- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 19, 2002

More than 200,000 people braved cold weather to make their annual inspection of billions of dollars worth of the latest military and vintage hardware on display at the 2002 Joint Service Open House Air Show at Andrews Air Force Base yesterday.
Even the prospect of standing in long lines at security checkpoints at the Branch Avenue Metro Station and again at the entrance to the air show didn't stop enthusiastic crowds from showing up in full force.
Lines moved along quickly and tempers didn't flare.
"You've got to do what you've got to do," said Craig Pinto, 28, an air show enthusiast who has traveled from his home in Alexandria for the past nine years to watch an F-16 fighter get up in the sky and dance at twice the speed of sound.
In past years, visitors to the show which has been held for more than 50 years could drive on the base, park their cars and pull out their coolers and picnic baskets.
This year people were not allowed to drive onto the base because of security fears. Instead, they either parked their cars at Fed Ex Field and hopped a free Metro shuttle bus to the military base or took the subway to the Branch Avenue Station where a fleet of buses was lined up waiting to whisk them to the air show.
Jacqueline Hamm of Capitol Heights weathered the cold yesterday at the insistence of her 6-year-old son, Tysean, so he could see the Navy's elite Blue Angels' flying demonstration at the end of the day-long event.
Ms. Hamm was accompanied by her daughter, LaToya, 16, and a niece. The shuttle was a nice touch, she said. And checking bags at the entrance to the show wasn't a problem, she said.
"I think the heightened security is good and I wasn't inconvenienced at all. Although, I think the prices for food are too high," she said.
Because visitors were not permitted to carry coolers packed with food and drinks onto the base, there were lots of vendors selling all sorts of food, from hot dogs and hamburgers to sandwiches and beer.
The ooohs and ahhhs of children could be heard wherever various aircraft were parked and at, of all things, a steel-gray boat built to ferry the famed Navy SEALs.
It may seem odd for a boat to steal the limelight in an air show, but there was no disputing the fact that the "Naval Special Warfare MK V Special Operations Craft" was always chock full of children sitting in seats normally reserved for the Navy's elite force.
The boat's commander, Jess Woods, 33, answered the childrens' questions and allowed them to commandeer his boat for the day.
The Moorhead, Minn., native said children are drawn to the boat because, well, it sticks out like a sore thumb when surrounded by rows of jet aircraft.
"The boat's seats, high-tech equipment and weapons fascinate children," he said. The $3 million boat carries five crew members and 16 SEALs and travels at 50 knots, or 60 mph, he said.
Another big draw was a military assault helicopter whose namesake almost won a Hollywood Oscar the Blackhawk Night Stalker, featured in the movie "Black Hawk Down."
It, too, was surrounded by children, waiting their turn to get into the cockpit.
That was the whole point of the air show to let people get their hands on the yoke of, say, a $14.6 million F-16 jet fighter, such as dominated the skies during the Persian Gulf war.
Usually it's the top brass who do inspections, but civillians were top guns for the day at the annual open house at Andrews.


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