Behind The Camera

about some of the photos on this website.

2015 Fargo Airsho

July 26, 2015  •  1 Comment

Fargo Airsho: Thursday-Sunday, July 26, 2015

The 2015 Fargo Airsho is back after four years. This year featuring the U.S. Navy's Blue Angels, the USMC demonstration of the AV-8B 'Harrier II', and six acrobatic aircraft. The only thing this airshow didn't have was much in the way of static displays.

Thursday, my friend and fellow aviation photographic enthusiast, Bob Nelson, had scouted the area around the airport and suggested University Drive and 36th Avenue North to photograph rehearsal day. This was a great location to photograph the U.S. Navy Blue Angles. They flew over our location a dozen times. We had good site lines for the most part. The Blue Angels 4-plane Diamond formation went up first. After a short delay to land an Allegiant Flight 426 running short on fuel, (Forum) the Blue Angel solo pilots went up and flew practice passes.
Later in the afternoon, the Blue Angels flew more practice routines over our house (video).

Friday, I went to the NDSU rugby field just south of the runaway. I had planned for an hour long Blue Angels practice. Instead, the afternoon kicked off with the USMC AV-8B 'Harrier II', followed by the acrobatic planes. Bob joined me around 2 PM in the cul-de-sac. The afternoon clouds broke up the USMC C-130T 'Fat Albert' took to the sky followed by the US Navy Blue Angels with their F/A-18C 'Hornets'. A crowd of fans wandered onto the field, as did a dozen large jackrabbits. (The jets must have disturbed them from their homes.) A Fargo motorcycle cop chased everyone back behind the barricade just before the Blue Angels landed. Apparently the field is a designated crash zone.

Saturday opened with clear skies in the morning followed by afternoon clouds and a trace amount of rain. I went on the roof and photographed the Blue Angel show from there. (video)

Sunday, I arrived at the airport with my nephew before 11 AM and watched the entire show. We found good (non-VIP) seating in the NW corner. The weather was clear and warm all day. [Links on the show times go to that set of photos]

11:03, The show started with a couple passes by a T-6 'Texan' and T-28 'Trojan'.

11:11, "Fat Albert" brought up the U.S. Navy "Leap Frog" parachute team. They followed "Skydive Fargo" ("Oh Canada") with the U.S. Flag for "The Star Spangled Banner."

11:21, Lt. Col. John Klatt and Skip Stewart flew their acrobatic aircraft in tribute to Jim 'Fang' Maroney. Jim died in a crash last year. In years past Jim was fixture in local air shows with his Super Chipmunk acrobatic airplane.

11:35, A WW-II bomber: B-25J "Miss Mitchell" made a couple simulated bombing passes. This included a Pyrotechnic display on the ground to wake up the campers.

11:48, North Valley Aircraft flew their green & white Checkerboard Pitts S-2B, acrobatic aircraft.

11:55, Kent Pietsch flew his Interstate Cadet "Jelly Belly" plane in a comedy routine.

12:19, Kyle Franklin flew "Dracula" which was interesting: Kyle sits way back in the fuselage as the 500 hp direct-port, fuel-injected R-985 Pratt & Whitney engine rockets this acrobatic aircraft threw the sky.

12:27, Lt. Col. John Klatt flew his MXS unlimited aerobatic plane.

12:43, Kent Pietsch was back trailing yellow and red smoke. He landed his Cadet on top of a moving pickup truck.

1:07, Skip Stewart flew “Prometheus,” a 400 hp modified Pitts SC2 acrobatic aircraft.

Because we were seated on the NW corner, we were also right next to the taxiway, were the military aircraft were staged. I took a break from the sky and talked with Gunny Sargent Micah Bachtold and Staff Sargent Zach Williford of "Fat Albert Airlines". These USMC NCOs serve as Flight Engineer and Flight Mechanic on the C-130T 'Hercules'. The USMC also had a newer C-130J 'Super Hercules' there to support the "Leap Frogs" parachute team. The USMC also had three AV-8B 'Harrier II' at the ready. The fourth Harrier was on static display near the food courts. I watch as the crew prepare the aircraft and it taxis out.

1:33, The USMC demonstrated their AV-8B 'Harrier II' by taking off vertically and hovering behind the Blue Angels. A 22,000 lbs thrust engine enables the 'Harrier II' to hover like a helicopter, and then transition to normal fighter jet speeds.

2:08, Red Baron. I was looking forward to seeing this PT-17 Boeing Stearman aircraft painted in the classic Red Baron (frozen pizza) Squadron colors. I use to see them all the time in the 1980, but they folded the squadron in 2000(?). I joked that I paid for the entire squadron single handed with all the Red Baron pizza I ate.

2:20, Kent Pietsch turns off the engine of his Interstate Cadet at 6,000 feet and does a complete acrobatic show with no power before coming in for a dead stick landing.

2:29, Skip Stewart and Kyle Franklin come back out and mix it up a little bit. Sort of a dogfight/ twin acrobatic display as they wait for..

