Whether it's the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines or Coast Guard, your favorite branch of the military will be represented this weekend at what is described as the biggest military show in the country. It's the Department of Defense's 40th annual open house at Andrews Air Force Base, just outside of Washington.
"The joint services open house is one of the best vehicles for the American taxpayer to come out and see what they have bought," says Lt. Dave Waterman, a Navy public affairs officer and spokesman for the show.
"There will be a spectacular air show with the [Navy] Blue Angels as a performing team. There will be various static displays ranging from the C-5 Galaxy to a Mark 5 special operations SEAL craft. There will be food, drink and entertainment for all the family."
At least 750,000 turned out for last year's show, Lt. Waterman says. "And that's probably a low estimate."
One of the big draws will be the Blue Angels, which has been around for more than 50 years, the lieutenant says.
Adm. Chester W. Nimitz, then the Chief of Naval Operations, began the Blue Angels at the end of World War II. He wanted to start a flight demonstration team to showcase the Navy's talent to the American public.
A year later, in June 1946, the Blue Angels first took to the air in a flight demonstration at the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, Fla. In 1947, the flight team flew its first "diamond" formation, which it is known for even today.
Today, the Blue Angels are based in Pensacola, Fla. The team's performance this weekend will be one of the 68 air shows in 36 cities in the United States and Canada during the 1998 season. According to Navy officials, the Blue Angels performed for more than 16 million people last year. Since 1946, they have performed for more than 307 million people.
The Blue Angels will share the spotlight this weekend with the Army's 82nd Airborne Division, which will hold a mass troop drop of 360 soldiers from three C-130s and three C-141s.
In addition, the Army's parachute team, the Golden Knights, will be on hand. The Army will also demonstrate its Wolverine Heavy Assault Bridge and an interactive exhibit featuring its newest weapon system, the Crusador Field Artillery System.
The Air Force will be represented with aerial demonstrations of the B-1B bomber, F-15 fighter and C-130 cargo aircraft.
The Air Force will also have on display the F-117 stealth fighter, B-52, E-3 airborne warning and control system (AWACS), KC-10 tanker, C-17 and C-5.
The Marine Corps will display air and ground hardware. There will be an aerial demonstration of the AV-8B Harrier, the AH-1W attack helicopter, the CH-53E heavy-lift helicopter, a light armored vehicle, an M198 howitzer and a mock-up of the Corps' advanced amphibious assault vehicle.
The Coast Guard will be represented by a display of rescue aircraft and other equipment. It will hold a helicopter search-and-rescue demonstration complete with a rescue swimmer.
The Coast Guard will also display its lead interceptor aircraft for drug and illegal immigrant interdiction, the Guardian fanjet; a specially equipped C-130 used for long range search and logistics; an HH-60J Jayhawk rescue helicopter; and two 22-foot port security "Raider" boats that were used during the Gulf War.
The Blue Angels will not be the sole representatives of the Navy. The Navy's F/A-18F Super Hornet, F-14 Tomcat, S-3 Viking, F/A-18C Hornet and E-2 Hawkeye will be at the open house. The SEALs - standing for sea, air and land - are the Navy's elite commando unit. They will display their 57-ton, 82-foot long Mark V Special Operations Craft. The Seabees, Navy construction engineers, will have their heavy construction vehicles. In addition, there will be an aerial demonstration by the F-14 Tomcat.
Not everybody appearing at the open house is in the military. Pilot Patty Wagstaff, who was born to an Air Force family, will bring her one-woman air show to the open house.
"My father was a captain in the Air Force who flew B-25s. He later left and went to the airlines. I have always loved airplanes, even as a kid," says Wagstaff, whose sister is a pilot with Continental Airlines.
When Wagstaff was growing up, she had no women role models as pilots in the Air Force. "It was not available to girls," she says.
She flew her first plane - a Cessna 185 floatplane - in 1978 and knew this is how she wanted to spend her life. Now her job is to travel around the country performing in air shows, and she considers herself fortunate to have a career she loves.
Wagstaff is a six-time member of the U.S. Aerobatic Team and the first woman to win the title of U.S. National Aerobatic Champion. She describes her flying style as "smooth and aggressive."
She will be performing both days at the open house.
All that is needed now for an optimum show is good weather. But whatever the weather, the show will go on.
"The displays are there no matter what," Lt. Waterman says. "If we can't do the air shows because of the rain, the displays are still well worth it."
What: The 40th annual Department of Defense Joint Services Open House
When: May 16 and 17, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Where: Andrews Air Force Base (accessible from the Washington Beltway, Maryland exits 7, 9, 11. Follow signs to the base.)
Admission: Free (including free parking)
Information: 301-568-5995 or visit the Web site at http://www.andrews.af.mil/air show
Pub Date: 5/14/98