- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 16, 2004

Thousands of air-show fans returned to a sun-drenched Andrews Air Force Base this weekend to see the latest in U.S. military planes, helicopters and airborne armaments.

A flyover by the Blue Angels precision flying team was a thrilling — if loud — highlight of the show yesterday afternoon. Seven-year-old Shelby Forse liked the jets, but she put her hands over her ears as they screeched overhead at 700 mph.

“I don’t want to fly,” said the second-grader at Bass Hoover School in Stephens City, Va.

Her grandfather, George Forse, 68, an engineer from Sterling, Va., said he has brought members of his family to the show sporadically since 1959. This time, the engineer brought his son, Shelby’s father, Rick Forse, 42, a wire technician, and another granddaughter, Jessica Donatoni, 26, a hospital office worker from Sterling.

The family arrived at about 9:15 a.m. yesterday, shortly after Andrews’ gates opened to a daylong stop-and-go flow of cars, trucks, vans and buses. Andrews’ officials could only estimate that thousands of public spectators came Saturday and yesterday — the first time in several years that rain did not interfere.

There was more to see than the six Blue Angels, technically F-18s, and other performing planes. A huge hanger was a cool, shady place to look at exhibits. Outdoors, acres of taxi strips showed-off various aircraft amid snack booths and barbecue stands.

At a glance, the newest fighter, an FA-22 Raptor, appeared to be just another Air Force jet machine. But, its pilot, Major Jim Vogel, 40, a 14-year veteran, is entranced by the Raptor’s abilities.

“It’s unbelievable. It’s supersonic without afterburners,” Maj. Vogel said. “It’s incredibly maneuverable … A bunch of smart guys put it together.”

Today, Maj. Vogel will fly the FA-22 back to Nellis Air Force Base at Las Vegas, where he will be reunited with his wife and two daughters, 5 and 10 years old.

It will be a nonstop flight, but slow for the FA-22, because it and other planes will have to get fuel from a flying tanker.

“It’s much easier than the F-15 to fuel up,” Maj. Vogel said.

Parked nearby yesterday was a huge, awkward-looking, khaki MV-22 Ospry, its two giant engines and propellers pointed toward the sky. It can carry troops and/or 15,000 pounds of cargo, flying straight up like a helicopter.

Or its engines may revolve downward, and it can fly forward like any other plane at more than 230 mph.

“It can carry paratroops up to 25,000 feet,” said Crew Chief, Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Fowler, 33, of the Marines.

An “Army brat” born in Takoma, Wash., Sgt. Fowler is stationed with the Marine New River Air Station at Jacksonville, N.C. — but home is Knoxville, Tenn., where his wife and two sons live.

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