2:32, Paul Stender (Indy Boys Inc./Speed for Hire) takes out his jet-powered school bus, "School Time" and races Kyle Franklin's "Dracula". The guy beside me is laughing with delight. Stender burns a lot of jet fuel and fills the taxiways with smoke and flames.

3:02, The USMC sends up their C-130T "Fat Albert" to show off the capabilities of their Blue Angel support aircraft. The short field 'Combat Landing' is impressive. They can land in a hurry. I think Micah waves from on top of the aircraft as they taxi back to their spot.

3:24, The U.S. Navy Blues Angels flying their Boeing F/A-18 'Hornets' take to the sky after their ground demonstration. Many fast-paced maneuvers in their famous formations: The four-member 'Diamond', five-member 'In-line' and six-member 'Delta' formation.

4:16, I join the family (and everyone else) in the race to get ahead of the crowd leaving once the Blue Angels land. I did not get a chance to view the Static displays (AV-8B 'Harrier II') and vender tents. There was very little on static display. There were used cars for sale by dealers, farm tractors, air show souvenir tents, food tents, military recruiters, the U.S. The Navy Band Great Lakes 'Horizon', and games for the kids. A few quick stops on the way out. Civil Air Patrol has their Cessna Skyhawk on display and a new glider. UND brought a twin engine turbo-prop. The ND Military Vehicle had a display of old (WW-II) military trucks, half-tracks, and jeeps on display. ( (my NDMVCA photos from 2012)

The day moved so quickly in the air that I never felt bored and didn't move far from my lawn chair. By 2 PM it had gotten hot, but not oppressively so. Traffic after the show wasn't very bad. We were on the Interstate in a matter of minutes.

I didn't carry a lot of photographic gear. I almost didn't bring my 500mm CAT lens. It ended up being pretty useful with the propeller driven Acrobatic aircraft. They tend to stay right above the viewing area. The lens is like a small light telescope, so even if I'm not shooting, it gives a great view of what's going on above my head. My 10-20mm Sigma lens stayed in the bag. My Sony 70-300mm got the most use. I also brought my Canon S-110 to shoot some videos. Unlike previous days, I didn't try to do both at the same time. So there are some missing photographs of the Blue Angels on Sunday as I switched to the S-110 during the large 'Delta' formation and 'High Alpha Pass' by the Solo pilots.

DSC01934Solo FortusThe U.S. Navy Blue Angel solo pilots perform a Fortus maneuver with their F/A-18 'Hornets'. The Fortus has the solos flying in carrier landing configuration with No.5 inverted, establishing a 'mirror image' effect. #5 Lt. Mark Tedrow (Lead Solo) and #6 Lt. Ryan Chamberlain (Opposing Solo)


See the full Gallery or the Gallery slideshow for more photos from the air show. This is my Best Of set. For the full daily sets see: Thursday 7/23, Friday 7/24, Saturday 7/25, or Sunday 7/26 (the most complete day).


I shot short video clips of the aerial demonstrations. My Canon S-110 was attached to my Sony a200 as I shot still photos. The clips are jumpy and were quickly assembled so don't expect much.


Photo descriptions come primarily from Wikipedia (especially the Blue Angel routine). North of Normal (Visit Fargo). Fargo Airsho (Performers)
Addition informational sources:

Additional Information from the Fargo Forum: US Navy Week preview, Jim 'Fang' Maroney, Amazing AirSho takes off, Backseaters, The Fargo Airsho returns in style, Walstad and Schroeder to retire, and Wonderful time at Fargo’s AirSho. InForum Photo Album.

Post-show links to the 'Blue Angels' (photos and movie), 'Leap Frogs' (photos and movie), and Bruce Centerwall (photos) Facebook Fan pages.

USMC AV-8B Harrier IIUSMC AV-8B Harrier IIThe U.S. Marine Corp show off their Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL) AV-8B 'Harrier II' aircraft Friday Afternoon. The gear comes down as the Harrier hangs almost motionless mid-air.

Happy Hooligans, 1990 & 1991

January 09, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

Happy Hooligans, 1990–1991

After years of flying the F–4D ‘Phantom’ the North Dakota Air National Guard (NDANG) would be trading up to the F–16A ‘Falcon’. I was pretty excited as the F–16 was (and still is) my favorite aircraft. The F–16 first saw service in 1979 and was designed by one of the greatest military minds of all time Col. John Boyd (USAF). The F–16A is a gorgeous aircraft and maybe the best fighter bomber ever built.

My friend, Bob Nelson, must have been more excited than me. He was at the airport in April of 1990 photographing the last flights of the F–4D and first flights of the F–16A. Bob also photographed the unit’s C–130 ‘Hercules’, which by 1991 was flying support missions within the US for Operation Desert Storm.

Bob was back in July of 1990, when training was in full swing. He got photos of the squadron doing touch-and-goes. And even a T–38A ‘Talon’ trainer got in the act. We got together on Tuesday July 17, 1990 at Giovannis Pizza for lunch. Bob was telling me about photographing F–16 at the end of the runaway. This is how I arrived at the date on these photos. I was so jealous.

