All posts by Tomcatter5150

An average guy with interests in photography, aviation, 1/48th scale plastic aircraft models and cooking. I get to do some cool things and have some great friends.

2018 NAS Oceana Airshow

The 2018 NAS Oceana Airshow was held on September 21-23. Friday was open to military family members, and was also an open house for local 5th graders as a STEM laboratory. The event was the largest in several years, and included headline performances by both the US Navy Blue Angels and the RCAF Snowbird jet demonstration teams.

The weather varied all three days, which can be evidenced by the photos. However, flying was able to be completed all three days and provided some wonderful vapor opportunities as well as some nice cloud backdrops. The variety of acts was a good blend of civilian and military performers.

The Aircraft of the Fleet

The Fleet Demo is perhaps the highlight of the airshow each year. This years squadron participants included VFA-105 Gunslingers, VFC-12 Fighting Omars, VFA-131 Wildcats and VFA-106 Gladiators.

Bandits! The art of dogfighting with VFC-12 Fighting Omars

NAS Oceana is home to own adversary training squadron VFC-12 Fighting Omars, callsign “Ambush”. The squadron flies F/A-18 Hornets painted to resemble aircraft the fleet pilots may encounter while on deployment. Here, the Hornets are in a “splinter” paint scheme to resemble the Russian SU-35.

The squadron is made up of a combination of active duty and reservists and is tasked with training the fleet pilots in the art of dogfighting. Unlike the fleet ready rooms, this squadron is made up of high time and veteran pilots who have mastered the skills required to best aerial adversaries. Much like the Blue Angels flight demonstration team, the members are hand picked and must be approved by the other members of the squadron. The pilots are selected for their flight skills and personality due to the small size of the squadron and teamwork required to accurately train the fleet pilots.

The pilots are training using tactics of potential adversaries such as Russia and China using some of the oldest aircraft in the Navy.

VFC-12 and VFA-105 Gunfighters demonstrated a vertical 1×1 engagement, as well as a 2×1 horizontal dogfight.

Air-to-Ground Demo

VFA-105, VFA-131 and VFA-106 demonstrated various air-to-ground bombing and strafing tactics used by fleet Aviators while on deployment.

Passing Gas…Flattop style

F/A-18 Super Hornets from VFA-105 Gunslingers demonstrated the buddy air refueling system during the fleet performance at NAS Oceana.

The Fleet Flyby

US Army Black Daggers Parachute Team

USAF F-22 Raptor Demo

Major Paul “Loco” Lopez provided a stunning demonstration of the USAF’s F-22 Raptor. The jet is considered by many to be the world’s best air superiority fighter. Abilities include “super cruise” (ability to exceed the speed of sound without afterburner), thrust vectoring and stealth. Stealth is achieved by carrying all ordinance internally in three bays. Thrust vectoring provides the aircraft unparalleled maneuverability, even compared to the F-16 and F-15. The jets two Pratt & Whitney F-119 engines provide 35,000 of thrust each, and in afterburner provide ample “freedom thunder!!”

US Navy F/A-18C Hornet – The Final “Legacy” Hornet Demo

The Gladiators from VFA-106 flew the last F/A-18C Hornet demo while at their homebase of NAS Oceana. The squadron serves as the fleets F/A-18 training squadron and also provides the aircraft and crew for the Legacy Hornet Demo Team. The Hornet has been the backbone of the fleet attack duties since the early 1980s.

US Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet Demo

VFA-106 also serves as the fleet’s F/A-18 Super Hornet training squadron and provides aircraft and crew for the USN Tac Demo Team. The F/A-18 Super Hornet is the fleet’s primary fighter aircraft and also serves as a multi-role air-to-ground platform. The TAC Demo focuses on the fighter configuration while demonstrating the performance and maneuverability of the Super Hornet.

