The 142nd FW of the Oregon ANG is based at Portland International airport. They held an open house one Saturday morning and I figured a trip down was worth it. I put together a piece for Global Aviation Resource on the visit which you can see here if you want. The event was aimed at sharing the work the unit does with the local community that is probably well aware of their presence courtesy of the regular launches of F-15s from the runway at the international airport.
They had a couple of the jets for people to take a look at. One was out on the ramp and you could walk around it. Another was in the hangar with an access ladder to the cockpit (devoid of ejection seat, just to be on the safe side). They also had missiles and engines available to look at with people on hand to talk about them. Meanwhile, the unit launched a few waves of jets. They taxied out from the shelters a short distance away and, given the distance to the threshold of the runway, the F-15s were airborne well before they even came in to sight. Fortunately, they did keep them low and fast until they came by our location. Then they pulled up rapidly. Each departure was appreciated by the spectators!
A gear up landing is never something you want to have. What is worse is doing it in front of a lot of people. However, the crowd can sometimes be a benefit. The open house at Paine Field included some flybys by various types and one Navion was the last in his group to recover. Coming down the approach with flap deployed but no gear he looked very odd. I imagine the horn should have been blaring but, whatever the reason, he continued. Much frantic waving by the crowd and a call from the air boss had the desired effect, fortunately. A go around ensued followed by a normal approach a landing. I understand many beers were bought that night.
A short drive north of Chicago is Milwaukee. The main airport at Milwaukee is General Mitchell International and, aside from the commercial services that operate there, the Wisconsin Air National Guard also has a unit based on the field. It has a fleet of KC-135 tankers operated by the 128 Aerial Refueling Wing. Periodically, they have an open house and I went up to the recent event.
This is not an air show. The field remains open and normal flight operations continue. However, the ANG unit takes the chance to show off what they do to the local community and let them know what is going on with their tax dollars. They also invite others to bring aircraft in to give the visitors a variety of things to see. These visitors include aircraft from other Air Force units, a helicopter from the army and a variety of vintage aircraft, many from the local area.
The event took place over two days of the weekend. The Sunday looked better from a weather perspective so that is the day I went for. It proved to be a good choice with plenty of sun but temperatures staying very comfortable. What I didn’t appreciate was the additional benefit of it being Mother’s Day. I got their early for the better light but most people were spending time showing their mothers that they love them. Since I am 4,000 miles from my mum, a personal visit was a little impractical! It did make for a quiet ramp for quite a while though.
As the day progressed, plenty more people showed up and they probably achieved their goals for sharing with the local community. I got to chat with a number of interesting people and, since it was quiet, was able to have more than a passing conversation. I also met a few people who might be interested in some follow up work for the magazine so the trip was productive as well as fun.
I got a few shots of airliners as well as the aircraft on the ramp. We were also lucky that one of the based KC-135s launched on a mission while I was there so a shot of that flying helped out a lot. Since it isn’t an air show, that was a nice extra! I hope to get back up to the unit in due course and find out more about them and maybe put together a more detailed piece on their history and operations.