Story and photos by Bill Sarama

Dover Air Force Base in Delaware had its big air show for 2019, officially called “Thunder Over Dover”, on Saturday and Sunday, September 13th and 14th. Counting both the Static Ramp and the Hot Ramp, the organizers were able to muster up 55 aircraft this year and draw almost 150,000 plane chasers for each day. The show also included six hours of flying by both civilian and military acts, including the number one attraction this year, the USAF F-22 Raptor Demonstration Team teaming up with a P-51D Mustang for the final Heritage Flight.


Dover Air Force Base (DOV / KDOV) is a major Air Mobility Command (AMC) base and is home to the 436th Airlift Wing, an active USAF host unit and the 512th Airlift Wing, an Associate Air Force Reserve Command (AFRC) unit. The 512AW helps maintain, repair, support and fly the same aircraft as its active duty counterparts. Members of the 512th work side-by-side with members of the 436th AW in fulfilling the mission, maintaining and flying the Lockheed-Martin C-5M “Super Galaxy” and the Boeing C-17A “Globemaster III”, working together to form “Team Dover”. The 436AW at Dover consists of the 3rd Airlift Squadron flying the C-17A and the 9th Airlift Squadron flying the C-5M. The Reserve 512AW consists of the 326th Airlift Squadron flying the C-17A and the 709th Airlift Squadron flying the C-5M at Dover.  Both Wings have many Maintenance Mission Support and Medical Squadrons that keep the whole place going. A very serious unit that continues to operate here at Dover is the “Charles C. Carson Center for Mortuary Affairs” under the USAF Mortuary Affairs Operations Center (AFMAO), also known as “Port Mortuary”.  The Mortuary staff receives the remains of US service members as well as government officials and their families stationed abroad in Europe, Southwest Asia and the Middle East. They are known lately for receiving the remains of all service members who are Killed-In-Action (KIA) in the Afganistan-Syria- Iraq Theaters of Operation. There are always two or three Kalitta Air Charter Dassault Falcon 20 aircraft waiting on Standby at the south ramp at Dover to transport families and the deceased to their final resting places from Dover.

On a lighter note, Dover remains the home of the Air Mobility Command Museum (AMCM) located at the south ramp of the Base. That AMCM at Dover is dedicated to the military aircraft and refueling aircraft and the men and women who flew and maintained them within the AMC, and earlier, the MAC. It has the largest and most complete collection of fully restored US military cargo aircraft in the Eastern US as well as some aircraft that were previously based here at Dover, such as the F-106 “Delta Dart” interceptor. Until a few years ago, there were eight “Alert Barns” that housed eight F-106A Delta Darts from the 95th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, previously based here at Dover in the 1960’s during the Cold War, ready to launch on 5-minute warning to get up and intercept incoming Soviet TU-95 “Bear” nuclear-armed bombers inbound to attack the East Coast cities of the US. The museum currently has over 35 aircraft on display. It’s newest additions this year are a second C-119G “Flying Boxcar” and a KB-50J Stratotanker. When you are at the Museum and you look to the east across Runway 32, you can see the ordinance bunkers and the underground command post bunkers from the Cold War days when the 95th FIS under the USAF Air Defense Command (ADC) stored nuclear missiles in these same bunkers that armed the F-106’s that were on 24-hour alert status here at Dover AFB.


The “Thunder Over Dover” Static Line was quite impressive for 2019, considering that the Blues or the T-Birds did not pay Dover a visit this year. In past shows, Dover limited the Static Line to the short ramp in front of the Air Mobility Command Museum to the south.  For this year they moved most of their C-5’s and C-17’s out of the way and opened up their main ramp for more airplanes. Counting the Hot Ramp and the Static Ramp, the organizers rustled up over 55 planes for 2019. Starting on almost a one mile walk down the ramp from the south, the first static we hit was a 1975 Piper PA-28R-200 owned by the Delaware State University School of Aviation with “Tuskegee Airman” tail art;  then another DSU plane, a Cessna-172;  then a 1940 yellow Stinson L-9B Voyager named “Bloody Mary” in WW2 CAP colors;  next a USAF Cessna-172P owned by the Dover AFB Aero Club;  a second DAFB-AC plane – a 1977 C-182;  then a 1998 Lancair Super ES-082 Experimental;  then a 1966 Cessna-150G done up as a white and grey USAF T-51A trainer;  a 1956 Beech T-34 Mentor with a bright yellow tail and nose;  a 1991 Beech B-35T Bonanza;  a blue HU-1N VIP Huey from the 11th Wing, 811th Operations Support Group, 1st Helicopter Squadron, a unit currently consisting of about 15 Hueys at JB Andrews in DC that provides VIP transport for government or military officials in the DC area. This unit at Andrews will soon transition to the Boeing / Augusta-Westland MH-139 (Leonardo-139) where 30 of these new helos will be based. Next, a 1988 Aerospatale Socata TB-30 Epsilon single engine mono-wing;  a 2016 CAP Textron-Cessna-182T “Skylane”;  a 2018 CAP Textron-Cessna 172S;  and finally there were two T-6A Texan II’s from the 71st FTW / AETC from Vance AFB, OK, that arrived late to the ramp and parked next to the wire.