Greg Shelton FM-2 Wildcat Aerobatics

Greg Shelton provided some naval history by flying an aerobatic routine in his FM-2 Wildcat. The Grumman F4F (and its General Motors license built FM-2 version) was the backbone of the US Navy fighter force at the start of World War II. Although outmatched by the lighter Japanese Zero, it held the line until America’s manufacturing might could provide better designs such as the F6F Hellcat and F4U Corsair.

Bill Leff T-6 Texan Aerobatics & Final Show

Veteran warbird aerobatic pilot, Bill Leff, flew his final acro routine at NAS Oceana. He has flown many times at Oceana and his performances will be missed. Although not as glamorous as the fighters from the WWII era, it has been said that if you can master aerobatics in the T-6 Texan, you can fly anything. The T-6 airframe was the advanced trainer for the United States and many of its allies and continued to serve until the late 1950s. The type is widely known as “the pilot maker.”

Michael Goulian Extra 330sc Aerobatics

Flashfire Jet Truck

Canadian Forces 431 Air Demonstration Squadron, the Snowbirds

NAS Oceana was blessed to have two headlining jet teams for the 2018 event. The Canadian Forces Snowbirds made a rare appearance over the skies of Virginia Beach. The team is equally as skilled as the pilots from the American teams such as the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds, but their demonstration is much different. Their jets are trainers and not as powerful as the American Team’s jets. Therefore, the demonstration is more graceful and includes nine aircraft. This allows for larger formations and different variety of formations than the American Teams.

Of note, the team “crop dusted” the Blue Angels over the weekend, as seen in the first picture below. “Crop dusting” is a term of art and is basically the team blowing smoke over the other team. This is a gag between all of the North American teams and is done for humor and inter-team bonding. It is not uncommon for the teams to do so when one team flies over the other while transitioning to a show location or headed to a remote flyover.

Kent Pietsch Jelly Belly Aerobatics and the World’s Smallest Aircraft Carrier

Kent Pietsch is an amazing performer. His aircraft, an Interstate Cadet, weighs just 800 pounds and has 90 horsepower. The Cadet is not your typical aerobatic airplane, yet Kent makes it look routine. In fact, the routine is filled with maneuvers that require a high degree of skill and control. The climax may be the landing of the aircraft on top of the RV, which is billed as the world’s smallest aircraft carrier. It usually takes a couple of passes, but Kent is usually very successful in landing the Cadet and subsequently taking off again from the RV. Note below on the right photo that the main gear are not locked into position and the tailwheel is not on the RV on this instance.

The Wounded Warrior Flight Team

The Wounded Warrior Flight team flies two L-39 Albatross jets. The aircraft are former advance trainers from the Soviet Union and are now used to bring awareness to the needs of various veterans across the United States. The jets are flown by two veteran US Navy pilots and perform a “grudge match” aerial dogfight.

US Navy Legacy Flight

This year’s Legacy Flight included the F/A-18F Super Hornet from VFA-106 Gladiators and the F4U Corsair owned by Jim Tobul. An iconic formation considering both aircraft were used by the fleet similarly – both as a fighter and as a multi-role support aircraft. A good comparison of the size of the two aircraft can be seen below. The finale was enjoyable as both aircraft folded their wings simultaneously in front of the crowd.

Jim Tobul F4U Corsair “Korean War Hero” Aerobatics

US Navy Blue Angels

The Navy’s flight demonstration team looked amazing as ever for the 2018 shows over Oceana. The skies were challenging at times with clouds and high winds, but the team looked sharp as ever. At least with clouds and moisture the vapes come out!

334th Fighter Squadron F-15E Strike Eagle

The 334th brought their commemorative F-15E Strike Eagle for static display. The jet celebrates the 75th Anniversary of the 4th Fighter Wing. The paint scheme was starting to show some wear, but it still looked great, and would have been amazing to see in the air.

