Wings Over Whiteman 2012
Whiteman AFB, Knob Noster, Missouri May 19-20, 2012
Whiteman Air Force Base hosted the Wings Over Whiteman Open House and Air Show during the end of Armed Forces Week in May. Originally established as Sedalia Glider Base in 1942, the facility is located near Knob Noster, Missouri and is now named after 2nd Lieutenant George Whiteman, Air Corp, U.S. Army. Whiteman, a Sedalia native, was one of the first Airmen killed during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The host unit is the 509th Bomb Wing which operates the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber. In addition to the T-38 Talon, other aircraft aboard the installation include the A-10 Thunderbolt II from the Air Force Reserve Command’s 442nd Fighter Wing and AH-64 Apache helicopters from the Missouri Army National Guard 1st Battalion 135th Attack Reconnaissance Brigade.
Gates opened at 9:00 a.m. with the flying beginning shortly after 11:00 a.m. Static displays included a TBM Avenger, B-25 Mitchell, PV-2 Harpoon, A-26 Invader, T-38 Talon, A-10 Thunderbolt II, C-5 Galaxy, C-17 Globemaster III, C-130 Hercules, B-1 Lancer, B-52 Stratofortress, F-22 Raptor and an AH-64 Apache helicopter. The static display highlight for me was being able to see a B-2 Spirit! The Army Golden Knights Black Demonstration Team opened the show with the flag jump during the National Anthem. Fans were then treated to a flyby of four T-38 Talons belonging to the 394th Combat Training Squadron. A component of the 509th Bomb Wing, the 394th conducts flight training of the B-2 Spirit aircrews.
Following the opening ceremonies, Chris Avery took-off in a Commemorative Air Force (CAF) FG-1D Corsair. This Corsair was manufactured in 1945 and is operated and maintained by the CAF Corsair Sponsor Group. Next up was the Trojan Phlyers Air Show Team. Chip Lamb and John Sledge flew an outstanding routine in two vintage T-28 Trojan aircraft! When the Trojan Phlyers demonstration had ended, Randy Ball took to the skies in his MiG-17F. This particular MiG-17F entered service with the Soviet bloc in March of 1960 and was in active service until May of 1990. Ball spent almost four years restoring this “Fresco” and flew an exciting solo performance with the afterburner flame trailing from behind the jet!
After Randy Ball, the Aerostars Aerobatic Team began their performance. The Aerostars are the only three-ship Yak-52 TW team in the United States and I thoroughly enjoyed their formation aerobatics! With the Aerostars routine complete, it was now time for the Red Steel Jet Team. The civilian-owned jet team is in its first season on the air show circuit for 2012 and this was their second air show after making their debut at the Dyess Big Country Airfest in April. Tragedy struck the team when flight leader Douglas Gilliss perished in an airplane crash the day before the Whiteman event. Red Steel Jet Team made the difficult decision to fly two of the three L-39 Albatros aircraft with one remaining static for display and pilots Zach McNeill and Orestes Lorenzo dedicated their performance to Doug’s memory.
Next up was Joe “Rifle” Shetterly in a RV-8 homebuilt aircraft. Shetterly was the 2010 – 2011 A-10 West Demonstration Pilot and he put on an entertaining demonstration for those in attendance. Following Shetterly was Herb Baker and his T-28 Trojan, “Ditto.” Herb and Ditto elicited many oooh’s and ahhh’s from the audience as he flew an exciting “smoke-ring” show that only he can do. A BT-13 flew next, followed by a P-51 Mustang. When the P-51 recovered, James “Satan” Leavelle took center stage in his beautiful T-6 Texan. Leavelle’s solo aerobatic routine included plenty of smoke and supersonic prop noise that left the crowd buzzing!
Once James Leavelle had taxied-back to the hot ramp, it was time for an act that I was anxious to see – the Mi-24 Hind helicopter from the Cold War Air Museum. The Cold War Air Museum has two Hinds restored to flight status and distinguishes itself as the only Mi-24 air show operator in North America! The Hind is a Soviet helicopter gunship – literally, a “flying tank.” Introduced into service in 1972, the Hind became a symbol of the Cold War era and is still in use in the air forces of over 30 countries in the world today! This exhibit is a rarity on the air show circuit and the aircrew put on a great show as the Hind flew up and down the show line, demonstrating actual combat helicopter flight maneuvers complete with the smell of smoke in the air and multiple explosions! The KC Flight Formation Team then took to the skies in six RV-8 aircraft to display the intricacies of formation flying. After KC Flight, the Army Golden Knights Black Demonstration Team jumped with their full show.
Military assets closed-out the show for those aviation enthusiasts who needed their heavy metal fix. The locally-based 442d Operations Group (a component of the 442nd Fighter Wing) launched four A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft for multiple formation passes. A B-52 Stratofortress from Barksdale Air Force Base made a single flyby and a B-1 Lancer from Ellsworth Air Force Base made three passes! Finally, the B-2 “Spirit of Nebraska” arrived over the field and gave us three passes, including a touch-and-go on Saturday and a low approach on Sunday! Wings Over Whiteman 2012 had concluded and I can’t wait until the next time. I’ll be there and I hope to see some of you as well!
Story and photos by Anthony Svihlik