NAS Patuxent River Air Expo 2018

report by: Harry Morrow


Naval Air Station Patuxent River, also known as NAS Pax River, opened its doors to the public on 2nd & 3rd June 2018 the NAS held the Pax River Expo 2018, NAS Pax River is in St. Mary’s County Maryland, commissioned on April 1, 1943, situated on a peninsula between the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay at the mouth of the Patuxent River, NAS Pax River is located on roughly 7,500 acres, on land largely acquired through eminent domain, the air station grew rapidly in response to World War II and continued to evolve through the Cold War to the present, this year NAS Pax River is celebrating its 75th anniversary

The Patuxent River Naval Air Station complex stretches across 25 miles of shoreline at the mouth of the Patuxent River, overlooking the picturesque Chesapeake Bay the installation has progressed from being known as the east coast’s Naval Air Transport Service base, testing experimental aircraft, equipment and material, into a Center of Excellence for Naval Aviation. It’s also known as: Where the future of Naval aviation begins. This distinctive synergy supports land-based and maritime aircraft and engineering, T&E, integration, and life cycle support for ship/shore electronics. These combined capabilities are unique within the Department of Defense and ensure NAS Patuxent River’s status as an aviation leader working effectively to continue progress through the 21st century. The weather forecast for the air show was not the best, but Saturday 2nd June the sun was out with thunder storms due later, thankfully they held off just long enough until the Blue Angels finished there display, the same could not be said for Sunday 3rd June, the rain was heavy and the cloud was low, there was a glimmer of hope when all the base and local emergency vehicles lined up for the national anthem, but sadly the rain and very strong winds came back with renewed energy, eventually the Sunday show was cancelled, thanks to all the staff and volunteers who made great efforts to try keep the show running.

Once on the base the aircraft are nicely spaced out, with plenty of vendors to help feed the hungry patrons, also there were plenty of goodies on sale to let you leave some great mementoes of the day, some of the static line up of aircraft from the Pax River base, included a P-8 Poseidon, RQ-4 Global Hawk drone from VX-20 at the top near the hangars, MV-22 Osprey of HX-21 “Blackjack”, helicopters from HX-21 were displayed two MH-60 Sea Hawks, a UH-1Y Venom and an AH-1Z Viper.  A very smart looking P-3 Orion marked with Naval Research Laboratory. Very popular was the F-35C test aircraft, two wonderful color birds from VX-23 “The Salty Dogs”, a welcome sight to see two color birds, one notable civilian static aircraft was a turbine powered DC-3, VX-23 had on display a Lincoln limousine, complete with a tail hook and catapult launch bar, probably the best squadron car I have seen this year.

Static aircraft from the Test Pilot School, were well represented There was a Leonardo TH-119, UH-72 Lakota, T-6 Texan II and a T-38 Talon and my favorite a De Havilland Otter, which I believe is the oldest Bureau number still actively flying in service. The flying display kicked off with a line of multiple emergency vehicles from the NAS Pax River and local responders from all services, an SH-60 Seahawk hovered above the emergency vehicles and six Blue Angel F-18 jets which were parked in front and center, they lowered the stars & stripes from the helicopter while the national anthem was being played. The flying display started with a missing man formation performed by Rob Holland, Bill Stein & Patty Wagstaff, in memory of Skytyper’s team member Ken Johansen. A pair of L-39’s from the Warrior Flight Team opened up the show, quickly followed by another single L-39C flown by Joe Anderson (USMC RET), Scott “Scooter” Yoak put his P-51 Mustang ‘Quick Silver’ through its paces with a great solo display, Bill Stein in the Edge 540 with the ever-changing color scheme, thrilled the crowds.

Art Nalls brought some noise to the show with his privately-owned Sea Harrier, Art Nalls flew some great passes which included inverted maneuvers, he showed us why the Harrier was the first king in the hover, an incredible demonstration from an aircraft I had not seen for a few years, when I last viewed this aircraft it was with the British Royal Navy when I still lived in United Kingdom.  Rob Holland then performed a high energy solo routine, Jim “Torque” Tobul performed a solo routine in his F-4U Corsair, what a sound that was to hear, the F-4U Corsair was joined by P-51 Mustang ‘QuickSilver’ to perform a unique routine ‘Class of 45’ show casing two of the last American fighters from WW2, this was such a pleasure to photograph.

Patty Wagstaff in her blue Extra 300 gave another breath-taking performance, quickly followed by Rob Holland & Bill Stein as ‘Seeing Double’ a very photogenic display, Rob Holland then raced a Jet truck called ‘Shockwave’ against a wall of fire with the Blue Angels in the foreground, it was a stunning sight. Now it was the turn of the US Navy’s premier display team the ‘BLUE ANGELS’ I was positioned front and center and treated to a very slick performance from pilots and ground crew as they prepared to perform for a very eager public audience, the Blue Angels were able to give a full display, some incredible passes with smoke and vapor adding to the theater of watching the Blue Angels. Global Air Power would like to thank Naval Air Station Patuxent River Public Affairs office, for their assistance and use of facilities to help make this report possible.