of 121 FS used another runway. As the numbers were relatively small we decided to leave at 4PM to try and see some Maryland ANG A-10Cs. These are based at Warfield ANGB near Baltimore. After an hour drive we arrived there, to see the A-10Cs of 104 FS parked in the sun. The view was ok, but the flying was already over, although seven of them were outside the sheds. A good spot to remember for a future trip. After this we returned to the hotel, and after diner it was time for an early sleep as for the next day an early departure was planned.
On Wednesday 20 September the alarm went off at 3.30 AM, because we would leave for Baltimore airport at 4. After handing in the cars, we left for the airport by shuttle bus. We departed at 7AM for Phoenix, a four hour flight in a Boeing 737 of American Airlines. After landing we collected our cars and went for Luke AFB. After finding a spot in the landing the first F-35As were already coming in. It was hot, and lots of flying going on so what else to wish for? Among the flying aircraft there were 5 Vipers of 157 FS/ SC ANG, Japanese (2), Italian (1), Norwegian (4) and Australian (1) F-35As. Around midday we departed for the other side of the runway to capture some more F-16s and F-35As. It was an awesome day with about 20 F-35s and 40 F-16s. After sunset we left for our hotel in Tucson, a two and a half hour drive.
We left early for the Davis-Monthan AFB landing spot on Thursday (21 September). Normally we drive to Tucson first, but as they had evening-flying planned that would have been useless. First stop was Pima, as one of our fellow travelers preferred the Pima museum and AMARG bus-tour. At Davis-Monthan we captured a P-3C and a 162 FW F-16C. It was at alert and didn’t come from Tucson. Because the A-10s were nowhere to be seen, a part of the group decided to go to the Pima museum. As we were near the museum, we saw A-10Cs landing. We didn’t hear or see anything departing. A quick drive to the landing spot gave us the opportunity to capture some DP coded A-10Cs, one with tailcode IN and an ET coded A-10C. A nice bonus was an F-16C of 457 FS which made a test flight from and to Davis-Monthan. A little later the rest of the group, who decided to stay on the other side of the landing and managed to capture an U-28 landing, joined us. After one more hour some decided to go to the museum by foot. After picking them up later, two EC-130Hs of 55 W landed. We drove to Tucson IAP to capture the afternoon mission of 162 FW. Unfortunately we could only capture the landing aircraft. Despite this we had two specials and four Dutch F-16s. The Iraqis didn’t fly. What did, was a UH-72A, followed by a Singapore AF AH-64D. Although we were on the public road, we were close to Raytheon. Because of this, some guards checked our papers and told us not to photograph there. As the number of landing aircraft was already down to very low, we decided to leave. A few travellers had never been to AMARG, and therefore we decided to pay a short visit. A nice conclusion of the day. A long drive afterwards took us to our hotel in Yuma.
The hotel was close to our destination of this Friday (22 September); Yuma MCAS. We had the option to do only Yuma or a combination of Yuma and El Centro. We didn’t know what to expect. Many visiting aircraft arrived the previous days for a large scale exercise. It was sunny, blue skies and hot, and we chose a spot in the landing rapidly. Flying commenced easily with a U-12C, but quickly it was followed by the F-5Ns of VMFT-401, better known as the Agressors. Diversity was great today, several Hercules (4), EA-6B Prowlers (2), F-5Ns, AV-8Bs, CH-53s, MV-22 Ospreys, UH-1N, F/A-18s and two US Army MH-60Ms which flew several missions and departed and arrived very low. The pilots knew where to find us. Nice as well was a Mil Mi-24 which operated from Yuma. Unfortunately no serial was read and it came in via the wrong runway. Because of the excellent flying activity we decided to stay and save El Centro for another time. We stayed until sunset and after this we drove off to San-Diego in heavy traffic. It was a very successful day!
An early rise on Saturday 23 September to report at MCAS Miramar. With our presscards we were able to enter the base quickly, park close to the action, but after this we had to wait until 8AM to enter the static. After passport checks we were allowed on the field. We managed to capture most static aircraft without people surrounding them. At 10AM we were going to make plans for the rest of the day, but the police had other plans. According to them some of us broke the protocol during photographing. The exact reason was not told. We had to switch to plan B, a visit to the museum at Gillespie Air Field and after this the beautiful museum at March JRB.
Due to the fact that we already captured the Miramar static and the experience we had there, we decided not to return to Miramar on Sunday (24 September). We decided to go to the USS Midway in San Diego. As during the other days it was sunny. Before many Asian visitors entered the ship, we were able to make some nice shots. In the harbor two more carriers were present: the USS Carl Vinson and the USS Theodore Roosevelt. After this visit we went to the Western Museum of Flight at Torrance MAP, near Los Angeles. Unfortunately it was closed, but from the outside it is possible to see and capture the YF-17 and YF-23. Plenty time was left, so we went spotting at LAX. After a tip from a German spotter we found a spot at a restaurant near the landing, where we spent 1.5 hours. We also noted some preserved airframes, of which only three were original, the remainder were replicas. As the sun was setting we decided to go to the airport and returned our cars. After checking in we waited for our flight to Heathrow. We flew back in an A380 of British Airways, a first for most of us.
After a calm flight we arrived at Heathrow (Monday 25 September by now), and after this at Schiphol. Around 8PM it was time to collect our luggage and we said goodbye to our fellow travelers. A truly successful trip came to an end.