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Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Power in the Pines

The New Jersey pine trees in the vicinity of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst shook off the persistent airshow rain of a soggy Saturday May 20 – one that saw no aircraft venture skyward – and rebounded in spectacular fashion on a sunny Sunday. Day two of the Power in the Pines Air & Space Open House featured sun, clouds, and breezes, but most importantly, dry conditions. And attendees turned out in masses, eager to take in the first airshow at McGuire in five years.

The fact that neither of the marquee US air teams – the USAF Thunderbirds or USN Blue Angels – were on hand seemed to be of no concern to the thousands who filled the flight line to capacity, eager to see everything from static displays and educational installations to headlining flights by F-15, C-17, and F-16 Venom aircraft.

The lines were long but the rewards exciting: opportunities to explore various aircraft that operate from McGuire, including the venerable tri-engine KC-10 refueling aircraft. Now reaching the end of their service life, the KC-10s on display were attended by crews with an understandable, slight air of melancholy - particularly in light of the KC-135s being chosen to soldier on despite being much older aircraft. The new generation KC-46s were also open to the public, fueling boom operators explaining to visitors how they control fuel transfer operations remotely and essentially virtually from stations facing rearward from just behind the flight deck. And speaking of flight decks, one of the longest lines – and slowest moving – was the one to climb up narrow steps from the cargo bay of a C-17 to visit the cockpit. Everyone seemed to find the wait well worth it.

By the time Capt. Aimee Fiedler wrapped up her thrilling F-16 Viper demonstration flight - her aircraft appearing even more imposing thanks to its unique paint scheme - aviation fans were already looking toward the next public gathering at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, coming in 2025.

For now, though, enjoy these images from the 2023 Power in the Pines Air & Space Open House.

Click on photos for larger images. All photos: Frank Moriarty/Aerospace Perceptions

The lineup of the Power in the Pines Air & Space Open House fully entertained this vast crowd, estimated at eighty-five thousand people.

An hour wait was a small price to pay for the rare opportunity to climb up to the cockpit of a C-17 Globemaster.

The aviation action got underway with passes by four large refueling and cargo planes, including the soon-to-be-retired KC-10 Extender tanker (upper) and C-17 Globemaster strategic transport aircraft.

One of McGuire’s KC-135 Stratotankers, easily identifiable with its tiger tail markings.

The current generation USAF refueling aircraft, the KC-46 Pegasus, taxis in the distance between two F-16Cs assigned to the Viper Demonstration Team.

A US Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin banks hard left during its program.

A friendly wave from a crewmember in an intimidating vehicle, the Bell AH-1Z Attack and Reconnaissance helicopter.

Roadside assistance, USMC style. One massive CH-53E Super Stallion was on hand for walkthroughs, while another starred in a very effective demonstration of aerial vehicle relocation.

A star of the show was this historic C-47, the actual plane that led the air assault at the pivotal battle of World War II, the D-Day/Normandy attack. Following this plane were over 800 (yes, 800!) more C-47s like this one. They carried over 13,000 paratroopers and, acting in conjunction with the massive amphibious assault of the allies, turned the tide of the war against Hitler’s forces.

The F-15C Eagle interacts with the atmosphere over the flight line during a high-speed pass early in its program.

Powering into an inversion, the maneuverability of the F-15C brought the crowd to their feet.

A pair of North American Aviation Texans, designated as SNJ-2s for their US Navy service, prepare to demonstrate precision flying capabilities.

The SNJ-2s arch across the skies, leaving a smoke trail as evidence of their formation aerobatics.

One of McGuire’s own C-17 Globemasters demonstrated the full capabilities of this essential transport aircraft.

Headlining the day, the USAF F-16C Viper Demonstration Team’s principal aircraft sneaks up on the flight line from behind to noisily initiate its portion of the program.

Capt. Aimee Fiedler demonstrates the evasive capabilities of her F-16C, deploying countermeasure confusion for the opposition while climbing hard and away.