Finally on Good Friday, March 29th, 1991, Bob took pity on me and called me up. From my journal..

Bob and I race northwest of NDSU. A plane ‘cloaks’ behind the residency halls. I exclaim it’s a B–1B. Bob didn’t believe me as I’ve been ID’ing Cessnas as F–15 ‘Eagles’ so when it ‘de-cloaks’ (coming from behind the hall) there it is - a B–1B ‘Lancer’ bomber. I give Bob crap for missing it. We could have been there 15 minutes ago. We wait in the car. (It is sunny, but the wind is cold.) Using Bob’s scanner, the Hector control tower would announce F–16 on approach. We can hear it coming but can’t see it until it’s on final approach. The landing light obscures its dark outline in the bright blue sky. It’s almost on top of us when we see it. We hustle out of the car to photograph the ‘Falcons’ as they fly overhead; then race to the north end of the runaway before they taxi back to the hangers. That was it.

1991 0229.14a1Any Friday with an F-16 is a Good FridayThis NDANG F-16A 'Falcon' [82-0967] taxis around the north end of Fargo Hector field. March 29th, 1991.


See the full Gallery or the Gallery Slideshow for more photos from the air show: 76 total including detailed photo/airplane descriptions.

Bob Nelson’s photos (Black & White with a 1184, 1200–1206 prefix; Color with a CN51–53 prefix) are copyright ©1990/1991/2015/2018. I believe Bob’s color photos (CN51–53) are from this trip but I can’t be sure. He also photographed a T–38 ‘Dragonfly’ tandem trainer.
My color photos have a date prefix and are ©1991, 2015, 2018.


North Dakota Air National Guard 1947–1997: Happy Hooligan’s a tradition of excellence

  • September 1989, The Happy Hooligans (NDANG 178th Fighter Squadron) exceeded 50,000 hours of accident-free flying in the F–4D ‘Phantom’.
  • January 1990, ND Governor George Sinner flew with the Happy Hooligans in a an F–4D piloted by Lt. Col. James Reimers.
  • February 1990, NDANG’s new Air Force Advisor, Lt. Col. Ed. Morrow, flew the first F–16, #699, from Hill AFB, Utah, to Fargo. The NDANG planned to have all twenty of the new ADF (Air Defense Fighter) F–16’s in Fargo by June 1, 1990. They plan to have all pilots F–16 qualified by Aug. 15.
  • February 1990, McDonnell Douglas F–4 program manager David Klevhorn presented the 119th FIG with the aviation excellence award for achieving 50,000 accident-free flight hours in flying the unit’s F–4 aircraft. The award covers a span of time from 1977, when the NDANG received its first F–4, through August 1989.
  • April 1, 1990, The NDANG ended its alert on when it started its conversion to the F–16 aircraft. The unit was the first of five ANG units to be affected by the shut down.. Since the beginning of the Northern Tier Alert, North Dakota had two pilots, two weapons systems officers and two F–4D jets on alert status duty, 24-hours-a-day. The alert also required additional maintenance and security police personnel.
  • April 1990, The last Hooligan F–4 raced down the runway at Hector Field . The majority of the F–4’s were retired to Davis-Monthan AFB. (The ‘Boneyard’)
  • September 8, 1990, Family Day and an F–16 Activation Ceremony were celebrated. General Dynamics and Pratt-Whitney (manufacturers of the aircraft and engines), sent representatives to Fargo to formally present the aircraft and other memorabilia to the Happy Hooligans. Unfortunately, Bob and I never heard about it and did not attend.

1989 ND Centennial Air Show

December 26, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

Saturday/Sunday, August 19 & 20, 1989

The 1989 Fargo Air Show was a North Dakota Centennial Air Show. One of two. The other being in Minot in July. This was going to be a big show. There were a lot of unique aircraft scheduled both in the air and on the ground. The Fargo Forum ran a number of articles about the 1989 Fargo Airsho and the 1989 North Dakota Centennial Aviation Celebrations. I was excited, as was my friend and fellow aviation enthusiast: Bob Nelson. It was a weekend show, with the USAF ‘Thunderbirds’ flying on Sunday. I had rented a 500mm CAT lens, and got the odd idea to get two rolls Infrared B&W film- I wanted to do something different.

Friday 8/18, Bob called me at work. He was watching aircraft arrive from the north end of the runaway I joined him after work. He let me use his Nikkormat, 180mm lens, 2X extender, and monopod. I was in time to photograph the Top Gun F–5E ‘Tiger II’ and A–4 ‘SkyhawkAggressors from the Miramar Naval Air Station. We also photographed the Georgia ANG F–15A ‘Eagle’ landing at 7:00. I went home. I should have attended Friday night’s banquet talk with General Chuck Yeager at Centennial Hall.

