BZ's Travis AFB airshow

Photo Gallery

Travis Air Force Base is only a little over an hours' drive from the Bay Area, making it the closest military base air show for me! Travis AFB is home to the 349th Air Mobility Wing, 615th Air Mobility Operations Group, 60th Air Mobility Wing, and 15th Air Force. The 60th Air Mobility Wing flies the C-5 Galaxy, KC-10 Extender, and C-17 Globemaster III. Air show attendees were treated to all 3 flying at the show.

Saturday's show also marked the occasion of the last flight of a C-133A Cargomaster. The C-133A flew into Travis, and will be put on display at the base museum. That aircraft had operated at Travis from 1958 till it departed in 1971. In addition to the heavy transports, there were demonstration flights from a F-18 and A-10, along with flights from an F-86, Corsair, P-51 Mustang, B-25s, T-28, and various civilian aerobatic teams. The main event was the Air Force Thunderbirds, which flew a very impressive routine!

The weather saturday was extremely hot and windy - but that didn't keep anyone away! Normally, I only go for one day - but I had to go back again for the Sunday show. If you're wondering why, I get into the sordid details of woe at the bottom of the page!

Used a Nikon D200 and D50 w/ a 70-300mm VR lens, and 18-55mm lens. Prop planes shot in shutter priority exposure mode (mostly between 1/160 and 1/320sec), with continuous autofocus. The jet shots were around 1/1000sec. Hope you enjoy the show!
- Bernard Zee

There were a few F-15s on static display, but unfortunately they were not flying.

The B-52 was likewise, static display only. People were free to go right up to it though - which was nice.

The C-5 Galaxy is one of the largest military aircraft in the world, in operation with the U.S. air force since 1969.

The C-5 has both nose and aft doors for "drive-through" loading and unloading of cargo. Although it has a payload of 250,000lbs, it can only carry one M-1 Abrams tank at a time.
Update: I've received emails from different folks who've worked with the C-5 claiming that the Galaxy can carry not one, but two M-1 tanks. This seemed to contradict a lot of the literature out there about the C-5's airlift capabilities. After a bit of scratching my head, I realized everyone is correct! The original M1 tank weighed 60 Tons, while the upgunned and uparmored M1A2 weighs 69.54 Tons. So while the C-5 could carry two of the early model M1 tanks, two of the M1A2 (or even the M1A1 63 Tons) tanks would exceed the C-5s' max payload.
By the time of Desert Storm, all front line units were using M1A1 tanks.

The value of showing up early for the air show is that the lines for visiting the various displays are shorter. The queue for visiting the C-5 cockpit quickly becomes insanely long...

Had the opportunity to climb up a ladder through a hatch openning on top of the C-5. Would have loved to walk about on top, but I think that would be pushing it!

A birds eye view from the top of the C-5 showing just how high up that is. Crowd is still pretty thin as it's early in the day.

This is a KC-10 Extender, which provides in-flight refueling capabilities. It first flew in 1980.

An inside view of the KC-10 cockpit. You can see the Thunderbird F-16s lined up outside.

The KC-10 is derived from the civilian DC-10 aircraft. The major change being the addition of a boom control station in the rear of the fuselage and extra fuel tanks below the main deck. The KC-10 has both a centerline refueling boom and a drogue/hose system on the right side of the rear fuselage - both of which can be seen in this shot.

The Fairfield SWAT was there showing off some of their toys. Both the MP-5 and M-4 have the 'happy switch' setting... drool!

This is a MC-130P Combat Shadow. The Combat Shadow flies clandestine, or low visibility missions in support of special operations forces. The crew said the aircraft was over 40 years old! Still looks in pretty good shape though.

Also there on static display was a SH-60 Seahawk helicopter that flew up from San Diego, CA.

The Air Force had an uparmored Humvee on display that they let people examine close up. The doors on that are built like a vault! Additional armor was added to the Humvees as a counter to insurgent IED attacks in Iraq.

Also on display were a M-240 (7.62mm) and M-249 (5.56mm) SAW machinegun. Both are belt fed automatic weapons in common use by the U.S. armed forces.

