The premier East Coast military air show near Washington DC truly stands out.
Officially called the Air & Space Expo 2022, the show at Joint Base Andrews (formerly known as Andrews Air Force Base) took place on September 16-18, 2022. The air show was held just outside of Washington DC and is most simply referred to as the Andrews air show. As the show takes place close to the nation’s Capital, it tends to highlight the most modern military aircraft, with a few civilian acts and warbirds included.
This year’s edition was special, as it marked the 75th anniversary of the United States Air Force established as an independent military branch in 1947. There was a mix of static and aerial displays by military and civilian aircraft, although, as compared to previous years, one could notice the reduced number of participating aircraft, probably caused by budget cuts
The U.S. Army’s Golden Knights parachute team kicked off the show. Jumping both, from a C-17 Globemaster III as well as the team’s C-147A, they performed a mass exit jump with eight parachutists plus individual team member jumps.
The American strategic bomber force was represented with flyovers by the B-2 Spirit and B-1B Lancer. Also on static display were the B-1B Lancer plus the B-52H Stratofortress, also known as the BUFF. All three types of bombers are showing their age, even though, despite rolling off the production line 60 years ago, the B-52H is about to receive new engines that are expected to remain on the strategic bomber through at least 2050! The Northrup Grumman B-21 Raider is slated to replace the B-1 and B-2 bombers, with entry into service in 2026.
The United States Air Force aerial demonstration team, the Thunderbirds, is always one of the highlights of the show and their display is the final act of the flying segment. The team operates with 138 personnel supporting eight F-16C Falcons, although the show is flown with six aircraft, with four planes primarily flying various formations plus two solo aircraft.
While the air show itself takes place Friday through Sunday, the Thunderbirds arrived on the Monday before the show. This allows for the team’s preparation for the show as well as multiple personal appearances in and around the Capital.
Warbirds are a vital part of the show at Andrews. In 1997, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Air Force, the military teamed with civilian warbird operators to fly heritage flights during the air show season. The flights consist of a formation of two to four aircraft, with a mix of warbirds and modern Air Force aircraft.
In addition to the P-51D Mustang’s heritage flight with the F-35A Lighting II, there were daily flights of the, B-17G “Yankee Lady” and B-25 Mitchell “Panchito”. The B-29 “Fifi” was also at the show. Unfortunately, “Fifi” did not take to flight as the plane was down for mechanical reasons.
The show at Joint Base Andrews is always an impressive event. With three straight days of good weather, the conditions for flying were optimal. As one of the largest air shows on the East Coast, it offers a unique and impressive opportunity to see American military aviation in action.