The Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station is the last U.S. Air Force
installation in the State of New York and the largest federal facility in the
region. The station is home to the 914th Airlift Wing and the 107th Air
Refueling Wing. The Niagara Falls International Airport also houses the 865th
Support Hospital and 277th Quartermasters. Strategically located on the Canadian
border between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, the base currently accommodates eight
C-130 and nine KC-135 aircraft.
The base was targeted by the federal government in 2005 for
closure, but extraordinary community support convinced the government to keep
the base open. The 2007 air show was the first since 2004, and featured many
cool performers, including the Thunderbirds, the GEICO Skytypers, the Air Force
Reserves jet-propelled car, the Air Force Academy parachute jump team, and the
US Navy Leapfrogs. Tons of cool planes were featured, including the F-18, F-15,
and the Niagara Air Force Base's own C-130 transport plane and KC-135 tanker
(aka the "Flying Gas Can").
Military air shows support recruiting by inspiring patriotism
and encouraging young men and women to serve in the military. They are said to
promote understanding of the role of the military in our community. However, we
just thought the air show was cool. We took a lot of pictures and movies -
scroll down to see some incredible stunts!
This is one of those mid-air refueling planes. They didn't have many
"spares" of these to show, since most of them are on duty in Iraq and
Afghanistan. Knowing that we have these wars going on in Iraq and
Afghanistan, Nick and I wondered how it was that the Navy's "best pilots"
were performing with the Thunderbirds. Shouldn't they be, you know, killing
The United States has some bad-ass fighter jets.
The F-18 is one of the very few fighter jet configurations with a "tailhook"
on the back so it can be launched from aircraft carriers for use in combat
situations. The tailhook makes it possible to use the "arresting cable" to
"catch" the plane. Watch Top Gun if you are confused about this
launching/landing thing. Keep in mind that in Top Gun they were flying F-14
Tom Cats, which have been retired for the most part and replaced by the
F-18. The hook mechanism has remained fundamentally unchanged between the
two models. There are lots of other "F" fighter planes, but most of them,
including the F-15 and F-16, are not carrier-enabled. They are launched from
bases - some in Europe, Africa, and Saudi Arabia, as well as right in Iraq
and Afghanistan, for their missions.
GALAXY C-5 TRANSPORT PLANE EXTRAORDINAIRE
The C-5 is the biggest airplane made in the United States. It's bigger than
a 747 and weighs a whopping 840,000 pounds. Some amazing facts - the C-5 can
carry twenty OH-6 helicopters, it carries 50 000 gallons of fuel, which (if
it were gas) would allow a car to circumnavigate the earth 60 times... just
its paint weighs over 2600 lbs. The only thing it can't carry a lot of is
tanks. Tanks are heavy.
The C-5 has 28 wheels, it can carry as many people
as a 747, and its max cargo load is so heavy that it carry up to 135 tons
(tanks average 67 tons, so I suppose it could carry two if the plane didn't
require, say, pilots. Pilots would put it over the weight limit. *grin*).
Each C-5 costs a couple hundred million dollars to manufacture. Each TF39
engine provides 43,000 lbs of thrust (more than is provided by both engines
of an F-18 SuperHornet put together, and using up significantly less fuel
This airplane is a monster. If you see one at an airshow, trust us when
we say - get close to it so you can appreciate how huge it is, and imagine
what it must be like to fly something the size of an office building. This
is a BIG plane. As you can see, you can load this plane from the front or
Ok, so you've all heard of skywriters, correct? Well, these are skyTYPERS -
this is not a typo. The planes emit little puffs of smoke to make letters,
as evidenced in the next two pictures. They were flying around during the
show typing things like "Welcome to the Air Show". Apparently they sent them
to downtown Buffalo the week of the air show to advertise it during the
lunch hour. Pretty cool.
SKYTYPERS - 2ND PASS
Before you all e-mail us and ask us how on earth these planes skytype, I'll
explain. There are 5-6 of them "typing" at any one time. They each have a
computer which is coordinated with the computers on the other planes to emit
smoke on it's own little flight path so that together, the smoke from the
planes comes together to make words. Capice?
||SKYTYPERS FLYING IN
These next two pictures show the actual formations
that the planes fly to make the messages.