Here's the P-51 'Sparky' done up in Jelly Belly colors. Jelly Belly looked to be a major sponser of the show, and had people lining up (for what I presume are Jelly Belly samples and other knick knacks)!

Show started out with the flight of the heavies.

Here's a KC-10 taking off with the T-bird F-16s in the foreground.

The C-5 has a fairly distinctive engine sound. Those familiar with it can recognize a C-5 flying nearby by the engine whine and pitch changes.

They had the C-5, KC-10, and C-17 in the air at the same time. Here's the KC-10 on final approach (with a C-17 in the background).

After a bit, the C-133A Cargomaster came in on its final flight. It was billed as a somewhat historic occasion. Prior to the introduction of the C-5 Galaxy, the Cargomaster carried the oversized bulk items for the U.S. Air Force.
Update: It has been pointed to me that I should have mentioned the C-141 Starlifter, which did more than its share of airlifting in its 40 years of service. The last Starlifter was retired in 2006.

This Cargomaster operated out of Travis AFB from 1958 till it departed in 1971. This occasion marked its final flight, as it will be put on public display in the Travis AFB museum.

These 2 are going to be racing later on...

A pair of B-25 Mitchells were on hand for the show.

Notice everybody on board wearing ear-muffs? The B-25 has a reputation for being a very noisy airplane, and prolonged exposure to the loud engine sounds tended to make people lose their hearing... (this according to the announcer).

Tim Decker in his S-2 Pitts put on a great show.

This is Paul Lopez in the MX-2.

Tim putting the Pitts through its paces.

Thumbs up from Tim!

The hot sun and windy conditions did nothing to deter the crowds!

Ken Pietsch and the Interstate Cadet was a Jelly Belly sponsered act. The plane requires only a bit of runway to take off and land on.

A F-18 Hornet from VFA-125 getting ready for its high powered demo.

An FG-1 Corsair taxiing out. According to the announcer, this example was made by Goodyear and carries the little known FG-1 designation (instead of the more commonly recognized F4U - which were made by Vought).

The F-18 on a high speed pass. Just enough moisture in the air to create a nice vapor cone!

Hard to catch the afterburners in action on a F-18. The flames are just not very visible from the side. If you look closely, you can see the afterburner exhaust here.

Gears down, on landing approach for a touch and go demonstration.

During carrier landings, the pilot will put the plane in full military power right after he touches down - just in case the plane does not catch any of the arresting wires. This allows the plane to take off again, and go around for another try. (Thanks to William Bowers for the correction on military power vs. afterburner!).

A different angle of the touch-and-go take off (from Sunday).

Gear coming up.

Vapors forming as the plane ups up aggressively.

Here's the Hornet doing another high speed pass.

The Corsair joins up with the F-18 for a Legacy flight.

Passing directly overhead!

LT Col Hall 'Reaper' (stenciled on the other side of the plane) waves to the crowd.

The BT-13 Valiant was a basic trainer used during WWII.

The T-28 Trojan was a trainer used from the 50's to the 80's.

The P-51 Mustang needs no introduction...

This one is named 'Merlin's Magic'.

There were a pair of B-25s in attendance.

Beautiful nose art on 'Executive Sweet'!

This one is 'Heavenly Body'

The Wright 'Cyclone' radials sounded awesome on the passes, especially with the occasional backfire!

'Barbarosa' is a Yak 9U with an American Allison engine.

The Yakovlev-9 was a very successful design and the most numerous Soviet fighter of WWII.

The Yak 9 on landing approach.

BT-13 landing.

Eddie Andrieni pilots the beautiful red Yak 9U.

The P-51 Mustang 'Vodoo' flew on Sunday, but not Saturday.

Hey, the back seat is empty! I would have LOVED to have been in it!! (yeah, right!).

Kent Pietsch in his 1942 Interstate Cadet flew several different skits during the show.

Eddie also flew the Super Stearman for the show.

Here he is, about to cut the ribbons while flying upside down!

The F-86 Sabre prepares to take to the sky.