Saturday 8/19, I left early and picked up Bob. I used his bathroom to load the infrared (IR) film as it has to be loaded and unloaded in total darkness. There are many World War II era aircraft from the Confederate Air Force (CAF) ‘Ghost Squadron’ lined up on the south taxiway. The current Navy and Air Force aircraft are to the north. (see my crude map below)
I have to leave Bob and head home. I’m taking my parents to the airport, and I change IR film in the bathroom.
I got back in time to see the US Army Golden Knights parachute team jump. This was followed by aerial demonstrations by the CAF’s WW-II aircraft, Valley Skydivers and a Russian Mig 15 ‘Faggot’. During a lull in the aerial action I photograph the A–4 and F–5 from the Navy’s Top Gun School. Then the F–16B ‘Fighting Falcon’, RF–4C ‘Phantom II’, F–4D, F–4E, F/A–18A ‘Hornet’, F–111A ‘Aardvark’, and F–15A. I chat with the F–16B pilot from the Montana ANG. We watch Jim ‘Fang’ Maroney fly ‘Lil Toot’ in some aerobatic routines. Jim is followed by Bill ‘Burner’ Beardsley in the BD–5J ‘Bud Light Micro Jet’.
From the Grand Forks AFB, a KC–135R ‘Stratotanker’ flies by. It is joined by four F–4D of Fargo’s NDANG ‘Happy Hooligans’. The GFAFB also is home to the B–1B ‘Lancer’, which makes a couple passes. Another ‘Lancer’ is on display in front of the old Hector terminal building. It’s guarded by an armed airman. Bob and I call it: The Ring of Death. The MiG–15 flies. I yell at Bob, “He’s really tearing it up.” It was so loud, Bob can’t hear me. The South Dakota ANG fly a pair of A–7 ‘Corsair II‘s. Nine Golden Knights went up to jump again. They presented the mayor with a baton once they got their parachutes stowed. The announcer asks, "Will the owner of a 1971 Dodge Duster to please move your car or it will be towed." This announcement is repeated all day. When they announced the Duster belonged to Vince Linstrom I knew it was a joke. There is was- being towed by a UH–1 ’Huey’ helicopter. It was dropped in front of us. It landed with a strange thump.
The aerial demonstrations were over. No F–15 flight. I stop and chat to the Civil Air Patrol members in front of their Cessna. I stopped at Robert Odegaard’s Grumman TBM ‘Avenger’ torpedo bomber. It was painted in honor of the one President George H. Bush flew during World War II.

Sunday 8/20, Bob and I set up on the 12th Avenue bridge. We hope this will give us some interesting views of the aircraft as their fly overhead on their way to the Hector field. The wind is 15 mph and the clouds are low. The US Army Golden Knights cancel their morning jump. We see the USAF ‘Thunderbirds’ in the distance. I find the 500mm lens too long; too slow under these dark clouds. I borrow Bob’s 180mm lens again. The Thunderbird’s KC–141 ‘Starlifter’ support aircraft flies overhead. The CAF are out with their B–25 ‘Mitchell’, F–4U ‘Corsair’, and T–28C ‘Trojan’. We leave for lunch at Dairy Queen.

Bob finds an open spot on the fence line. We’re late so it’s far to the north of the center line, but we have good site lines. The Golden Knights were jumping. I left Bob to photograph the static displays with my 28mm wide angle lens. Some jets were crowded, some were not. I rejoin Bob as we wait for the USAF Thunderbirds’ to fly their F–16A ‘Fighting Falcons’. Once they do, it’s all very fast and exciting. I feel unprepared: the 500mm CAT lens is too long. I switch to my 135mm and infrared film. There isn’t time to switch to Bob’s 180mm lens. The T-birds do some maneuvers the Blue Angels don’t and vise versa, but the F–16 ‘Falcon’ is a better aircraft. The crowd begins to leave as the Falcons land, so I walk up the fence line for photos of the Thunderbirds’ as they taxi and park. I finish my slide film. I still have IF film. I wait for people to move away so I can photograph more jets. (27 years later, I’m amazed by all the aircraft I didn’t photograph.) Jet noise returns as aircraft preparing to leave the show (MiG–15 is the first.) I’m out of film and money. I borrow a dollar from Bob to make a donation. I don’t even have $2 for the 1989 Fargo Airsho Program (Google Docs, text only as the images didn’t transfer. I do have a PDF and HTML file with the imagines.)

A pair of 'Happy Hooligans' F-4D Phantom II'Happy Hooligans' F-4D Phantom IITwo NDANG F-4D 'Phantom II's flying in formation at the ND Centennial Air Show. Saturday 8/19/1989


See the full Gallery or the Gallery slideshow for more photos from the air show: 210 total including detailed photo/airplane descriptions.

Bob Nelson's photos (Black & White with a 1142-1154 prefix) are copyright 1989/2015.
My photos have a date prefix; are a combination of Color Print, Color Slide, and B&W Infrared film. ©1989, 2015, 2016.


Photo descriptions come primarily from Wikipedia and Warbirds Registry . See below for additional links. I have access to additional historic information from 1989 Fargo Forum articles, and the 1989 Fargo Airsho Program.

