BZ's Beale AFB airshow

Photo Gallery

Beale AFB is home to the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, which flies the U-2 and RQ-4 aircraft. I was there April 18th for their 2009 open house and air show. It's been 3 years since their last open house, but this would be my first visit there.

With winter just a dim memory, the weather saturday was plain hot as the temperature took a sudden spike over the week before.

As an added bonus, I've recorded some of the more exciting audio moments from the air show. You will need to have Adobe Flash Player plugin installed for your browser in order to hear them. I believe the audio adds a whole new dimension to the page, and I must say it sounds just as it did in real life (on a computer with good speakers anyway)! These audio clips are spaced throughout the page, and include the U-2 takeoff, A-10 attack pass, F-16 high speed pass, AT-6 and P-51 passes, the Extra300 aerobatic sounds, and the heritage flight pass.

Used a Nikon D200 and D50 w/ a 70-300mm VR lens, and 18-105mm VR lens. Prop planes shot in shutter priority exposure mode (mostly between 1/160 and 1/250sec), with continuous autofocus. The jet shots were around 1/800sec. Hope you enjoy the show!
- Bernard Zee


Not actually part of the show, this air ambulance was called out to an accident scene for a Medevac.
For more pictures of the Medevac operation, click Beale Medivac


Plenty of Air Force security on hand with M-4 carbines!


The U-2 'Dragon Lady' stirs from its den, quickly taxiing out to the flightline.


Those outrigger (orange wheeled things) fall away on takeoff, and have to be manually reattached after landing.


This C-17 will make a demo flight later on.


The show opens with a single parachute jumper circled by 2 planes.


Here he is a bit closer to the ground.




Towards the end of the National Anthem, the U-2 starts its takeoff roll. For a single engine plane, it's pretty LOUD! Click on the play button above to hear it.


A little disapointed that the U-2 never got at all close to the audience. This shot was croped some to zoom in more.


The U-2 has been described as glider with a big jet engine. For the show, it will fly up to, and make a pass at 70,000 ft!


Unique to Beale are the gloss black T-38 Talons. Black to match the U-2 and SR-71 (when they were still being flown). It is too bad I will never get to watch the SR-71 in flight!


Here's the U-2 slowly making its way ever higher.


The flight of 4 T-38s lined up nicely with the moon for this shot.


Contrails from a passing jetliner provide an interesting geometric design as a backdrop.


Here are the T-38s with the moon again as they prepare to break for landing. The 4th jet has already peeled off.


Pretty nifty little plane. Looks like a lot of fun to fly!


Beautiful day out, but on the HOT side of things. Better have your hat and sunscreen!


Here's the group of 10 parachute jumpers that jumped in the show.


Kent Pietsch in the 800 pound Interstate Cadet flies a comedy routine of an out of control airplane, with pieces falling off. My wife actually thought he was about to crash on the opening dive! I looked at her like 'haven't you seen this a dozen times before?' I guess it never gets old!! :-)


Looking at Kent fly, it's easy to believe the plane as a simple extention of his body. He has such perfect control and timing.


This is Warren Pietsch in his modified 1946 Talorcraft cutting the ribbon inverted.


Tim Decker in his Pitts S-2B never fails to wow the spectators.


Here's a closer view of Tim in his Pitts aircraft.


No shortage of spectators at the show!


John 'Boards' Posson - #3 pilot of the Fry's Patriot demonstration team.


Tim taxiing by to wave to the crowd.


Here's the U-2 at 70,000 feet! Good thing there's a contrail, or we would never be able to even see it!


This is Rob 'FaNG' Hutchison, the Patriot's #2 pilot.


The #4 pilot, Paul 'Sticky' Strickland.




The AT-6 'Wardog' is flown by John Collver. To hear the beautiful and LOUD radial engine sounds of the AT-6, click on the play control above.


John Collver flies his plane in a routine in Tribute to the American Veteran.


The Fry's Patriot L-39 jets are lined up here, with an A-10 making a pass behind them.


An interesting angle of the A-10 Warthog with its gear down.







The A-10 demonstration at Beale was THE BEST one I have ever seen!! No doubt because he came so close to the audience on his attack passes. To hear the amazing (and terrifying to the enemy) sounds of the A-10 on an attack run, click the play control above. Be sure to turn up your volume! I never get tired of hearing that clip.


As he pulls up, the plane squeezes some moisture out of the hot and dry California air!


The A-10 was purpose built for close ground support, and there's nothing else like it in the U.S. inventory.


I have no compliants about this one!


The A-10 is so ugly it is beautiful!


