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Windsor International Air Show 2010

By Pieter M. Groenendijk

For decades, Canada was known for great air shows. In the ’80s and ’90s, the London Air Show in Ontario was famous for fantastic participants. Remember, for instance, the 1989 London Air Show with the attendance of 25F-4 Phantoms from various forces and units. Unfortunately, due to financial concerns the London Air Show & Balloon Festival hasn’t taken place from 2002 on. Fortunately, Windsor Airport, close to Detroit, Michigan, looks to be a good alternative. Here the Windsor International Air Show, also known as “The Sounds of Freedom II,” was held Saturday and Sunday, August 21 and 22, 2010. Pieter M. Groenendijk takes us there with great pictures of the action.

Keith Baxter is the “religious father” of the Windsor International Air Show. He managed to get an international lineup of aircraft, including aircraft from Canada, the United States, and Brazil. Although the weather didn’t cooperate much, especially on Saturday, the show was a big hit. “It took me two years to get the Brazilian Air Force ‘Smoke Squadron’ over to Windsor,” Keith explained. Team “Esquadrilha da Fumaça” is flying seven EMB-312 Tucano trainers and shows all the skills of precision formation flying with a great performance very much appreciated by the crowds. The team, main ambassadors of the Brazilian Air Force, is based at Pirassununga-Campo Fontenelle and performed its first official demonstration on May 14, 1952, flying the North American T-6 Texan. From 1969 till 1972 the Smoke Squadron flew the Fouga Magister, but unfortunately this plane didn’t fulfill the necessary requirements of the team. Again the T-6 was used till 1976. In 1982, the Smoke Squadron was reactivated with the T-25 Universal aircraft. In 1983, the T-27 Tucano, which is the plane the team still flies today, entered service. Since 2002, the Tucanos have been painted in the Brazilian flag colors and logged over 2,000 demonstrations.

So Keith managed to get a first-rate lineup as well as an international one at Windsor, including some unique warbirds, with military in attendance. Like in 2009, the Maine Air National Guard, also known as the “MAINEiacs,” provided a KC-135R Stratotanker for the 2010 air show. The KC has been serving as an aerial tanker with the U.S. Air Force since 1957 (!) and is one of just six military fixed wing aircraft with over 50 years of continuous service. Othersof the six long-serving aircraft also attended the show this year like the B-52 and the T-38 jet trainer. The B-52 is nicknamed BUFF, short for Big Ugly Fat Fellow, and now enters its sixth decade of service as an important bomber in the U.S. Air Force. It was the first time this mighty bomber from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, could be viewed at the static display at Windsor.

The Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum, based at Hamilton, Ontario, showed some of the unique aircraft in its inventory. Worldwide, only two World War II Lancaster bombers are airworthy, one flying with the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight in the United Kingdom, the other flying in Canada. At Windsor, the Lancaster could have been visited at the static display but also performed several banked low passes. Other planes from the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum included the Hawker Hurricane, P-51D Mustang, Lysander, Firefly, and C-47 Dakota. Most of these planes, which contributed to our freedom in WWII, showed some very nice flying.

In 2009, four F-15s from Idaho showed up at Windsor. Now only one example of this mighty fighter was present. The F-15 Eagle is considered among the most successful modern jet fighters with over 100 aerial combat victories and no losses in dogfights. In service with the U.S. Air Force since 1976, the Eagle is expected to soldier on until 2025 in the United States. Furthermore, the F-15 Eagle is in service in Japan, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and South Korea.

During an accident in Lethbridge last summerthe Canadian CF-18 demo plane was lost. Fortunately, the pilot ejected safely just before the jet crashed. Therefore, the official CF-18 demo was canceled. Two CF-18s from the 425 Tactical Fighter Squadron were present at Windsor of which one showed the good flying capacities of this all-weather jet fighter.

Only 20 MiG-15s of the 18,000-plus examples built remain airworthy today, one of them owned by the Viper North Team from Toronto. The Viper North Team is relatively new in the warbird circuit and is owned by Richard “Coop” Cooper and Jeff “Biscuit” Lewis. Biscuit started flying when he was just 10 years old and has logged over 8,000 hours by now. In daily life, he’s Air Canada captain on the Embraer E190. Coop has more than 6,000 flying hours in his books and is also licensed to fly helicopters. At the Windsor International Air Show, both Viper North jets were present. The Aero Vodochody L-29 Delphin with the very attractive color scene and code “29” on the nose was lined up next to the F-16s, F-15, and T-38 at the static display. On Saturday, Coop flew a very short performance in the MiG-15UTI, with tactical designation “Red 117,” due to the very bad weather and only burned 300 liters of gas! Biscuit showed his flying skills in the MiG-15UTI on Sunday during good weather circumstances. His low passes and “paddle-only roll” were a real hit with the audience.

The Canadian Harvard Aerobatic Team flew a crowd-pleasing performance with their three-ship formation. The team is based at Tillsonburg, Ontario, with Pete Spence flying as number one lead pilot. Dave Hewitt is number two on the right wing, and Kent Beckam number three on the left wing. All are members of the Canadian Harvard Aircraft Association. North American Aviation in Inglewood, California, manufactured both Harvard 1 and 3 while Harvard 2 is a true Canadian Harvard, build under license in Montreal, Quebec. The Harvard, also known as “The Pilot Maker,” is powered by a 600-hp Pratt & Whitney engine which gives the plane its distinctive roar.

Last day’s performance was by the Snowbirds, the Canadian Air Force display team for many years. The team still flies the CT-114 Tutor, all painted in red and white colors.

The organization of the show, led by Keith Baxter, was excellent, and hopefully there will be a 2011 Windsor International Air Show.

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