Aircraft On Display

Note: colored links in the ID column lead to photos of the aircraft in the Gallery. There were lots of aircraft at the airshow that are not listed including quite a few experimental aircraft from the EAA. I’m also missing photos of some aircraft that are listed, but are behind other aircraft.

.ID Manufacturer Name Owner Unit S/N Tail Notes Links . . .
150 Cessna Commuter         N5799E [1]
65-B90 Beechcraft King Air Meritcare Jet Lifeflight     N33CS, Military T-44 [1] [2]
757 Boeing   NWA       Airliner, C-32A Military [1]
A-4 Douglas Skyhawk US Navy VFA-127 155000 NJ 702 Pilot Patch: 334th Fighter Squadron "The Eagles" [1] [2] [3]
A-7D Vought Corsair II SDANG 114 FW   Lobos SD 218 Sioux Falls, SD. Two [1] [2]
UH-1 Bell Iroquois ND Army Guard Huey     1971 Dodge Dart [1]
B-1B Rockwell Lancer GFAFB 319th BW     Grand Forks AFB, ND [1]
B-25J North American Mitchell Planes Of Fame East Mitch The Witch 44-86747   Robert Pond..N8163H [1] [2]
BD-5J Jim Bede   Bill 'Burner' Beardsley       Bud Light Micro Jet [1] [2]
C-141B Lockheed Starlifter USAF     Thunderbirds Nellis AFB, NV [1]
C-31A Fokker Troopship US Army Golden Knights   51607 US Army Parachute Team [1] [2]
C-40B Boeing Clipper USAF       Civilian 737-700C [1]
CT-114 Canadiar Tutor FIS Vikings 114102   Helmet: Viking 18 [1] [2]
D17S Beechcraft Staggerwing Arnie Widmer         [1]
DH-82C de Havilland Tiger Moth RCAF CF-COU   1122 The Red River Tiger Moth Group Ltd. [1] [2]
EA-6B Northrop Grumman Prowler US Navy VAQ-141 162938 AJ 620 In Air, Co. Cdr. Jack Skjoldanger, Lt. Sam Mills [1] [2] [3]
F-111A General Dynamics Aardvark USAF 366th TFW xx-070 MO Mountain Home AFB, ID [1]
F-15A McDonnell-Douglas Eagle Georgia ANG 116th FG 75-069   Robins AFB, GA [1] [2]
F-16A General Dynamics Falcon USAF 57th Wing   Thunderbirds Nellis AFB, NV [1] [2] [3]
F-16B General Dynamics Falcon Montana ANG 186th FS 81-819 Big Sky Country Great Falls, MT [1] [2] [3]
F-4D McDonnell Phantom II NDANG 119 FIS   Happy Hooligans 647 Four In Air: 40938, 40976, 40963, 67478 [1] [2]
F-4D-29MC McDonnell Phantom II NDANG 119 FIS 66-7498 Happy Hooligans Blue Centennial Paint Job 1889-1989 [1] [2] [3]
F-4E McDonnell Phantom II           [1]
F-5E Northrup Tiger II US Navy VFA-127 73-0879 NJ 722 NAS Lemoore, CA [1]
F-5E Northrup Tiger II US Navy VFA-127 74-1539 NJ 724 NAS Lemoore, CA [1]
F/A-18A McDonnell-Douglas Hornet US Navy NSAWC 762887 ? 51 NAS Fallon, NV [1] [2]
F6F-5 Grumman Hellcat Planes of Fame East   Bu.94473 36 Navy 58644, NX4964V [1] [2] [3]
FG-1D Vought F4U Corsair Planes of Fame East VF-53 Bu.92629 301 S Kermit M. LaQuey USMC, Lt. jg Mac McCullum USNR, USS Essex, NX62290 [1] [2]
JU-52 Junker Tante Ju Confederate Air Force CASA 352L T2B-176   Tri-motor, 3M G3E, N352JU [1] [2]
KC-10A McDonnell-Douglas Extender USAF 32nd ARS 70120   Barksdale AFB, LA [1]
KC-135R Boeing Stratotanker USAF th319 ARW 38005   Grand Forks AFB, ND [1] [2]
L-4 Piper Grasshopper US Army   x8608   Civilian J-3 [1]
Little Toot George Meyer Lil Toot Jim 'Fang' Maroney       N5211 [1] [2]
MiG-15 Mikoyan-Gurevich Fagot USSR   CN: 122073 15 N15PE [1] [2]
P-3 Lockheed Orion US Navy       In Air [1]
P-47D Republic Thunderbolt Planes Of Fame East PHV 228473   "Big Chief" NX47RP [1] [2]
PA-28 Piper Cherokee UND?         [1]
PT-13A Vultee Valiant           [1]
PT-17 Boeing-Stearman Kaydet         Two. Model 75 [1]
RF-4C McDonnell Phantom II Nebraska ANG 173rd TRS 65-840   Lincoln, NE [1] [2]
SNJ North American Texan US Navy         [1]
T-2 North American Buckeye US Navy VT-9 156725 354 S CN: 318-40 [1]
T-28C North American Trojan US Navy   Bu.146286 E 461 Greg Fieber N628C [1]
T-37 Cessna Tweet USAF   87932? 2 Dragonfly [1]
T-38A Northrop Talon USAF   62-3653     [1]
TA-4J Douglas Skyhawk US Navy CTW-2 CN: 13701 B 152 NAS Kingsville, FL [1] [2]
Yak-9 Yakovlev   USSR     27   [1]

