|Folks getting up close and personal with a B-1B bomber at Andrews Air Force Base, during the Joint Service Open House.|
Each spring, the Department of Defense has an "open house", which is a curious concept for an organization given to secrecy. But there you have it—they throw the doors open and invite all comers: military personnel, civilians, airplane nuts, and the merely curious. In the Washington, D.C. area, the main event is held at Andrews Air Force Base, located just outside the Washington beltway near Camp Springs, MD.
The event is a weekend-long extravaganza of aviation, with dozens of aircraft on static display and numerous flying demonstrations. They have first-line fighters and bombers, antique warbirds, helicopters, transport and cargo aircraft, aircraft representing all branches of the armed services (including the Coast Guard). And the aircraft are not roped off and isolated—you can walk right up to them and examine them in minute detail (except for the Stealth bomber and the U-2 spy plane). You can even walk under the open bomb bay of a B-1B bomber to see where the cruise missiles would hang, or peer into the cockpit of a B-52, or stroll through the cavernous cargo compartment of a C-5 Galaxy. And best of all, you can take all the pictures you want—this is one day when you won't be arrested for photographing military aircraft. If there wasn't already enough to look at, they also have numerous flying demonstrations, including hotdogging fighters, a mass parachute jump, and civilian aerobatics, among other things.
The event has a huge draw, and many thousands of people visit. To simplify parking and security, everybody must park at FedEx Field (the Redskins stadium), pass through a security checkpoint, then ride shuttle busses to the base. The logistics are handled well so there is minimal waiting. Once on the airfield, you're free to roam or just hang out in the shade under the wing of the nearest airplane (bring sunscreen if it's sunny). There are plenty of refreshment stands (unfortunately with high prices) and comfort stations (porta-potties).
I attended the Joint Service Open House on Saturday, May 20, 2006; the weather was perfect and I took lots of pictures. I have selected nearly 200 pictures for my web site, and have arranged them roughly as modern aircraft, historic aircraft, and flying demos. You can click on any of the following links; or if you want, you can read through all the pages sequentially by clicking the "Next Page" button at the bottom of each page.
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