The Final Legacy Hornet Squadron VFA-34 Blue Blasters

The “Blue Blasters” of VFA-34 recently returned from their final cruise in the older “Legacy” model of the F/A-18 Hornet. In April, the squadron recently deployed aboard the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) for a three-month WESTPAC deployment which included a port stop in Vietnam, the first by a US carrier since the war ended. The Blue Blasters returned to sea on August to participate in the multi-national war exercises called “RIMPAC”. VFA-34 is the final Legacy Hornet Strike Fighter Squadron and is scheduled to transition from the Legacy Hornet to the Super Hornet in early 2019.

“That’s it, you’re not going to see a Hornet on an aircraft carrier – at least with U.S. Navy paint on it – ever again.”

Lt. Kevin Frattin – USNI News, February 4, 2019

Around the field…

The USAF brought a specially painted T-6 Texan II, and the VFA-213 Blacklions squadron car made an appearance. Check out a special article related to squadron cars I recently wrote here.

I had a great time at the 2018 NAS Oceana airshow. It is always amazing to see the fleet aircraft at the East Coast’s Master Jet Base and meet the aircrews. As long as the base continues to have shows, I will do my best to return to see them for years to come. Fly Navy!

Squadron Vehicles: Gaudy and Spectacular!

In the air, a squadron can be identified by the type of aircraft being flown and squadron logo or tail codes. On the ground, a squadron’s identity is reflected in their vehicle. For semi-truck drivers, wood in the cab is the decor of choice while chrome is king for most “hot rods”. In a squadron vehicles, anything goes. The more gaudy and outrageous the better! Everything from wild paint schemes to spare aircraft parts can be seen on what has become the squadron’s ultimate alter ego.

The tradition appears to have started with the Navy. According to lore, official transportation was generally unavailable to squadrons that were deployed or on training detachments. Accordingly, the squadron car was born out of necessity. Several members would chip in a few dollars and buy a cheap vehicle to get around. Usually, the junior officers were tasked with driving the senior officers around to the base functions and parties.

VMFA(AW)-225 Vikings hurst squadron car. A fitting ride for sure!

The original squadron cars were plain and simple, what my generation would call a “beater” – cheap and usually in need of some sort of repair. Over time, the cars started to get custom paint jobs that reflected persona of the squadron. Standard cars morphed into retired limos. Not to be outdone, limousines transformed into old school buses and RVs. As the type of vehicle changed, so did the exterior details. Modern squadron vehicles are adorned with anything and everything to make their ground transportation match their aerial rides. Retired tails are mounted, maybe a refueling boom or perhaps simulated missiles/guns. Basically, the rule of thumb is this: it has to be bigger, wilder and more flashy than the other squadron’s ride yet, reflect the squadron’s history and culture. The early cars were very politically incorrect and crass. When ladies began to incorporate into the flying units, the crude references were mostly stricken. However, a few may still have a reference or two if you look close enough.

VFA-32 Swordsmen RV . Note the unit awards painted on the upper portion.

Ultimately, the squadron car is a symbol of pride for the unit. It gives the men and now women a fun diversion from the everyday routine and shows the wild imagination and creativity these people have. While the members of the squadron may rotate, the squadron vehicle passes to each successive generation to modify and carry on the tradition. The legacy builds as more customization or modifications are completed.

The fire engine of VMFA-232 Red Devils is a fantastic example of the squadron’s symbolism reflected in the squad car.

The “squadron car” has become such a legend that the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida displays the Lincoln Continental limo formerly of VAQ-134. The automobile was driven all the way from NAS Whidbey Island to NAS Pensacola to be put on display in 2003!

I imagine the VMFA-314 Black Knights former fire truck is probably now the ultimate party bus inside!

Next time you are at an airshow or open house at the local military base, keep an eye out for the unique and imaginative works of art from the Navy, Marine and USAF/ANG units.

Here is the 107th Fighter Squadron “Red Devils” Limo, an example of a USAF ANG squadron car. Plenty of room for a group and/or some fun times!

