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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 (ScanCafe.com), 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) (AF.mil) , 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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