McDonnell F–4 Phantom II

The history of the McDonnell F–4 ‘Phantom II’ is interesting. “The USAF received Phantoms as the result of Defense Secretary Robert McNamara’s push to create a unified fighter for all branches of the military.” (wiki) This was a bad idea. The F–4 was designed by the Navy for carrier use; a good platform for multiple types of missions, but as a pure fighter it left a lot to be desired. The US Navy had their own variants: the ‘B’, the ‘J’, the ‘N’, and the ‘S

It’s hard to tell the different versions apart. The nose is the best guide.

The ‘C’ version was based off the Navy’s F–4B. It lacked any internal gun. This aircraft wasn’t good enough for the Air Force’s fighter requirements, so once the F–4D came online, the ’C’s were converted to RF–4C reconnaissance aircraft; with a stretched nose loaded with cameras rather than guns.
The ‘D’ version featured an enhanced AN/APQ–109 radar with solid-state components in the low-voltage sections. The F–4D also featured up-rated electric power generators, new attack and navigation systems. The F–4D was wired for the SUU–23/A cannon pod, with a matching ASG–22 lead-computing gunsight fitted for aiming it. The AN/AAA–4 IRST (infrared sensor) fairing under the nose was deleted in most F–4D. However, late production F–4Ds kept the fairing for use with an AN/APR–25/26 radar warning receiver. This was the aircraft the North Dakota Air National Guard received in 1977 to replace their aging F–101 ‘Voodoo’ interceptors. The NDANG F–4D Phantoms carry the “Happy Hooligan” moniker on their tails.
The ‘E’ version has a much longer nose to fit an internal M61A1 six barreled Vulcan cannon and a smaller solid-state AN/APQ–120 radar. Uprated J79-GE–17 engines, zero-zero ejection seat, fixed slat on the tail-plane, a 7th fuel cell, and manual folding wings. The F–4E was the primary USAF variant
F–4G ‘Wild Weasel V
The ‘G’ version was a post-Vietnam modification the ‘E’ replacing the cannon with an AN/APR–38 RHAWS, with 52 antennas littered over the fuselage. This radar could locate and identify radar emitters, target them for attack with ARMs, or cluster bombs and other munitions; including the Texas Instruments AGM–88 "High Speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM).

McDonnell F–4D ‘Phantom II painted dark blue as the North Dakota Centennial Aircraft.
A member of NDANG ground crew guy told us this aircraft had numerous stress cracks. While performing acrobatic maneuvers, it was pulling 8.5 Gs. Neither Bob nor I got any photographs of this aircraft performing, and now I question whether it flew on either day.

1989 Fargo Airsho Map1989 Fargo Airsho MapI drew this map to help locate the aircraft in my photographs. It's not to scale and there are errors. Also many aircraft were moved during the day(s) as they flew demonstration flights.

1989 GFAFB Snowbirds

November 21, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

Saturday, May 27, 1987

Friends And Neighbors Day, at the Grand Forks AFB

The weather is clear, warm and sunny but with a 40 mph wind.  Although I didn't seem them, about 20 protesters greeted visitors to the base with signs reading "Stop the Arms Race," and "U.S. Air Force: Good People, Bad Product."

My friend, Bob Nelson, and I aren't expecting much more than last year's displays. There are a few new inclusions: an A-7 from the SDANG, TR-1A (U-2S), a B-52H from the Minot AFB, a P-3C Orion, FB-111, and it's cousin the EF-111. A UH-1 Iroquois (Huey) helicopter demonstrates over the Canadian CT-114s. At 1:45 pm we find a spot on the edge of the flight line, the Snowbirds take off. They disappear for 15 minutes. They have nine aircraft; flying routines all over the field like a swarm of bees. Their fly bys were close.

After the show, the security guy opened up the B-52H. We were first in line but the line moved and we were in the back of the line. I tried to compose shots, without people walking in my frame. I went around the B-52H photographed the bomb bay. The B-1B took off 15 minutes early. The KC-135R 'Stratotanker' flew by. The B-1B 'Lancer' followed pulling a tight turn right over the field. It scared all the kids. It was louder than my Stratocaster, even louder than the Who! The ground shook under the four afterburners. Everyone plug their ears. The kids were rolling on the ground in terror. The B-1B swung north and disappeared. Bob and I knew they'd be back for a bomb run. The B-1B came screaming in from the North. I didn't see the bomb blast until it was too late. Bob looked at me, I looked at him, shook our heads, like last year we missed it again!

At 4:00 the Montana ANG F-16 Falcon was still crowded. I checked out GE's CFM jet engine display, this engine has greatly improved the performance of the KC-135R.

