For spectators, air show at Andrews brings back memories

Cmdr. Greg McWherter was among those who flew at the Joint Service Open House and Air Show over the weekend at Andrews Air Force Base.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 16, 2010

Dane Horton smiled and rubbed his hand on the tail rudder of a Navy fighter and smiled, ignoring the vintage military aircraft twisting and soaring in the sky above him at Andrews Air Force Base's 2010 Joint Service Open House and air show.

"This is an F-18 Super Hornet. It is different than the smaller F-18 the Blue Angels use," he said as looked across the flight line where six F-18s were parked. "I was an aviation machinist mate on the USS John F. Kennedy."

For Horton, 51, of Northeast Washington, attending the open house was a chance to reflect. For Navy Lt. Cmdr. Brady "Sparky" Sparks, it was chance to show people his E-2C Hawkeye.

"It's absolutely incredible for people to come out and to allow us to show our skills," said Sparks, who serves as a mission commander for the Hawkeye, a turboprop radar plane that scouts ahead of carrier groups, relays communications and performs surveillance.

Maj. Alana Casanova said more than 200,000 people are expected to attend the air show, which features the Blue Angels, the Army Golden Knights parachute team, the F-22 Raptor and many other exhibits and planes parked on the flight line.

The spins and twirls of the Blue Angels were the highlights of the show. The Angels' commander, Greg McWherter, signed autographs and posed for photos, saying, "We love the flying, but the crowd line is the best part of the job."

Lt. Col Joe Martin, commander of the Golden Knights, said, "It is wonderful to be out here to share the story of America's soldiers. Parachuting is just the way we get to work. Our work starts when we get on the ground and tell people about the Army."

The air show also featured retired Air Force Col. Charles McGee, 92, a commander of the Tuskegee Airmen. McGee unveiled a replica of a BT-13, the plane he flew during training in 1943.

Keeping the skies friendly during the event was Norma Ely and her team of air traffic controllers from the Federal Aviation Administration, which is responsible for all air traffic at the base.

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