BZ's Beale 2011 Air Show Gallery

Photo Gallery

Ever had those days where things just didn't go all that well? That was my day at Beale Air Force Base 2011 Open House. Don't get me wrong, I had a great time there - but things just weren't going my way photography wise. Due to a combination of loose lens mount, and a forgetten auto-focus switch (for part of the show) - I was just too disgusted at myself, and forgot about the pictures for the next few months.

But have no fear, it wasn't a complete wash. It took me a while to work up the motivation to get the page together, but there are some decent pics afterall (at least, I think so!).

There was an impressive line up of planes flying at the Beale air show. Performing were: F-15E Strike Eagle, A10 Thunderbolt II, the Patriot demonstration team, Fly-bys of KC-10, C-17, and C-5 (all from Travis), T-38 formation and U-2 Dragon Lady flybys, various civilian acts, and the Air Force Thunderbirds!

Hope you like the pics. Nikon D300 w/ Sigma 150-500mm OS lens, Nikon D200 w/ Nikkor 18-105mm VR lens.
- Bernard Zee

A fairly rare plane for me to see was this De Havilland DH.115 Sea Vampire. The Vampire was a WWII design, although it arrived too late to see any combat in that war. The Sea Vampire was the first jet aircraft to land and take off from an aircraft carrier. Would have been a treat to see the plane flying, but it was not slated to fly during the show.

Also on static display only was the F-18 Super Hornet (with its rectangularish engine intakes).

Another plane which I had not ever seen before was this beautiful Douglas A-26B Invader - 'Million Airess'!

After 1948, the A-26 Invader was renamed B-26 (just to confuse everyone). The Invader is a different plane than the Martin B-26 Marauder however.

'Million Airess' is certainly air worthy, but it alas did not fly at the show.

The A-26 was a single pilot aircraft - which was unusual for U.S. twin engined attack bombers of the period. They came with either with a solid nose (which housed machine guns or canons), or a glass nose containing a Norden bombsight for medium altitude precision bombing (like the 'Million Airess' here).

The A-26 continued to be use after WWII, participating notably in the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and surprisingly the Bay of Pigs (flown by Cuban Exiles).

Moving up to the modern timeline, the F-22 Raptor looks very sci-fi in comparison.

With it's single green glowing Cyclops eye - the plane looks like it can fly itself!

There is some speculation that the F-22 (along with the F-35) would be the last U.S. manned fighter design. Though there may be sound reasons for it, that would be a sad day if it comes to pass.

As it is, the F-22 is currently king of the hill. Top of the heap! So good in fact, it hasn't been tasked with any fighting. Well, there's some debate about whether that's a good thing or not. But the U.S. hasn't been fighting anybody with an air force lately - and it would be ridiculous to risk the airframes and crew to drop some bombs.

Here's a shot of the side missle bays, were it could pop out a sidewinder if needed. What was a really nice treat at Beale was that we could get pretty close to the F-22, and had great access to walk all around it. Didn't even see armed security (who's normally ready to ventilate anyone who so much as breathed on the plane). Much as I was tempted to, I knew better than to reach out and touch it. :-)

The F-22 had some recent bad press - what with the on-board oxygen generator malfunctioning and making the pilots pass out and all that. After being grounded for a few months, they were cleared for flight operations. But within a short span, they were again grounded. Then cleared for flight. Hopefully the O2 problems have been fully addressed, but that's wishful thinking...

I guess it's the little things that get you. Like the servo bore wear in my Mazda 3s transmission. Little tiny detail like the tranny case material not being hardened enough turned the fancy transmission into a POS over time. Ughhh. Don't get me started!

Back to the F-22, it's still a beautiful piece of technology. From the rear, the 2D thrust vectoring engine nozzles can be seen.

I still believe in the F-22. One of these days, it'll get to shows its mettle (though for the sake of peace and all that, I hope not), and its critics will have to eat their words!

An oldie, but still going strong - the B-52 Buff.

Beale was really great about letting people see the cockpits and let the kids play dress up.

Some kids on the F-15 trying on flight helmets. Of course, there was a line. Long line.

Another angle on the B-52. Static only at the show.

On the hot ramp, a pair of F-15E Strike Eagles and a A-10 Warthog.