A Different Perspective: Twilight Airshows

The early evening sky can offer some of the most vibrant and beautiful views of the entire day. Thousands of people flock outdoors to glimpse Mother Nature’s beauty daily to watch the evening sunset. For aviation lovers, a twilight airshow combines the beauty of the sunset with the beauty of the flying machine.

“Twilight shows” are popularly hosted on the eve of the formal airshow, on Friday for example. It allows the casual fan to come onto the show grounds and get a teaser of the formal show, usually at a lower gate price. For others like me, the evening show provides an extra day of the weekend “holiday”. These evening shows are usually a blend of aerial talent, food/beverage and live talent. In other words, it is a Friday night airport party! The overall atmosphere is usually a little more relaxed and the crowds a bit easier to tolerate. The sometimes oppressive summer heat is reduced making the early evening much easier to tolerate.

My exposure to twilight shows began in the late 1990s at Michigan’s popular Muskegon Air Fair. The Friday evening show started as a casual way to party before the show and eventually morphed into a widely successful event in and of itself – the “Friday Night Runway Bash”.

F-14 Tomcat Demo Team performing pre-flight checks during the Friday evening 2004 Muskegon Air Fair

Ever since those early Runway Bashes, I was hooked on the evening shows. I always try to attend them when the timing works out with the travel schedule. I like the different views and early sneak peak into the weekend show. I have even met some of the performers casually walking around the grounds.

The Early Evening…

Early evening is when the magic sky transformation begins. The sky begins to grow darker as the sun lowers on the horizon. The yellow tones begin to show on the polished finishes and gloss coatings of the aircraft paint.

The Mid-Evening…Golden Hour!

This is likely my favorite time of the day and is no exception during evening airshows. The aircraft begin to darken and they sky begins to pop with the vibrant evening sunset colors of various reds and oranges. Exhaust flames and afterburners begin to become evident.

The setting sun casts a golden hue on the F-22 Raptor Demo Team taken during the 2015 Planes of Fame evening show.

The Late Evening…

As the day turns into evening, the last bits of color erupt over the horizon, casting the final hues of red and orange for the day. With the loss of visual cues, the skill set of the pilots increase.

Many performers have developed a specific routine for evening shows to showcase the elegance of flight in the late evening sky. Some have even catered to this type of performance by adding special lights to the aircraft to make them easier to track in the darkening skies. The hours and hours of practice are evident as the routine unfolds as flawlessly as a daytime performance.

Has the sun set on evening shows?

No! But ultimately, an airshow is a business. Like all businesses, decisions are made based on the economics of the times. People outside the industry do not understand that an airshow is not put together just a few weeks prior to the scheduled date. Instead they are planned a year, sometimes longer, in advance. Budgets are set and performers are signed based on those budget figures. A brief look into your own checkbook will likely reveal the costs of daily life are rising. Aviation is the ultimate motor sport and like all motor sports is a wallet draining hobby without a sponsorship to offset costs. Vintage piston and jet warbirds are costly to own, maintain and fly and therefore charge an appearance fee. Civilian acrobatic performers use equally expensive aircraft that can handle heavy g-forces.

An evening show simply adds to the overall costs. Performers get paid more, additional volunteers are needed and municipalities require payment for the additional police and traffic control. If it rains, those costs are likely not recovered. With today’s economics, an extra day is usually just too costly and risky to plan. However, there are planners and performers that enjoy the evening shows and take a chance. Some shows are even beginning to plan the airshow later in the day to take advantage of the timing to incorporate the airshow, ground entertainment, concerts and a fireworks display.

If you are fortunate enough to have an opportunity to attend a twilight airshow, take advantage. Vendors get a bit of extra business, the airshow’s profits increase and the performers get to show off their talents. A lot of time and effort went into the planning for the evening. Enjoy the casual atmosphere, visual beauty and the people that come with you to share in the evening fun!

