Airshow Report
Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson - Arctic Thunder 2012

Keith Draycott & Brandon Farris report from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER)

The bi-annual Arctic Thunder Airshow held at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER) in Anchorage, Alaska was held over the weekend of 28th & 29th July. Headline acts for the show this year were the United States Air Force Thunderbirds Demonstartion Team and the Lockheed Martin F/A-22 Raptor Display Team. Arctic Thunder was a 'must do' for the 2012 F-22 team as Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson is home to the 525th and 90th Fighter Squadrons who are both operational on the Raptor.

On both days the show started off in stye with the U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute display team jumping from a U.S. Army, Shorts C-31 Sherpa. First out was a single jumper, who, after deploying his canopy unfurled a United States flag and was then circled by a smoke trailing Oregon Aeros, Super Chipmunk as the National Anthem was performed.

It was then time for the full Golden Knights sequence and as always, they displayed with both style and precision. As well as the familiar formation skydives the team also showed how it's possible to transfer a wooden baton from one jumper to another while in freefall. A single jumper then purposely cut away from his main chute, returning to freefall and then safely deployed his backup parachute before landing exactly on the desired landing spot.

The following item on the schedule consisted of a series of flybys by examples of all the aircraft based at Joint Base Elmendord Richardson. These included two Lockheed/Martin F/A-22 Raptors, two Lockheed/Martin C-130H Hercules, one Boeing C-17 Globemaster III, one Boeing E-3A Sentry and a Beech C-12 Huron.

The 'Historic Flight Foundation' from Everett, Washington were next up with their B-25 Mitchell bomber, 'Grumpy'. After a series of nice topside flybys 'Grumpy' was joined in formation by the Commemorative Air Force's Mitsubishi Zero. The formation was then doubled in size when two North American T-6 Texans took to the skies. All four aircraft then carried out a tailchase sequence.

We then got to see the first civilian acts of the day as Skip Stewart took to the skies in his highly modified Pitts S-2 'Prometheus'. Skip was joined by Gary Ward in the bright green, all carbon-fibre MX2 for some formation aerobatics as well as some incredibly close cross-over manouvers.

The final act before the short lunch break was provided by the two C-130s that had flown earlier as part of the based aircraft flybys. As the C-130s approached the airfield from the west, the para doors near to the rear of the aircraft were opened and around forty paratroopers jumped from the aircraft. Once safely on the ground the two Hercules transports also landed and returned to the north side dispersal area.


The Static Park consisted mainly of examples of the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army aircraft based at Joint Base Elmendord Richardson. Exceptions inlcuded the McDonnell Douglas F-15C Eagle coded ZZ from the Kadena AFB, Japan. This was joined by two Idaho Natinoal Guard A-10C Thunderbolt IIs and two Aggressor F-16s from Eielson AFB near Fairbanks AK. Also on show was a B-52H from Barksdale LA and a C-21A from Scott AFB. The Canadian Air Force was also present sending s single CF-118 Hornet. Federal Express (FedEx) sent an ATR-72 and the largest aircraft in the park, a McDonnell Douglas MD-11F.
After lunch, Gary Ward in the MX2 and Skip Stewart in his red and black Pitts once again took to the skies. This time to carry out their full individual aerobatic displays. Skip also completed his ribbon cutting sequence. This consisted of flying incredibly low along the runway and cutting a ribbon strectched between two poles.
The Army then carried out an airfield attack showcasing the capabilities of a number of their helicopters. Two Bell 58 Kiowas carried out recon' runs as four MH-60 Blackhawks delivered troops and weapons to show center. This was followed up by a single CH-47F Chinook dropping off a troop carrying vehicle. Finally, a C-17A landed and offloaded an even larger vehicle. As smoke screens were set off on the ground by the troops much shooting of blank rounds ensured that the 'bad guys' were eventually defeated and peace once again returned to Joint Base Elmendord Richardson.

Air Combat Command F-22 Demo Pilot Henry “Schadow” Schantz then taxied his F/A-22 Raptor down the taxiway to the end of the runway. The microphone was handed to the narrator Ambrose "BO" Brewer and the awesome capabilities of this highly manouverable fifth generation fighter were demonstrated. The usual high speed, high G manouvers were complemented by the slower, vectored thrust assisted 'party pieces'. Sadly, Sunday's display was interupted by a medivac helicopter transiting the airshow airspace. Once clear 'Schadow' completed his always highly impressive display sequence.

The finale was provided by the USAF demonstration team, The Thunderbirds, who were returning to Joint Base Elmendord Richardson for the first time since 2008. The ground show which preceeds most Thunderbirds demonstations seemed way longer than normal and as usual was out of sight for 90% of the audience. Sadly, this contributed to a large number of spectators leaving the airfield before the gleaming white F-16s even took to the skies. When they finally did get airborne the display was as crisp and stylish as ever with the tight formations, knife edge passes and oh-so-close crossovers at show center. The two sneak passes, as always caught members of the unsuspecting audience by surprise.

Overall, this was a great show and the organizers were rightly rewarded with an audience of approximately 225,000 people over the weekend.

We would like to thank Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson for putting on a great show and are very much looking forward to 2014 for the next one!

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