This other A-10 was open for visitors.

A guest speaker there was Dick Rutan. Dick Rutan is famous for flying the Voyager aircraft non-stop without refueling, around the world. The previous flight distance record was 12,532 miles by a B-52 bomber. Dick and Jeana Yeager smashed that record with their 24,986 mile Voyager flight!

Show starts out with the national anthem and a parachuted flag.

Doesn't he look happy to be safe on the ground! :-)

The U-2 take off wasn't as well timed to the National Anthem as the last go around. There was a noticeable delay between the last note, and the roar of the U-2 engines.

Surprisingly loud for a single engined airplane!

Well, since Beale is famous for the its U-2s, and I don't usually get to see them anywhere else - I'll throw in another picture - slightly different angle. Back in the day Beale used to run SR-71s as well as U-2s. Oh my gosh, an SR-71 taking off would have been awesome!! Too bad, missed it all.

Beale gets to fly their Ninja T-38s. The cool black scheme to match with the spy plane motif that they're so known for.

Also on hand was the legendary Chuck Yeager! Of course, Chuck looks to be showing his age nowadays, but it's clear he still loves flying!

The T-38s make a few passes.

Nothing crazy, but they did fly in a nice formation.

Here they are on the last pass, breaking off individually to land.

One painful thing about Beale, is this fence. Can't get a clean shot through it!

If only I brought my 10 foot ladder. Hmmmm... but then again, they probably won't let me in. T-38 pilots waving hi to the crowd here.

John Culver in his SNJ 'War Dog'.

John flies a magnificent tribute to the veterans in his plane. The sounds of his props tearing up the sky combined with the accompanying music and narative is pretty sweet.

The SNJ is also known as the AT-6, depending on which service was using it.

What makes the plane so loud is that the 2 bladed propeller is spinning so fast the tips are going supersonic, causing a series of continuous sonic booms. Like cracking a whip over and over again!

In a much smaller plane, Tim Decker wows the crowd with his daring aerobatics.

Spinning, looping, and racing his way across the sky - it's hard not to get motion sickness just watching him! :-)

If there's such a thing as a comedy flight routine, Kent Pietsch must have invented it. Here he is pretending to be 'out of control' in his Interstate Cadet.

His cohorts on the ground in the golf cart waving him away (like that was going to do any good), and narrowly avoids being hit by the plane.

After hanging around for a bit somewhere, the U-2 returns to make a couple of passes.

Many find it strange that the U-2 is still in operation, whereas the far more advanced (and awesome) SR-71 has been retired. For one, I suppose the U-2 is relatively cheap to operate - being essentially a glider with a jet engine. But some find the retirement of the SR-71 as conclusive proof that there is a super duper successor - possibly named Aurora, that's taken over for the Blackbird.

Actually, it's hard for me to find fault with that logic. There is a need for high speed aerial reconnaissance - so what's doing it? Satellites are too predictable, and expensive to retask. So there has to be a SR-71 replacement; otherwise, they'd still be flying. After all, there have been many examples of black programs which have stayed invisible for many years. Remember all that outrage about the $300 hammer, and $4k toilet seats? Those are just accounting tricks to hide funding for the secret toys - maybe.

Keeping with the dark motif, the Patriots flight demonstration team in their blacked out L-39 Albatros takes off here.

In the meantime, Vicki Benzing does some aerial tricks in her Extra 300S.

Vicki made quite an impression in her purple Festo sponsored plane.

Putting many a national demonstration team to shame, the Patriots rank up there with the Blues and Thunderbirds in putting on an exciting show.

One of the big differences of course, is that the plane they fly is a jet trainer, and not a front line combat aircraft. As such, the efficient little plane is no where as LOUD or powerful as the F-16 or F-18. Still, the speed and energy that is shown by the Patriots demonstration is just amazing.

This is a really awesome action shot! Where else except for Beale are you going to find a light pole in the middle of a opposing pass? :-)

Yes, shooting at Beale was challenging. Fence, lightpoles, heatwaves, shooting into the sun. All that good stuff - plus my camera/lens issues. At least my eldest daughter drove me there and back! :-)

If I remember correctly some of the Patriot pilots were ex-Thunderbirds themselves. So precision flying is old hat for them!

