USA V 2019
Our fifth trip to the USA of 2019 took the group to the wonderful state of Texas. Three airshows and several base visits were granted in October 2019.
On Friday, 18 October 2019, a group of eight people gathered at the assembly point at Schiphol around the clock at 9. Due to a full flight from Schiphol to Heathrow, number nine had already left and at the same time number ten flew from Belfast to Heathrow. With an Airbus A321 from British Airways, the group arrived at London’s airport just after noon, after which the complete group continued for the flight to Dallas – Ft. Worth in an American Airlines Boeing 777-300.
Far before sunrise, on Saturday (19 October), the entire group left for Ft. Worth Alliance airport for the open day there. Seven participants were in possession of a “Sunrise Ticket” and could already enter the airfield at 7 am. On a surprisingly full and interesting static (including four T-38s from Tyndall AFB), photography started in the dark and after half an hour the sun gradually rose over the horizon. A flight line-walk produced beautiful pictures of the Blue Angels, the F-16 and F-22 demo team and a Navy F-35C, which ended the show as a surprise at the end of the day. Equally surprising was the opening of four Texas ANG F-16s and a fly-over of a B-52. When dropping off a befriended spotter at Dallas Love Field we discovered a large number of T-6 Texans from Sheppard. Late in the evening we arrived at our hotel in Huntsville and after a quick bite everyone went to bed early.
On Sunday 20 October, we got up early again, because two participants were allowed to enter the airfield earlier at the CAF Wings over Houston Airshow at Ellington Field. This also provided an advantage for the other participants, as we were allowed to park close to the gate. A moderate static was the overall conclusion of the group, but a nice sunrise, a show with lots of warbirds and an excellent demo of the USAF F-35A and the US Navy Legacy Flight made up for it. During the drive back to the hotel we were surprised by one of the static aircraft: a HH-46 Seaknight from Cherry Point, which has now been civilian registered.
On Monday (21 October), some sleep could actually be made up because the first stop was only two blocks away. NASA Space Center Houston with its gateguards were photographed in the pouring rain. A brief chat amongst the participants made us decide to deviate from the official plan and so the group headed south instead of Houston Ellington Field. The USS Lexington was first visited in Corpus Christi, after which we continued to Corpus Christi International Airport, where the Coastguard now resides. Unfortunately, there was nothing on the ramp at the USCG. Both NOLFs (Naval Outlying Field) in Corpus Christi initially produced little. After an early check-in at the hotel, a swim in the pool and a beer at the hotel, it was decided to try again after half past five (long live the combination of Wi-Fi, ADSB and a designated driver). This resulted in a handful of US Navy Texans in beautiful sunlight.
This Tuesday 22 October we first had breakfast together at Wendy’s, because the first base visit of this trip was scheduled at nine o’clock. We were welcome at NAS Corpus Christi, a US Navy training field flying the T-6 and T-44. Thanks to our guide and her colleagues we had a wonderful morning, even a visit to the control tower was possible. Just about everything that could be photographed was recorded by the group and with a big smile we left for NAS Kingsville late in the morning. Before we arrived there we made another short stop at the US Coast Guard at Corpus Christi International Airport. Two HC-144 stood outside, one of them in a special colour scheme. At one o’clock we had an appointment with our guide at a fast food chain just in front of the NAS Kingsville gate. During the small talk beforehand, we already hinted that we were in no hurry at all and we had no objection if the visit was a bit extended. And he pulled all the stops to give us a fantastic afternoon. After visiting the maintenance hangars, the depot and the flight line, we were given the opportunity to be in the approach for over than half an hour between both runways where ten T-45C Goshawks were busy with touch and go. At half past four we ended with a group photo at the gateguards of NAS Kingsville before we set course for San Antonio.
On Wednesday (23 October), just after eight o’clock, a course was set for Randolph AFB, a US Air Force base with the T-1, T-6 and T-38. We found an ideal place at the Veterans Memorial and soon the first T-38s and T-1s arrived. We saw several T-6 aircraft coming in on the other runway, which was further away of us, and part of the group decided to end the morning there. During lunch time we decided to leave because in the afternoon, spotting at Lackland Airforce Base was scheduled. This is where the C-5 Galaxy is based and there are SA-coded F-16s and Boeing also has a maintenance facility, which means that a handful of C-17 Globemasters also regularly visit the field. In addition, dozens of Boeing 737-MAX8 aircraft are temporarily waiting for what is to come. After photographing the C-17s and a quick bite, the group was divided into two groups. Six went to the museum at the air base and four decided to try their luck in the approach. After the meeting, the trip to the Mexican border was started at the end of the day.
The third and final base visit was scheduled for Thursday 24 October. This time with the USAF at Laughlin AFB, a large training base with the T-1, T-6 and T-38. Together with a group of British spotters we were allowed to take a seat in an American school bus and a 6 mph walking pace we drove past the flight line once. The highlight was a T-38 in an F-106 colour scheme. After having photographed all the gateguards, we unfortunately already had to leave again within the hour. It was decided there, because of the measly and grey weather, to try our luck hope at Dyess AFB. On the way to the north the weather deteriorated by the hour and in a wet and dark Dyess one flying B-1B Lancer was observed in take-off. At the beginning of the evening we arrived at the hotel after almost 700 kilometres.
On the last weekday of the trip, Friday 25 October, we got up early again to depart in time from Stephenville to NAS Ft. Worth. A day was planned outside the fence of this field on the west side of the city. Just after eight o’clock we arrived at the field, where we discovered that it was quite cold. There was hardly any movement at the airfield until lunch. Two Clippers left and two T-38s made a touch and go. Around twelve o’clock there suddenly was a WA F-35A and when we had given up hope for more, a local Hercules arrived. Halfway through the afternoon we decided to take a look at Ft. Worth Alliance. The catch there consisted of three T-38s (two of which we had in front of the lens earlier in the day) and a C-17 from Wright-Patterson. From Alliance it was just under two hours to Wichita Falls.
Showtime on Saturday 26 October, the bad weather was fortunately no longer an issue and that was good news for everyone. Today the Sheppard Airshow was on the program. The training field, where many NATO pilots also receive their training, opened its doors at 9 am. We were one of the first to be on the field and after photographing the remarkably fun static (4x F-35 by Eglin, T-6 & T-38s in all colours), a spot was chosen at the flight line. Because the day before was very wet and the official program was only starting at half past eleven, we were treated with rehearsals for the first 2 hours. In the final show, B-29 Superfortress “Doc” was the cream of the crop for everyone with some excellent passes. In addition, the whole group agreed that the Thunderbirds did give a very strong performance. At the end of the show we drove back to Dallas/Ft.Worth and in a suburb we had the last toast and diner of the trip together.
Sunday 27 October was the last day of the tour and brought us to many airfields in Dallas/Ft.Worth. At Alliance the C-17 had left and was replaced by a T-45C from Kingsville. Soon we drove on towards Ft. Worth Meachem where especially for us the “Vintage Flying Museum” opened earlier. A nice visit with nice conversations. Via NAS Ft. Worth, a Walgreens and Dallas Love Field we ended the trip at Dallas/Ft.Worth Int. Airport at spotting spot “Founders Field”, where one enjoyed the sun and the other couldn’t get enough of the many American Airlines. At the end of the evening we finally flew back to London in a half-full Boeing 777 from American Airlines.
Monday 28 October it was time to say goodbye again. After a pleasant flight, we arrived just after noon at London-Heathrow where the group said goodbye to one of the group. After a short flight to Amsterdam, baggage claim 7 ended the trip with more than 400 different military aircraft on the memory cards.