Air Power over Hampton Roads
The famous Langley AFB was our initial stop on an extended road trip in the spring of 2016 we referred to as the 'Middle East', as in the middle of the US East Coast. This was our second time at Langley as we had visited in 1999 when the opportunity to photograph lines of F-15s was offered. The 1st Fighter Wing and it's 'FF' tail code were still the primary tenants seventeen years later, although the Eagles have long departed and the 1st now operates two squadrons of F-22 Raptors and a squadron of T-38s. The base opens its doors to the public for the Air Power over Hampton Roads air show, now a biennial event occurring every even year. I had always wanted to visit this event at Langley, since as one of the biggest USAF bases on the east coast it always presents a dynamics collection of performers. I remember watching this event online for a few years, especially in 2006 when the F-15C East Coast Demonstration Team performed for the final time and it was great to finally be in attendance.
This was a fantastic show, even though the majority of Saturday had to be cancelled when a large thunderstorm developed during the middle of the day's flying. Sunday made up for it with beautiful skies and a terrific lineup of performers. The lighting conditions are very good until the end of the show when the sun starts to move to the other side of the runway and the crowd position offers good proximity to the taxiways and runway. The show opened with a four-ship flyover by two F-22s and two T-38s from the locally based 1st Fighter Wing. My only complaint from the weekend would have had these jets fly a longer display and make multiple passes for the crowd. There were performances from multiple generations, as Mustangs, a Corsair and a Mitchell represented World War II, a T-33 represented the Korean War, a MiG-17F for the Vietnam War and a VFA-106 Legacy Hornet represented the final years of the Cold War and Desert Storm. Yet it was the most recent fifth generation jets that drew us to this show at Langley, as it was the first time the F-22 and F-35 would participate in the Heritage Flight together and we wanted to be there to capture the moment. The show closed in typical fashion by the USAF Thunderbirds. The static display was full of interesting aircraft but my favourite two happened to be parked next to each other. One was a Eurofighter Typhoon from the Royal Air Force, an aircraft I had seen many times in the air but rarely on the ground. The other was an F-16 celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Wild Weasels, a program rich in history and full of heroism.