B-52H 'Stratofortress' from the Minot AFB, 5th Bomb Wing.B-52H 'Stratofortress'The Minot Air Force Base put one of their B-52H 'Stratofortress' on display at the Grand Forks Air Force Base (GFAFB) 'Friends And Neighbors Day' on May 27th 1989. The 5th Bomb Wing is a United States Air Force unit assigned to Air Force Global Strike Command's Eighth Air Force. It is stationed at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota. The 5th BW is one of only two B-52H Stratofortress wings in the USAF. In September 1991, the wing pulled its aircraft from continuous alert status - a job it performed for 35 years. The 5th Wing became the 5th Bomb Wing following the activation of Air Combat Command.


See the full Gallery or the Gallery slideshow for more photos from the air show: 78 total including my detailed photo/airplane descriptions. All the Black & White photos are © Bob Nelson as are some color slides, many thanks.


Photo descriptions come primarily from many sources including Wikipedia: B-1B (Wiki), B-52H (Wiki) (5th BW) (M61), CT-114 (Wiki) (Flying) (Antaya RIP) ( (s/n), C-130 (Wiki), EF-111A (Wiki), F-111 (Wiki), F-16A ( (MT ANG), KC-10 (Wiki), KC-135 (Wiki) (CFM56), OA-4M (Wiki) (, TR-1A (Wiki) (17th TW)

I have scanned and made available additional GFAFB Information from the Grand Forks Herald, which I used to refresh my memory and fill in some gaps to my journal.

Aircraft On Display

Note: colored links in the ID column lead to photos of the aircraft in the Gallery. Aircraft without links are often visible in the photos of the aircraft surrounding them.

ID Manufacturer Name Unit U-Name S/N Notes
A-7 LTV Corsair II SDANG      
B-1B Rockwell Lancer GFAFB Bone 6113 3:20 PM fly by
B-52H Boeing Stratofortress 5th Bombardment Wing, Minot AFB The Baron 10008 Charon
C-5A Lockheed Galaxy Travis AFB 60th MAW 90024 22nd Airlift Squadron or 75th
C-130 Lockheed Hercules        
C-141 Lockheed Starlifter       ? was it here
CT-114 Canadair Tutor 431 Air Demonstration Squadron Snowbirds   2:00 show, 9-planes
F-4E McDonnell Douglas Phantom II NDANG Happy Hooligans   12:15 PM fly by
F-16A General Dynamics Falcon Montana ANG Big Sky Country 80565  
EB-111A General Dynamics Raven        
F-111 General Dynamics Aardvard        
KC-10 McDonnell-Douglas Extender     0188  
KC-135R Boeing Stratotanker GFAFB 319th Bombardment Wing   3:15 PM fly-by 37576?
OA-4M Douglas Skyhawk Marines DA 153507 Major G.M. Dellemat?
P-3C Lockheed Orion       ? was it here
T-38 Northrop Talon GFAFB Pilot Trainer   12:30 PM fly by
TR-1A Lockheed Dragon Lady 17RW   80-01082 Bulldog logo 000026
UH-1 Bell Huey       1:15 PM fly by
AH-1 Bell Huey Cobra       ? was it here

1988 GFAFB Blue Angels

October 20, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

Saturday, June 25, 1988

Friends And Neighbors Day, at the Grand Forks AFB

Bob Nelson called me on Thursday, "There's an air show in Grand Forks on Saturday." Friday I stopped at The Image Place for ten rolls of Kodachrome and rented a 500mm CAT lens. They only had a Nikon mount but Bob said I could borrow his Nikkormat and monopod. I had no need for other amusements as we talked about aviation and photography the whole way. We even sang "Old McDonald had a MIRV, EIEIO." Bob followed the crowd on Highway 2. At the base entrance a guard saluted everyone coming in. Bob asks the airman, "Is that your German Shepherd?" pointing at a large jack rabbit? The guy laughs and says, "Yah, they're specially trained."

We were too late to catch the F-16 'Falcons' flying around. This would be our first airshow at the Grand Forks Air Force Base, and our first chance to see the B-1B 'Lancer' supersonic bomber.  As we near the flight line, I notice the B-1B, that's cool. Bob says, "Is that what I think it is?" I assume he meant the 'Lancer' but he was looking behind it to the C-5A 'Galaxy'. Bob was really excited to see the largest flying U.S. aircraft, but it didn't do anything for me. The GFAFB also is home to a squadron of KC-135R tankers. Based on the Boeing 707- the 'R's have new engines. To demonstrate, one of their KC-135R took off and almost went into a vertical climb. The new Turbofan engines have almost twice the thrust. This was follow by a B-1B 'Lancer'. Both planes did a series of passes with the B-1 making a bomb pass on the last run. They simulated the bomb blasts with pyro behind the Blue Angels. Bob and I were too surprised to photograph it.

