Baltimore’s Star-Spangled Air Show and Sailabration
Partnering with Operation Sail; ICAS, the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Coast Guard commemorated the Bicentennial of the War of 1812. The Blue Angels headlined festivities in New Orleans, New York City, Norfolk, Baltimore and Boston.
A weeklong celebration was planned for Baltimore commencing Wednesday June 13th. While forty modern navy “gray hull” warships and tall ships from many countries sailed into Baltimore Harbor, the Navy Leap Frogs parachute team made two jumps from 12,500 feet over Baltimore City. The first into Clifton Mansion Park, the only remaining Baltimore home of a War of 1812 officer, and later into Patterson Park, the site of the decisive battle of North Point at Hampstead Hill.
On the Patapsco River, guarding the entrance to Baltimore Harbor, Fort McHenry National Park hosted its first ever air show. In 1813, Fort McHenry’s commanding officer Major George Armistead commissioned flag maker Mary Pickersgill to create a flag that was, “so large that the British will have no difficulty seeing it”. During the bombardment of Fort McHenry, U.S. Attorney Francis Scott Key aboard a British truce vessel, was so inspired by the vision of the 30 x 42 foot flag, he wrote a poem that would eventually become our national anthem.
With the fifteen stars and fifteen striped 30 x 42 foot Star-Spangled Banner flag flying high over the fort, the weekend show opened with a motivated audience collectively singing the National Anthem. This unique historic location inspired like nowhere else! At its conclusion and exactly on time, a flight of four VFA-31 “TOMCATTERS” hit show center! The air show, organized by Carrier Strike Group Two Rear Admiral Gregory Norsel and U.S. Navy Captain Dan “Unda” Cheever, showcased the 1812 rebirth of the U.S. Navy and its role in the battle for Baltimore. Before the sky event began, Navy Seals in their Mark V and Swift Boats provided force protection with a Special Warfare Dynamic Waterborne demonstration. Having to coordinate with the FAA for some of the busiest airspace on the east coast, Air Boss Wayne Boggs controlled the show with aircraft taking off from Martin State Airport. Larry Rudd handled the announcing duties, including the show being broadcast on a large screen back at the inner-harbor. There were fly-bys of Chief of Naval Air Training (CNATRA) aircraft; T-6B, T-44, T-45, TH-57 along with an E-2 and MH-53 followed by another pass by the four-ship “Felix Flight”. The U.S. Coast Guard showed how they save lives with an H-65 SAR Demo before the F/A-18 Super Hornet took center stage, rocking the Baltimore skyline! The Blue Angels KC-130 “Ernie” performed prior to the six blue jets executing another impressive show. The air show was one of the largest events ever held at Fort McHenry. Attendance for the week totaled 45,000 requiring the Nation Park Service to recruit an additional one-hundred and forty Rangers, some from as far away as Washington State.
Back at Martin State Airport, show aircraft were on display to the public along with a Star-Spangled Festival of vendors, local historic groups and re-enactors exalting the role the U.S. Marines played in the fight for Baltimore. Following the air show Saturday night, the American flag was celebrated with a concert of patriotic music and fireworks. Tuesday morning the ships, most of which were open all week for public inspection, departed for Boston.
Story and Photos by Dan O. Myers