Defenders of Freedom, Offutt AFB, 24-25 August
If the Defenders of Freedom airshow is typical of post 9/11 shows at USAF bases, then I can only advise you to be early at the gate. All baggage is checked, and everyone has to pass through a metal detector frame similar to that found at airports. This invariably leads to queues forming and delays.
Once through, however, there was a lot to see. The full might of the US AF is on display, T-2 Buckeyes, T-34 Mentors, Cessna T-37, the new US AF trainer, the turbo-prop RAC T-6 Texan II, as well as the Navy’s T-45 Goshawk (Americanised BAe Hawk) were on display along side F-15s, F-16s, A-10s and an F/A-18. Transports included a C-130H and the new C-130J, KC-135, KC-10 and C-17 (all open to the public), as well as Lockheed U-2 and a Royal AF 201 Squadron Nimrod.
Helicopters included amongst others, US Marine Corps Sikorski CH-53, and US Army UH-64s.
Warbirds were well represented with P-51s being the more numerous, including a Canadian example, CF-IKE (no, that’s not a typing mistake), and a “Tuskegee Airmen” P-51C. Other warbirds included a T-28 Trojan, Stinson L-5s, Vultee BT-13s, Harvards (including NX60DJ, modified as a Mitsubishi Zero) TBM-3, P-47, B-25, B-17, and a DC-3 representing an AC-47 gunship.
Apart from the US Navy’s Blue Angels, there was also the Aeroshell team, composed of four North American T-6 Texans. Don’t let the WWII-vintage aircraft fool you – the team gave an impeccable performance!
Not all of the aircraft on display were accessible to the public, and these included the E-4 (B.747), RC-135 and F-117 Stealth bomber.
The show started by the C-21, RC-135 and the E-4 making fly-bys, followed by each aircraft performing a maximum braking full-stop landing, which was very impressive with the E-4.
The DC-3 then circled overhead, with small explosions on the ground represented the mini-guns being fired, and a major explosion signifying a “hit on target”. This was followed by “strafing runs” by F-16s, and further “bombing runs” by the B-17, B-25 and DC-3 and a B-1B.
Other displays were by the four T-6 Texans of Aeroshell, simulated dogfights involving the TBM Avenger, “Zero”, P-47 Thunderbolt and P-51 Mustang, the US AF Heritage Flight (F-15 with P-51 and P-47), Pitts S-2B, the US Army Parachute Team, the Golden Knights, and of course, the US Navy’s Blue Angles.
If you are visiting on your own, it is advisable to decide whether to look around at the static aircraft and jot down serials/registrations, or find a good position to photograph the aircraft taxiing out for take-off as well as the actual display itself. The crowd line is uneven, parts of it is closer to the display line than others, and empty spaces are quickly taken up.
Sun Position. The sun starts in front of you to your right, but by 11.15 is directly overhead, and passing behind you, so it isn’t too much of a problem. Expect delays when leaving, both to pass through the gate, and drive off the base (it took me twenty minutes). This could be a good time to look around the aircraft, allowing the crowds to depart.