Nearby was Dr. Joe Masessa’s (MD) grey 1968 US Army Grumman OV-1D “Mohawk”, a twin engine and previously armed military observation and attack aircraft, now done up in FAC SEA Vietnam colors. The plane had 1,600 names of those missing or captured during the Vietnam War painted on the Mohawk’s fuselage. Dr. Masessa was going to take his  Mohawk up for an aerobatic demo for the Dover weekend but he rested his plane for this show on the static ramp and answered questions all weekend about the plane.  Sadly, Dr. Joseph Masessa lost his life in a fatal crash of his OV-1 Mohawk on Friday, November 1st, at the Audi Stewart Air Show at Witham, Florida, on the Friday Practice Day for the air show. A video showed the Mohawk diving almost vertically ‘nose down’ exploding instantly on impact upon hitting the ground, according to observers, after he completed his 10 minute aerobatic routine. This crash came a month after the Collings Foundation fatal B-17 crash at Bradley Airport in Connecticut in October. It’s fun to watch the warbirds go up at air shows but we must remember that this air show flying can be a risky business. On occasion there are fatal crashes. PhotoRecon Magazine extends its condolences to those who lost their lives in these two recent warbird crashes.

The Static Ramp also had some “heavy metal”:  a Lockheed-Martin C-130H2 “Hercules” tactical transport aircraft from the 166th Airlift Wing (166AW), DEANG, with a light blue tail band and “The First State” nose art,  out of the nearby New Castle ANGB, near Wilmington;  the real “Heavy Metal”, a 58 year old B-52H Stratofortress strategic bomber out of Barksdale AFB, Louisiana, from the 20th BS “Buccaneers” / 96th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron “Red Devils” (dual unit), with a red and black tail band, “LA” tail code, “Devils Island” art work and a worn out nose art logo “The Last Laugh”; next to it an F-16C Viper down from the 177th Fighter Wing (177FW), “Jersey Devils”, NJANG, with a red “New Jersey” tail band and an “AC” tail code out of the Atlantic City ANGB, NJ;  next an A-10 C “Hog” from the 175th FW, MDANG, out of Warfield ANGB, Martin State Airport, MD, with a “MD” and “Baltimore” tail code with multiple target strike nose art symbols on the side nose, a battle veteran for sure;  next an F-15E Strike Eagle from the 333rd FS “Lancers” / 4th FW, “SJ” tail code out of Seymour Johnson AFB, NC;  a General Atomics MQ-9 “Reaper” UAV / RPV drone from the 174th Attack Wing (174ATKW) out of Hancock ANGB, NY, near Syracuse, with a “CH” tail code (Creech AFB, AZ) as a dismantalable display model also noted with Invasion Stripes and four special logos – 432nd Wing, 432nd DO SPT SQDN, 11th Attack Squadron and the 15th Attack Squadron, besides the 174th, (free advertising for all players);  a Lockheed C-5M “Super Galaxy” from the local 436AW / 512AW here at Dover;  a McDonnell-Douglas C-17A “Globemaster III” also from the 436AW / 512AW at Dover;  a McDonnell-Douglas KC-10 “Extender” tanker from the 305AMU / 514AMU, AMC, out of McGuire;  an MC-130J-1-LM “Commando II” Super Hercules from the 9th Special Operations Squadron “Night Owls”,  27SOW, out of Cannon AFB, NM;  next, a white Raytheon T-1A (Beech-400A) “Jayhawk” from the 3rd FTS “Peugoets” (a mythical creature or maybe a French car?), 71st  FTW, Vance AFB, OK, “VN” tail code, an advanced trainer for airlift and tanker pilots.