There's that fence again. Must be Beale. Look at how low he is though. Going pretty fast too!

Not exactly a sneak pass (because they tell you about it beforehand), but sort of like what the Blues would do. The Patriots do go much lower though...(at least nowadays).

4 ship diamond, check. Lighpole, check.

Parting shot of the Patriots. They've added 2 more planes to their routine - and their 6 plane show is quite spectacular. Saw it at during 2011 SF Fleetweek.

Tim Decker in the air once more.

He's in there somewhere, among all that smoke!

Zipping by in his S-2B Pitts.

Really takes that plane through a workout!

Kent once more in his Interstate Cadet.

This time, as a glider.

Note that I'm not using a super high shutter speed. His prop really isn't spinning at all!

With smoke trailing behind, Kent sails his plane through the air, drawing wonderful designs in the sky.

With his expert airmanship, Kent brings the plane down with a dead stick landing, and puts the propeller hub into the outstretched hands of the announcer. Of course, he has brakes to help at the end!

This KC-10 Extender is from Travis AFB.

Followed close behind by a C-17 Globemaster III.

Also from Travis is this C-5 Galaxy.

They come around for another pass, this time lower with the landing gear extended. (Well, not particularly extended in this shot, but it was ealier!)

Another view of the C-17. By the time he got this close, he retracted his landing gear. Oh well.

But here's the C-5 showing his wheels.

The C-5 is still the biggest thing the Air Force flies, and likely to remain so for the foreseeable future.

It's Greg Colyer in the T-33 Shooting Star 'Ace Maker'!

Greg puts on a great show in his T-33.

He has some really nice fast passes close to the audience.

Gives us lots of different looks, from different directions.

Greg is putting a smoke maker on his plane, so watch out for a very different feel this year!

Here, the F-15E Strike Eagle demo team is about ready to go.

The T-33 Shooting Star 'Acemaker' back after a nice routine.

In the air once more, is Kent Pietsch and the world's smallest aircraft carrier.

He makes several attempts to land on top of the moving truck.

And nails it on the 3rd try. I think he's so good he could probably have landed on every attempt. But it's done this way to build excitement. That's Kent waving with both hands to the crowd!

Takes off from the truck (as the easiest way to unload it!).

F-15E blasting off!

Pulling up hard here (notice those darn lightpoles? Hard to avoid them).

Coming around hard on a high speed pass.

Afterburners going! Nice and loud.

The Strike Eagle is an adaptation of the highly successful F-15 Eagle. The easiest way to tell them apart is by the conformal fuel tanks along the engine intakes.

The main difference between the Strike Eagle from the Eagle is that the F-15E can perform deep strike missions, carrying up to 23,000lbs of ordnance.

I really enjoy the Strike Eagle demo, and it's as much fun to watch as the F-22 demonstration.

A close look at the F-15E crew as it makes one of several speedy passes.

Next up, the A-10 Warthog demo.

Unlike the F-15E, which traces its roots to a air superiority fighter, the A-10 was designed from the start for Close Air Support.

The heart of the plane is the mighty 30mm GAU-8 Avenger gatling cannon. Firing depleted Uranium rounds, it'll make mince meat of enemy tanks (or anything else on the ground for that matter)!

The A-10 was built to be tough and survivable. Used throughout the Iraqi and Afghanistan wars, the A-10 really put the hurt on the bad guys.

There's nothing else like it in the U.S. inventory. Existing A-10 airframes are being upgraded and expected to be in service for another 16 years or more.

As far as sleek fighter lines go, the A-10 doesn't have them. But in it's own unique way, it's a handsome airplane. Form follows function and all that, it's said to be so ugly it's beautiful!

Those big squared wings give the plane superior maneuverability at low speeds and altitude, where it likes to linger (so it can easily identify and destroy ground targets!).

A Heritage flight consisted of the A-10, F-15E, and P-51 Mustang.

It's a nice looking group, and each plane is SO different from the other. Amazing how much advances aviation has made in such a short time.

Zooming in, here's the F-15E and A10 flying together.

Parting pass by the Strike Eagle.

And a nice close pass also from the Warthog.

Shot of the 2 back on the ground. Heat waves were nasty coming off the runways!

