By Reggie Paulk
Coloradoans have seen some of the mildest temperatures in years, and Saturday, June 7, was no exception. With morning temperatures in the 50s, a jacket was a necessity, but as the sun rose in the sky, the temperatures came up along with it, making for a wonderful day for the 2008 Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport Open House.
Among the aircraft performing flybys during the morning demonstrations were a T-33 flown, by Roy Halladay, and a MiG-17, piloted by Col. Jack Wilhite. Patty Wagstaff flew a short demonstration flight in her Cirrus-sponsored Extra 300, a preview for her afternoon performance. Joe Thibodeau piloted his Hawker Sea Fury alongside Lee Lauderback, flying Thibodeau’s P-51 Crusader. Unfortunately, a maintenance issue caused Thibodeau to land and kept his Sea Fury grounded for the rest of the show.
Many aircraft were on static display on the ramp, including a single-engine TBM Avenger, owned by the Colorado Wing of the Confederate Air Force. Other aircraft included a new Pilatus PC-12, Cessna 206, Cessna 400 (formerly Columbia 400), many Cirrus SR22s and numerous helicopters.
The U.S. Air Force Academy, Coast Guard, Navy, Air Force and the Colorado Air National Guard all had a strong presence at the show. A Colorado Guard displayed a Learjet in full livery, along with an F-16 fighter. The Air Force Academy gave a beautiful and silent glider performance.
The Coast Guard had an unusually strong showing at this landlocked event, bringing a USCG C-130 and a Hawker jet. The C-130 performed an interesting tactical aerial demonstration that highlighted the Coast Guard’s response to seaborne distress calls. During multiple flybys, the C-130 dropped numerous packages representing food, shelter (flotation) and communications gear, dropped as part of its emergency response.
The Navy sent an F-18 Super Hornet fighter-bomber as part of the Super Hornet West Coast Demonstration team. The two-seat Hornet gave a very loud and spectacular display, as it tried to show its Air Force counterparts how it’s done in the Navy. The F-18 did several passes at nearly the speed of sound, dazzling the crowd on every pass.
The Air Force F-16 West Coast Demonstration Team was next. What the single-engine F-16 lacks in noise footprint, compared to the F-18’s twin-engine power, it makes up for in sheer maneuverability. The F-16 put on a high-G routine, with vapor trails constantly forming over the wings.
With the cancellation of the Rocky Mountain Regional Fly-In at Front Range Airport this year, this event represented the only chance for many aviation fans in the Denver area to get out to the airport and enjoy an air show. What a beautiful day it was.