Four Demo Team planes were parked very close to the wire where the public came in from the north ramp and easy to be seen as you walked in from the public parking area — The Raptor Demo Team from the 1st FW “FF” from Langley were parked close to the wire with their two F-22’s and also close to the wire were the two A-10C “Hogs” from the A-10 Demo Team from the 23rd Wing, ACC, out of Moody AFB, Valdesta, Georgia.  The rest of the Hot Ramp aircraft were set back a ways including a local favorite, the B-25J-25-NC Mitchell bomber “Panchito” from the nearby Delaware Aviation  Museum at Georgetown, Delaware.  This year’s Hot Ramp was well stocked with an abundance of 10 mono-wing and bi-wing stunt planes in many bright colors, but unfortunately hard to see up close by the public until they taxied out. The stunt guys included:  Nathan Hammond’s 1956 de Havilland DH-1C Super Chipmunk, a Canadian RCAF trainer named “Ghostwriter”, that’s a red, white and blue 2-seat mono-wing stunt plane and sky writer with a checkered tail and a blue nose.  Randy Ball was supposed to be here with his MiG-17 from Fighter Jets Aerobatics Inc., but his friend, Bill Culberson, showed up with his own Soviet MiG-17F from the Red Star Pilots Association. Bill’s MiG-17 was based on a Soviet wartime factory scheme and designed later to match Randy Ball’s MiG-17F from Ball’s FighterJets Inc. Lately, Culberson has been supporting Ball on MiG-17 Demos in the eastern USA. 

Next we had RJ Gritter’s blue high wing American Champion 8KCAB “Decathlon” mono-wing plane;  Grant Nelson’s red and yellow custom bi-wing Mudry CAP-232 that he named “Bubbles”;  Brent Handy’s Canadian (C-GZPG) red and white bi-wing Pitts S-2B;  Todd Farrell’s Canadian (C-GHEF) red bi-wing Pitts S-2B (the two Canadians team up together at air shows);  Patrick McAlee’s blue and yellow Swayne Pitts S1-E bi-wing; and Jacqueline “Jackie-B” Warda’s Extra EA-300, a 2-seat mono-wing stunt plane. Then we had a big  aerobatic airplane, Matt Younkin’s 1943 red and black Twin Beech-18 (AT-7C); next an old friend at the shows, John Klatt’s “Jack Links” red and black classic “Jet Waco”, a 1929 Taperwing that he calls “Scream’in Sasquatch”, that’s fitted with a P&W 985 radial engine and a belly-mounted GE J85 jet engine; then John Klatt’s second plane flown today by Dell Coller, a red and black Extra 300L 2-seat mono-wing;  next, Col. Bruce Heinlin (CO of the Mid-Atlantic CAP Wing) plane. a C-182 that he later did a photo-ship demo pass in down the Flightline.

The Hot Ramp also had the “Trojan Thunder” Demo Team that came to Dover with six T-28 Trojans done up in 1965 bright colors of the various military services, quite different from today’s “Low-Viz” on all the current  military planes;  then we had Andrew McKenna’s bare metal polished gloss P-51D Mustang that he would fly later together with Maj. Paul “Loco” Lopez in the F-22 Demo Raptor for the concluding 2-ship “Heritage Flight”. Far down the north ramp were the C-17A and the C-5 M, both from Dover, that would later do the “Heavy Metal” demos. Finally, far off was a privately-owned black and yellow Shorts Irish-built Brazilian Embraer EMB-312 “Tucano” that would take to the air for a fast high speed aerobatic performance.  So there you have it; 55 airplanes on the ground”


The Flying Show had just one “Super Star” this year at Dover: The F-22 Raptor Demo Team with Maj. Paul “Loco” Lopez on the stick who would team up later for the “Heritage Flight” with Andrew McKenna in his high gloss polished bare metal P-51D Mustang  (famous for having no name) for the “Grand Finale” flyover. But Dover’s loss of a star multi-ship military demonstration team was certainly made up for with a multitude of private aerobatic stunt flyers, some local “heavy metal”, the “Trojan Thunder” T-28 Demo Team and the US Army Special Operations Command parachute team “The Black Daggers”.  At exactly 1100 hours things started happening in the air: the two Moody A-10C’s and the two Vance T-6 Texan II’s did some low passes followed by a Delaware State University Aviation 4-ship fly-by.  Then Matt Younkin’s 1943 Twin Beech was the jump plane for the USASOC Black Daggers mass jump and flag drop for the National Anthem.  “Jackie-B” in her Extra-300S next was the first of amazingly 10 aerobatic stunt plane acts scattered in all day at Dover.