The Blue Angels were now flying the F/A-18A 'Hornet'. Another first for us. Commander Gil Rud from Portland, ND was still leading the 'Blues'. He got a rare third year because of the transition from the A-4K Skyhawk. The Blue Angels flew a similar routine as two years ago including the sneak fly by. The only difference was with the F-18A they could pull some snappy turns. I thought the planes were smoky. I had smoke, dust, sun and sunscreen in my eyes.

I didn't spend much film on the static displays. I was more interested in aircraft I hadn't seen yet, so I have quite a few photos of the B-1B. It was guarded and roped off with a sign that said, Use of deadly force authorized." The good news is it kept other guests out of my photos. Bob and I, along with a group of photographers moved a ladder to the front of the F-16C 'Fighting Falcon' to get some nice top nose shots. I didn't notice at the time but this was the first 'C' version of the F-16 that I had seen. It was from the 314th Tactical Fighter Training Squadron, activated in 1986, and was only the second F-16C squadron in the Air Force.

"It's 5:00. 'Friends And Neighbor's Day' is over, everyone out!" was announced in a curt voice. On the way back to the car, a fire truck rounds the corner with a manned water gun. Bob raised his arms in a mock surrender, they honk their horn in reply. Bob told me about a premonition he had regarding a crash at the airshow thankfully he was wrong. The premonition was correct, it was the wrong airshow.

If I was underprepared for the 1987 airshow I was was over-prepared for this show. Ten rolls of slide film was over kill. I would have been better off with three rolls of print film, especially as I underexposed two rolls, which required a crazy amount of time with my Minolta F2900 film scanner and Adobe Photoshop. I worked hard to get some decent images from these underexposed slides. I scanned them three times! In 2003, 2010 (, and 2015. Four rolls of color photos are mine (1988.06.25.xx, 1988.06.25axx, 1988.06.25bxx, 1988.06.25cxx). Bob has shared three rolls of Black and White film (1086.xx,1086.xx, 1088.xx). Occasionally you'll see some people as silhouettes- I find people milling around the aircraft to be distracting so I mask them out in Adobe Photoshop.

B-1B 'Lancer' nose and cockpit. At the GFAFB 'Friends And Neighbors Day' on Saturday, June 25th 1988. 1988.06.25c12a1B-1B 'Lancer'B-1B 'Lancer' nose and cockpit. At the GFAFB 'Friends And Neighbors Day' on Saturday, June 25th 1988.



See the full Gallery or the Gallery slideshow for more photos from the air show: 105 total including my detailed photo/airplane descriptions. All the Black & White photos are © Bob Nelson.


Photo descriptions come primarily from Wikipedia. Addition informational sources: B-1B (Wiki), GFAFB (Wiki) (SAC), C-5A (Wiki) ( , F-16C (Wiki) (Luke AFB) (Aragon) (85-447), and the F/A-18A Blue Angels (1988 Team) (1988 News). I also used some excerpts from "Blue Angels: 50 Years of Precision Flight" by Nicholas A Veronico & Marga B. Fritze.

I have scanned and made available additional Historic Information from the Fargo Forum, and a history of the Blue Angels that I think was in the 1988 GFAFB Program.

Aircraft On Display

Note: colored links in the ID column lead to photos of the aircraft in the Gallery.  Aircraft without links are often visible in the photos of the aircraft surrounding them but not in this this case, if not for the sketch below I would have no memory of these aircraft.

ID Manufacturer Name Unit U-Name S/N Notes
B-1B Rockwell Lancer GFAFB Bone 6108  
C-130 Lockheed Hercules USMC Fat Albert    
C-47 Douglas Dakota Canadian Air Force   12590 Navy Trainer
C-5A Lockheed Galaxy Travis AFB 22nd Military Airlift Squadron 00446  
F-16C General
Luke AFB
Glendale, AZ
314th TFS
58th Tactical Training Wing
85-447 Major Hank Aragon
Staff Sergeant John Slandridge
F-4D McDonnell Phantom II NDANG Happy Hooligan    
F/A-18A McDonnell-Douglas Hornet   Blue Angels   7 Aircraft
KC-10 McDonnell-Douglas Extender        
KC-135R Boeing Stratotanker GFAFB 319th Bombardment Wing    
LGM-30G Boeing Minuteman III        
P-51D North American Mustang Commemorative Air Force     Guess
T-38 Northrop Talon GFAFB     Pilot Trainer
T-6 North American Texan Commemorative Air Force     Guess
TA-4F Douglas Skyhawk        

Aerial Demonstrations

  • The B-1B 'Lancer' from the Grand Forks AFB flew and did a couple passes including a mock bomb run with real pyro that both Bob and I missed.
  • The KC-135R 'Stratotanker'  from the Grand Forks AFB did high angle take off too show its new powerful engines.
  • The Blue Angels perform for the crowd in six F/A-18A 'Hornet' twin engine fighters
  • Skydiver

1988 GFAFB Flightline1988 GFAFB FlightlineMy 1988 sketch of the GFAFB 'Friends and Neighbors Day' flight line. Saturday, June 25, 1988. Not only does it show the layout (obviously not to scale) but it also illustrates some events of the afternoon.
See my
blog post for more information about the show and references for the images.

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