The 2018 Greenwood Lake Air Show
The Greenwood Lake Air Show takes place in West Milford, New Jersey. The Airport is ensconced in a quaint rural setting with lush green trees and beautiful lakes. The organizers and workers at the show are extremely enthusiastic and devoted to maintaining a standard of excellence as they sponsor and conduct the airshow. Along with John Currenti, I had the opportunity to perform in the Airshow and my impressions of that experience are discussed below.
The Formation Flight from Reading, Pennsylvania
to Greenwood Lake, New Jersey
Tony Stein and I arrived at Reading, Pennsylvania shortly after noon on June 7, 2018, after taking a commercial airline flight from Atlanta to Philadelphia and an Uber ride from Philadelphia to Reading, Pennsylvania. Ron Gosdeck of the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum was kind enough to provide Tony and me with a tour of the Museum’s facilities and aircraft collection. Late in the afternoon, Tony and I were finally ready to depart in the SBD-5 and Kate Bomber, respectively, and flew VFR from Reading, Pennsylvania to Greenwood Lake, New Jersey. The formation flight was uneventful and we landed at Greenwood Lake in the early evening hours the runway was only about 50 feet wide and 3,700 feet long and had trees on both ends. So, both Tony and I attempted to touch down with the least amount of airspeed possible so as to not float down the runway. After clearing the runway, we taxied to the ramp where we met John, who was in charge of servicing and parking the aircraft. Throughout the course of the three-day flying schedule, John was attentive to our every need. He made sure the aircraft received fuel, smoke oil and were properly positioned out of the crowd area before each and every flight. My hat is off to John for his sterling performance.
In no time at all, we made our way into the airport office and met Gina who provided us with our rental cars and directions to the hotel which was a Crown Plaza Hotel situated about 30 miles from the airport. Collecting our gear, Tony and I made our way to the hotel where upon entry, we ran into Gary Ward, George Cline, and the pilots of the Aero Shell team. Tired from an early morning wake up and a long day, Tony and I opted to have dinner in the hotel, but were eventually joined by Gary Ward and Greg Koontz who joined us for a spirited discussion about flying.
The briefing on the morning of June 8th took place at 10:00 a.m. even though we would not fly until after 8:00 p.m. that evening. As always, George Cline did a superb job of briefing the pilots on both normal and abnormal procedures, the 500 foot, 1,000 foot and 1,500 foot crowd lines, divert airports, and the host of other considerations that apply when a pilot performs in an airshow. While the venue for the airshow was a fairly small field located in a rural environment, the talent at the airshow was first class including Aero Shell, Gary Ward and Greg Koontz, to name a few. Late in the evening, John Currenti arrived in the F-4U Corsair. John did a flight demonstration in the Corsair early in the show and then we flew together shortly after 8:00 p.m. with strafing and bombing runs on and over the airfield followed by my Kate being shot down by the American F-4U Corsair. After landing, the aircraft shut down before the crowd and then we signed autographs on the programs sold at the airshow. Because of the small size of the airport, the setting was very intimate. Unlike Charleston Air Force Base where we had a crowd of 80,000 people, the setting at Greenwood permitted the audience to mingle with the pilots after they completed their flight performances.
“The memories I will have of flying at the Greenwood Lake Airport confirm that a small airport in a rural setting can put on a first-class airshow with top tier performers.”
The FAA Safety Inspectors were very courteous and professional during the course of our flights at Greenwood Lake. However, it was their conclusion that because the P-51 Mustang had an approach speed of 101 knots, that it would not be allowed to land at the airshow. This required John Currenti to fly the aircraft during the show and then divert to Orange County where I picked him up in the Kate and flew him back to the show so that John could fly the Corsair in conjunction with the Kate in a dogfight sequence. Because we took off early in the show at about 11:30, and because we performed shortly after 2:00 p.m., by the time we returned to the show we had just a short time to grab some lunch before we performed our flight sequence.
Our pyrotechnics expert was Patrick Cyrana who was a very competent and professional young man. Prior to each flight, we briefed with Patrick about the pyrotechnics to be employed. We had an arrangement with George Cline, the Air Boss, to call in “Hot Pass” if we wanted pyrotechnics to be fired during any low pass. The interesting thing about Greenwood Airport is that there are fairly high standing trees to the west side of the airport away from the crowd line. This required that one pay attention to his altitude, since one of the trees was as tall as 192 feet. I tried to make it a point to never descend below 250 feet during the course of the low passes because of the height of some of the trees. Also, the tree line was our 500-foot line which required that I displaced the Kate from the runway centerline during the low passes. During the course of our flight sequences on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, we flew the same routine. The Kate would come down towards the airport with a fairly good angle of descent, fly down the 500 foot line with pyrotechnics being deployed on some of the passes, climb abruptly skyward, then bank away from the crowd, and on some of the flight sequences, the Corsair would get on the Kate’s tail and call for smoke on to simulate a shootdown. Then, we would enter left traffic for Runway 24, conduct a banana pass, and then land. The flight sequence was fairly simple, but effective.
By Sunday, both John Currenti and I had reached the conclusion that a line of thunderstorms to the west was not going to permit us to fly to Marysville, Ohio where the aircraft were to be hangared. As a consequence, I had to leave the Kate at Greenwood Lake Airport. John Currenti’s brother, Steve gave us a ride to Newark Airport where I took a jet home to Atlanta.
The memories I will have of flying at the Greenwood Lake Airport confirm that a small airport in a rural setting can put on a first-class air show with top tier performers. Unlike military airshows where manpower is not a factor, a small airshow like Green Lake requires dedicated workers like John, Gina and Patrick to get things done. Everyone performed to their full potential. Things were done correctly. It was an especially fun show because of the intimacy between the crowd and the performers. In my experience, it is very unusual to hop out of your airplane, walk up to the audience and begin autographing brochures. This was a very different environment after the Charleston Air Force Base Show where the audience was comprised of about 80,000 people. Another fun aspect of the show was the interaction in the evening hours with the other pilots where we had spirited and engaging conversations about flying in the airshow industry, as well as other exciting topics.