We also had mixed in during the day four Warbird flying demos:  “Panchito”, the local B-25J WW2 Mitchell bomber;  the Twin Beech-18  / C-45 Expeditor;  the P-51D gloss metal Mustang and the “Trojan Thunder” 6-ship demo team with their T-28C Trojan trainer /  light attack birds all in different high intensity service colors from the bright 1960’s. Also scattered in were the local Dover Heavies: The C-5M Super Galaxy Demo and the C-17A Globemaster III Demo, both showing off their their full combat capabilities both in the air and on the ground.  Right in the middle of all this, Col. Bruce Heinlein, the CAP Mid-Atlantic Commander, went up in his CAP Cessna-182 for some low slow passes to photograph the 150,000 person Dover Crowd Line.

The Dover Crowd was next treated something very different. We’re all familiar with the current Beechcraft (Textron / Hawker-Beechcraft / Raytheon) T-6A “Texan II” that’s based on the Swiss Pilatus PC-9, a turboprop trainer now used extensively by the US Air Force and the US Navy. Next to go up was a private “carbon copy” of the T-6A / PC-9, a privately owned 1987 Shorts Tucano”, a 2-seat turboprop basic trainer, here done up in black and yellow colors with a RAF rondel, a high performance plane  built by Short Brothers in Belfast, Northern Ireland (still part of the UK).  It is a license-built version of the Brazilian Embraer EMB-312 Tucano, that looks and feels just like a T-6A Texan II. The advanced Super Tucano EMB-314 is the A-29 now being flown by the Afghanistan Air Force. Shorts sold 160 EMB-312 Tucanos to the RAF as a trainer in the mid 1980’s. These Tucanos  were retired from the RAF recently in October of 2019 and are now being sold off by the Brits, many to civilian buyers right now.  It has just been reported that 22 Tucanos were recently sold to a Phoenix aircraft company and are now up for sale in the US. A recently restored 1992 Shorts Tucano Mk-1 is reportedly for sale by Platinum Fighter Sales in Deer Valley Arizona for $950,000 with only 2,000 hours!  Go for it!  Buy one!  We were probably seeing one of these Arizona private Tucanos  performing today at Dover!

Andrew McKenna next took hi 1944 polished gloss bare metal P-51D Mustang up for a demo flight.  McKenna, from Arlington Virginia, says he purposely has no name or no nose art on his warbird because, so he says, since his plane is based close to Arlington National Cemetery, he is often called upon to fly dedication flyovers at Arlington, and for that he will apply special removable name and nose art in honor of that particular fallen USAAF / USAF officer he is honoring on that particular day. After he was done with his demo,  McKenna took his bird to the west to hold for a while. This opened the Show Box for “Loco” to launch. Next, Major Paul “Loco” Lopez, USAF, ACC, F-22 Raptor Demonstration Team Commander and chief demo pilot, from the 1st FW, “FF”, out of Langley AFB, VA, launched his bird in full burner direct to altitude instantly to begin his high performance aerial demonstration. The F-22 is now Air Combat Command’s premier Fifth Generation stealth fighter and “Loco” was going to take this bird through its paces and show us almost everything that this plane is made of. He conceded on the radio that some of its moves still remain Classified and cannot be shown today. The rock and rap music was cranked up and Loco went ballistic vertical to get to 8,000 super fast to show us first his controlled flat spin that the Raptor is noted for. (Maverick, take note!)  Then the flat spin, then flips up, he stops motionless mid-air, then begins to slide backwards tail first and recovers in a flat spin again. Then back to basics with high speed passes, tight 360’s and reverse 180’s and then slamming on the brakes for his low speed High-Alpha Pass. Then he does his impression of Bob Hoover’s Pitch Up Roll with a 360 and a Flat S turn. Then he comes back with a high speed pass and circles to the southwest to join up with Andrew McKenna and his Mustang to the west to set up for the 2-ship Heritage Flight formation.  They rejoin and enter the Box from behind the crowd in a tight 2-ship formation while the music plays the traditional patriotic Heritage Flight music. They circle back for a couple of passes along the runway, then circle right to get behind the crowd and come from behind again to do a breakaway split, 22 breaks on top and left, the 51 goes under and to the right. The 51 comes around for two passes and breaks to land. Loco comes back for two loud ear-popping passes and breaks to land. Great show guys! There are only about twelve warbird pilots that have been trained and certified by the USAF to fly the Heritage formation flight with high performance USAF planes. They are initially trained in late February out at Davis-Monthan AFB in Tuscon, AZ, and have to go back yearly for re-qualification training, This is not easy stuff to do but Loco and Andrew made it look easy today. Good job guys.

And good job Dover Air Force Base for putting on another great air show in 2019. “PhotoRecon Aviation Magazine” wishes to thank Lt. Natasha Mosquera, PAO, and the entire Dover Public Affairs Office for inviting us back again in 2019 to cover the Show and again providing us with great cooperation. We hope to see everyone again for the next Dover Air Show in 2021.