Give it up for Major Paul Brown and the A-10 West Demonstration Team!


This is Eddie Andreini in his Super Stearman.


The C-17 starts to taxi out for its demonstration flight.


The U-2 returning from its flight 13 miles above the earth!


Spectators marvel at the Kent Pietsch's act.


Here's Kent flying his Interstate Cadet as a glider (engine off).


After a short roll, the C-17 takes to the sky.


For a big cargo plane, it's pretty nimble.





Here's the C-17 as it makes a pass. Fairly quiet plane actually. Click on the play button to hear it!


In addition to a short take off, it has a remarkably short landing as well.


Kent and Warren Pietsch take to the air again for some more dare-devil moves.


Here's Kent landing on the world's smallest aircraft carrier.


The Patriot team bow down to Kent as he passes them. I think that took him by surprise!






One of the most exciting sounds at the show would be the F-16 high speed pass. Crank up the volume!!! Whoooop!


I especially love the high speed pass since it's very close, and the afterburner is lit! On the other hand, my oldest girl did not appreciate it as much as she had her ear plugs off. :-)


The F-16 is the undisputed champion of making vapor in dry, hot air.


Unfortunately, most of the routine was quite far away for my lenses, so I just mostly watched it.


But very occasionally, he makes a nice close pass with the AB lit... I love it!





Prior to joining up for the heritage flight, here's the sound of the P-51 on its take off run (click play on the control above).


The Heritage flight this day is made up of the A-10, the F-16, and the P-51D.




Here's the sounds from the Heritage flight. If you listen closely, you can hear the distinctive tones of the A-10 turbines, the P-51's Allison engine, and the F-16's jet.


The break.


The Patriots get ready to start their show.


Taxiing out in their Aero L-39 Albatros.


Designed as a trainer by Czechoslovakia, the jets are fairly quiet.



Listen to the unqiue sounds of the Geico Extra 300 as Tim Weber performs his aerobatic routine.


Even late in the day, show goers are still wow'd by the performance.


I don't know of anywhere else that you can sit in the cockpit of an operational U-2!


A little less exotic, but you can take a closer look at the inside of a T-38 too.


Throughout the day, there were police dog demonstrations. More accurately, they are called Military Working Dogs. Did feel for the guy who had to wear that heavy padded suit, and be repeatedly knocked down and chomped on by the dog!


Those dogs sure loved to run and attack!


Sadly, the light just wasn't very good for the Patriot act. Or maybe it's because I was wandering around instead of at the fence line... but here's a few of them.


Much of the fence line at Beale has well, a fence in front of it! A permanent thing with barbed wire... Not so great for pictures, though this one turned out interesting.


Now, the prime photo and video spot was on top of the Fry's trailer. Sadly, I'm not connected enough to get a spot there. sigh.


The 4 ships of the Patriot team join back up in a diamond.


I believe the Fry's Patriot team has the distinction of being the only civilian team to fly a 4 ship jet formation.


The lighting by this time just wasn't very favorable (or, it could just be me!). For some more exciting shots of the Patriots, check out my 2008 Fleetweek shots. They looked good there!


The Yak-11 'Blyak' is a pretty cool plane. Love the Bullwinkle moose art.


'Sizzlin' Liz' is a P-51D Mustang.


This KC-10 Extender flew in from Travis AFB for the show.


This is a cool little Alpha Jet. Would have liked to see it in the air!


The B-52 'BUFF' looks intimidating as ever.


The lines for the planes looked manageable. They weren't rushing anyone though, so it would still take a while.


This is the venerable U-2. Still in use after all these years.


It's a testament to the soundness of the original design.


This is the RQ-4 Global Hawk. It has a high resolution synthetic aperture radar and electro optical/infrared imagery capabilities. It has the same mission as the U-2. The RQ-4 is fully automated, and is more programmed than flown.


Everyone was a bit disappointed that the scheduled RQ-4 demonstration flight was scrubbed. Supposedly because it would take too long, but we would have gladly hung around! :-)


A special treat at the show was the AH-1Z Super Cobra.


The 'Z' version has a 4 bladed rotor, just like the UH-1Y (shown behind it). The AH-1Z and UH-1Y share a 84% parts commonality.


Here's a look at the Thales 'Top Owl' helmet mounted sight and display system of the AH-1Z. Cool huh?


The AH-1Z is equipped with Hover Infared Suppression System (HIRSS) to cover engine exhausts, countermeasure dispensers, radar warning, missile warning and laser warning systems. I want one!


There was even a marching band playing there! I didn't look closely, but they may be from the Air National Guard. That's the show! Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.



www.bernardzee.com