There are some non-aircraft displays there by as well. Here, some young show goers looking up from the gunner's position on an armored Humvee.

There was also a police dog demonstration some ways from the fenceline. Looks like a young German Shepard on a leash.

The dogs must be really well trained, as they only went after the padded target. Good thing too, as there are so many yummy 'soft' targets just beyond the thin yellow rope!

After a short break, it was time to get started on the main event. These are the Thunderbird pilots making their way to the planes.

Smiles and waves to the assembled throngs.

As part of the pre-flight tradition, the pilots greet their support crew.

In their planes getting set to go. The Beale control tower can be seen behing them.

Pre-flight checkout under the plane.

Good to go!

The commander taxiing out.

Wave Hi to the Thunderbird PAO photographer!

A unique angle with the hanger in the background. Probably only seen at Beale (for mere mortals).

High fence and light poles. Yep, Beale!

Although a little out of the way, there were plenty of visitors to Beale.

Packed as always, for the main attraction.

And the Thunderbirds are Go!

Always a thrill to watch them perform.

A bit of a different T-Bird view.

The Calypso pass. Ah, the light is killing me!

Nice to see the canopies in the diamond pass.

The always popular, and extremely sneaky and loud - SNEAK PASS!!

For me, the best part of the show. Most of the crowd seems to be caught off guards at every show I've been to! Some kids even start crying afterwards. Love it!

Icky lighting for much of the act.

This maneuver was right over the crowd, and it's almost like another sneak pass. Also very loud!

Mirror pass - belly to belly. Like I said, a few decent Tbird shots. Nothing much to write home about!

After the Thunderbird show, there was a little bit of time yet to wander around the Static displays for some last minute shots. Here's the Jelly Belly P-51 'Sparky', looking quite yummy! I think they sometimes give out little packs of Jelly Bellys if you wander by their planes during the show.

Close up of the Jelly Belly Stearman's rotary engine.

Rear view of that A-26 Invader.

Another nice looking P-51, though we didn't get to see it fly.

There were still stragglers checking out the displays, but the crowd has thinned out a lot.

Definitely a show A-10, with the Bling Bling gun.

Bunch of kids and parents still waiting patiently in line to dress up a bit, and pose with the pilots and planes.

Can't get enough of the old warrior.

Nose art of the B-52 'Black Widow', from the 23rd Bomb Squadron.

Torpedo looking nose section of the U-2 Dragon Lady.

The Lockeed U-2 is also called the Habu after a deadly asian snake.

The most (in)famous incident involved a Soviet SA-2 SAM shooting down a CIA U-2 flown by Francis Gary Powers in 1960.

It was thought that by flying at 70,000ft, the plane was safe from Soviet interception and anti-aircraft artillery. I suppose that was true until the SA-2 came along.

In addition to the 9th Reconnaissance Wing (out of Beale AFB), U-2s are used by NASA at Moffett field in California, and at Edwards AFB. The U-2s were originally intended to be replaced by unmanned RQ-4 Global Hawks, but it appears that U-2s will continue to be operated for at least another 11 years.

One of the shiny black T-38s, which are used to keep the Beale pilots flight proficient when not in the U-2.

The RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) does not require a pilot. A lot of people (me included) still want to call it an unmanned drone, but that's apparently not 'politically correct' from the Air Force perspective.

The RQ-4 is a big plane, and is used as a high altitude platform for surveillance and security. Fully automated, it can stay in the air for 36 hours. Here's my oldest daughter posing under the wings of the Global Hawk.

Global Hawks are flown out of Beale, as well as North Dakota.

Slowing making our way to the parking lot, can't resist a shot of the C-17.

This shiny DC-3 is from Hiller Aviation Museum. Got to see it fly at the Half Moon Bay air shows. Many DC-3s are still being operated (for real work) all around the world. Pretty amazing that a plane design that is over 75 years old!!

Last picture is a HH-60 from the California National Guards. Awesome looking helicopter!

Well, that's it. Hope you enjoyed my writeup of the show. Thanks to the men and women of Beale, and all the performers for putting on exciting and memorable show. Thanks Steph for driving the 3.5 hrs there, and the 3.5 hrs back! :-)