ANOTHER SKYTYPER FORMATION
The skytypers also fly in formation while letting off constant currents of
smoke, as shown in this picture.
THUNDERBIRDS REVVING UP
When the Thunderbirds' cadre of F-16's started up, it was quite an
impressive sight (and sound). There was much smoke and blowing wind.
Conveniently, this happened right in front of us, as you can see. Cool.
||F-15 EAGLE WITH THE
The F-86 is an old fighter plane that was used during the Korean and Vietnam
wars, mostly again the much-feared MiG-15 and MiG-17's. Why were the MiGs
feared? I'll tell you! Because the MiGs carried much more damaging and
higher-caliber guns than the F-86s they flew against. It is quite widely
recognized that the reason why American jets were not slaughtered over the
skies of Korea was because of superior pilot training, not because the F-86
was a better fighter.
In any case, the F-15 Eagle and the F-86 Heritage
were flown together in this show to demonstrate how much faster the F-15 is,
how it can make tighter turns, etc. However, don't feel too sorry for the
F-86. It did its job in its time quite capably.
THE MEMPHIS BELLE
The Memphis Belle is a B-17 bomber made famous in World War II. It
flew 25 bombing missions. Apparently it was quite a treat to have the
Memphis Belle present at this air show, as it has been permanently
(except when being shown off at air shows) relocated to the National Museum
of the United States Air Force in Ohio. You need to request a special
"behind the scenes tour" just to see it.
In this picture, taken from the
side of the plane, you can see the red and yellow stars, which were painted
above the bombs for each mission flown. Yellow stars represented the
missions where the "Belle" lead her bomb group. Red stars indicate when she
lead the whole bomb wing.
FRONT VIEW OF THE "MEMPHIS BELLE"
This nose paint job and configuration were exclusively used on the
Memphis Belle, making it one of the Air Force's most distinctive planes.
F-16s are also bad-ass, fast, deadly planes. They were first engineered to
replace the large, hard-to-maneuver fighter planes used in Korea and
Vietnam. The F-16 was the first jet to use computers and electric signals in
its flight controls instead of hydraulics, and is actually so unstable it
cannot be flown without computers.
It is the only airplane in the Air Force squadron that can be used both
as a bomber or as a fighter. It is a tremendous success in international
sales: the very first batch to come off the assembly line was shared between
the US, Belgium, and the Netherlands, and F-16s are now flown everywhere
from Japan to Israel to Latin America. Just about the most aerobatic plane
in the US Air Force inventory, it is the chosen demonstration plane of the
elite Air Force team, the Thunderbirds.
F-18 SLOW PASS
F-18s, being designed for carrier use, can fly pretty slowly. In fact,
its ability to slowly continue forward motion while nose-up at such a steep
angle - while flying at less than 100 miles per hour - is pretty unique.
Michael Hunter was a man who dreamed of doing aerobatic flying - but was
told by doctors he never would because of his strong insulin dependency.
Well, by using advanced real-time blood sugar monitors and insulin
management devices, he started flying seven years ago. He's now an
incredible aerobatic pilot.
THUNDERBIRDS: DOUBLE KNIFE-EDGE PASS
Flying sideways (with your wings perpendicular to the ground, usually with
the nose pointed up a bit) is called a knife-edge. Passing the crowd makes
it, naturally, a knife-edge pass. Passing another plane making a knife-edge
pass in the other direction by a few feet is called, naturally, crazy.
THUNDERBIRDS: KEEPING FORMATION
The Thunderbird pilots love to demonstrate precision flying by making really
tightly grouped passes in formation.
THUNDERBIRDS: UM, DO YOU REMEMBER WHICH SIDE GOES UP?
One of the Thunderbirds female pilots makes an upside-down pass of the
THUNDERBIRDS: BARREL ROLL
My lunch would be so lost. Just gone. Not funny.
"Hey, let's freak out the crowd by nearly crashing into each other!"
THUNDERBIRDS: YOU GUYS ARE SLOW
The solo plane blows by the other ones.
THUNDERBIRDS: JUST SICK.
I find it amazing that humans are capable of such finely tuned movements and
subtle reactions to be able to pull off this rolling six-plane formation
when your average person on the highway is all over the place.
THUNDERBIRDS: BOMB BURST
Their signature move: fly upwards and split up.