The A-10 Thunderbolt II is more commonly known as the 'Warthog'.

The Hog and Sabre about to take off for a Legacy flight.

The A-10 continues to provide vital close air support in both Iraq and Afganistan. For years, critics have claimed that the Hog is too slow and too vulnerable to survive the modern battlefield. However, there's nothing in the Air Force inventory that comes close to replacing it!

It is said that the plane was built around the mighty 30mm GAU-8 Avenger cannon (instead of the gun added to the plane)! The nose landing gear is offset to the side in order to accommodate the gun - which had to be on the centerline of the fuselage so the brutal recoil forces wouldn't cause the plane to yaw when firing!

The A-10 was built as tough and survivable as possible. While the original mission was to kill Soviet tanks in the event of WWIII, the plane is superbly capable of providing precision close air support in todays' low intensity conflicts.

The twin TF34-GE-100 turbofan engines are mounted high, and far apart to minimize risk of damage from foreign objects being sucked in, reduce IR signature, and risk of damage from enemy fire.

Notice the 'fake' canopy painted on the underside of the fuselage to confuse the enemy!

The A-10 and F-86 Legacy flight pass.

A near head-on view of the Hog and Sabre.


A handsome view of the A-10 while landing.

The F-86 landing. I bet it doesn't have A/C... notice the open canopy!

The C-17 Globemaster III taxies up.

Blast of smoke, heat, and flames from the Air Force Jet car!


Must have some awesome thrust to weight ratio in that thing!

The race is on!

Even though the plane had a 'flying' start, the jet car caught up in short order.

Must be pretty scary sitting so close and exposed to a afterburning jet engine!

The newest wonder transport (C-17) takes to the sky... an appreciative audience!

The C-17 was designed to take off and land on short, unimproved runways, and to carry a fairly hefty load.

It is powered by four fully reversible, F117-PW-100 turbofan engines which allow it carry up to 179,900lbs! Besides the C-5 Galaxy, the C-17 is the only aircraft that can airlift the M1A1 main battle tank.

Its ability to take off and land in as little as 3500 ft allows it to bring troop and materials directly to the battle front.

In operation since 1995, there's a total planned fleet of 190 C-17s. Some argue that's not enough.. However, with a unit cost of $237 million, funding is always an issue!

Melissa Andrzejewski wows the crowd in her Zivko EDGE 540.

Here's Kent Pietsch in his 1942 Interstate Cadet doing some trick flying low to the ground.

Melissa is certainly an accomplished aerobatic pilot, with 1300 hours flight time, and 4 time winner of the Pitts Trophy. Really amazing considering she's only 24!

Kent also does this thing where he lands the plane on a moving truck, and takes off from it again.

Unfortunately, it was too windy for the Army's Golden Knights parachute team to jump on Saturday. Sunday's jump was also cancelled due to equipment issues. Too bad.

Paul Lopez waves 'Hi' from his MX2.

Even future pilots need a little protection from the sun!

Thunderbird Crew Chiefs start the ground show.

Followed somewhat later by the 6 pilots.

After putting on their G-Suit 'chaps', the Thunderbirds strap in and start up their rides.

Thunderbird 1 taxis out.

Followed in succession by the others.

Make some noise for the T-Birds!!

The distortion from the exhaust heat makes this look like modern art! Looks like a photoshop effect, but it is not.

Hey, how do I get an invitation to the tower? (I know, accredited media or work there...)

After a suitably long wait, the Thunderbirds take to the sky!!

Thunderbirds 1 through 4 take off in formation, here with the afterburners lit.

Followed by Thunderbird 6...

Then Thunderbird 5

Diamond Clover Opener

Opposing Knife Edge

Diamond Pass in Review

'Diamond Pass in Review' continued

Calypso Pass

Ron Ton Roulle

Start of the Crossover Break

Thunderbird #5 passes close overhead on the Crossover Break

Crossover Break!!

Trail to Diamond Clover

Still the Trail part of 'Trail to Diamond Clover'

Opposing 4-Point Roll

Trail to Diamond Roll - which sets up...

The SNEAK PASS!!!!! Whooooooooooot!!!

Flying fairly close to the audience at just under Mach 1 (a little under 700mph), the sneak pass is ghostly quiet in its approach.

In the blink of an eye, it's rockets past followed very shortly by all that compressed sound energy!! It's like having a bomb go off out of the blue!
Guaranteed to scare the heck out of 97% of airshow attendees - whose attention is on the Trail to Diamond Roll per the announcer's glib directions! The remaining 3% are airshow junkies (like me) and are eagerly looking out for it.

The sneak pass is so close, and so fast, I have not yet been able to completely track it due to the high crossing rate. The best I get is a few shots at the start, and a few afterwards. The ones in the middle invariably have pieces of the plane out of the frame (mostly I end up with just the end half as I lag in tracking), or out of focus. Sigh, only one attempt per show!

High Alpha Pass
Almost the opposite of the Sneak Pass, this one is going as slow as it possibly can!

High/Low Pass

High/Low Pass

5-Card Loop

Vertical Rolls

Line Break Loop

The break portion of 'Line Break Loop'

Delta Bottom Up Pass

Delta Loop

'Delta Loop' continued

High Bomb Burst

Meeting at the center after the 'High Bomb Burst'

Thunderbird Pitch

After the Thunderbirds landed, the Thunderbirds met the audience at the fence line for autographs and pictures. Here's the Thunderbirds #12 PAO with a winning smile!

Thunderbird #11, Maintenance Officer.

Thunderbird #10, Executive Officer

Thunderbird #9, Flight Surgeon

Maj. Scott Poteet, Thunderbird #4, slot. All the Thunderbirds were happy to sign autographs, shake hands, and take pictures with the crowd!

A LOT of people around Thunderbirds 5 & 6. This is Maj. Tyrone Douglas, Thunderbird #6, opposing solo.

Thunderbird #5 is Maj. Samantha Weeks - the first ever female lead solo pilot! Flying her second year with the Thunderbirds.

Maj. Kirby Ensser, Thunderbird #3, right wing

Maj. Chris Austin, Thunderbird #2, left wing

Lt. Col. Greg Thomas, Thunderbird #1, Leader

With the show over, everyone makes a mad dash for their cars!

However, the end of the show is a great time to hang around and photograph the static displays. The crowds would have thinned out a lot! This is a Lockheed U-2 out of Beale AFB.

The immense size of the C-5 can be seen here, with the tiny people as a scale reference!

Travis AFB gets back to normal business after the show's over - here's a C-5 coming in for a landing. A huge Thanks to the men and women of Travis AFB, and all the performers and support staff for putting on an excellent show, and for making it a safe and fun event for everyone!!

Why 2 days?

One of the shots I look forward most to getting is the 'Sneak pass'. Well, I had been having some problems with image playback earlier in the day, and I was worried that I was losing images off the memory card. My workaround was to just shoot and not review pictures. That was fine until the middle of the sneak pass itself, when the camera's buffer filled up and the 'write' light stayed lit without completing the file save. I switched over to the backup camera after a bit, but the sneak pass shots were gone. It was so frustrating as I had it perfectly (as seen through the viewfinder)!

Later on at home, I was having all sorts of problems trying to retrieve the files off the compact flash. All kinds of errors and thousands of missing files. After several tries in both camera and reader, the system just refused to recognize any files at all. After a bit of investigating, I noticed that one of the pins in the card reader was bent down, and not making contact with the flash memory. After I straightened it out, the system (as well as the camera) reported the card as being unformatted! I had thought I lost ALL my images. Here's where a data recovery software (which I had to purchase) came to the rescue. I was able to retrieve most of the files, but 10 minutes of the T-bird routine (including the all important Sneak pass) was just not there. Here's a major objective lesson here - ALWAYS format your memory card in the camera - never in the card reader! I KNEW that - but I thought my camera was having a problem - who would have guessed it was the card reader instead!!

This is why, I HAD to go back and take another crack at the Sneak pass shot the next day!

If you liked these, you might want to check out some other pics I took...
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