Stick Time with: The Yankee Lady

During the 2017 Thunder Over Michigan airshow, I had the opportunity to ride on Yankee Air Museum’s B-17G Flying Fortress “Yankee Lady”.  The aircraft, serial 44-85829, was built by Lockheed Vega at their Burbank, California plant and delivered to the USAAF in July of 1945, but never flew combat missions. After the war ended, the aircraft was transferred to the Coast Guard and configured for air-sea rescue. In 1958, she was retired by the Coast Guard and subsequently sold for scrap. However, she was spared the torch and used for aerial survey and aerial fire-fighting work. She even appeared in the 1970 film “Tora! Tora! Tora!”.

Thanks to the warbird movement to preserve the historic aircraft of World War II, she escaped the torch again when the fledgling Yankee Air Force purchased her in 1986 and began the extensive restoration from aerial tanker to her original bomber configuration. After a nine year restoration, Yankee Lady took to the skies as the flagship of the Yankee Air Force (now Yankee Air Museum) fleet.

Yankee Lady‘s
Nose Art

The flight experience began with a safety brief at planeside and seating assignments. The crew of three boarded first, then the twelve passengers. Yankee Lady came to life as the four Wright R1820 engines coughed to life. After the engines warmed up and safety checks were complete, we began to taxi to the runway.

As I sat there, I could not help but think of my Mother’s uncle, who served as a B-17 tail gunner in the 99th Bomb Group in Italy during the Second World War. He shared countless stories of his missions over Europe and of his experiences as a prisoner of war after being shot down on his 23rd mission. The vibrations, the noise and even the mechanical smells he described to me as a kid came to life before me. This was a machine of war. There are no comforts for passengers and every space was used for required equipment. As we turned onto the active runway for take-off, I remember him saying that besides flak, the worst part of the mission was take-off. When fully loaded for war, a Fortress needed a lot of runway, but not this day. Even with a full load of passengers, the aircraft took off smoothly and with little effort.

After takeoff, we were permitted to move freely about the aircraft to explore the various crew positions. Forget any preconceived notion that the aircraft is spacious. Moving around was challenging due to the cabin’s small space and the continuous movement of the aircraft. The experience of walking in flight was similar to walking on a boat in a light chop. You had to develop a sense of balance to move around easily. Transitioning from the waste gun position to the radio/navigator positions required walking around the ball turret. No easy task for a novice flyboy. To get to the main cabin required a trip across a very small bridge across the bomb bay! It was challenging, and one can only imagine doing it with a full bomb load and the stress of war around you. Access was available to the top turret and bombardier/navigator position in the nose, but was unable to take advantage of the opportunity this time.

Yankee Lady in flight during the 2014 Thunder Over Michigan Airshow

After a few minutes, we began a sharp turnaround to begin our return to the airport (below us was the University of Michigan football stadium) and eventually got the signal to strap back in. As we touched down, one passenger looked at us with a huge smile on his face and two thumbs up yelled “that was awesome!” and none of us disagreed. As we taxied back to the ramp, we all smiled and the chatter was non-stop about our amazing flight experience. Each was different as many of the passengers went to all of the available crew stations, including the incredible bombardier position in the glass nose. In addition to rides in the B-17, the Yankee Air Museum offers flight experiences in three additional aircraft: B-25D Mitchell, C-47 Skytrain and a Waco biplane. The museum is located at the historic Willow Run Airport in Belleville, Michigan and rides can be purchased at their website yankeeairmuseum.org. Thank you to Yankee Air Museum Director Kevin Walsh and Canadian Editor Kerry J Newstead for making this opportunity available. The flight was truly an unforgettable experience.

The author with Yankee Lady. Photo by Kerry J. Newstead.

This article was previously published in the January/February 2018 edition of WORLD AIRSHOW NEWS.

2019 Planes of Fame Airshow

The 2019 Planes of Fame airshow was held on May 3 – 5 at the Chino Airport. This annual gathering of Warbird aircraft is always impressive and brings out the fighter aircraft heavy iron!

Prior to the show starting, the crowd is allowed to get up close and personal with the aircraft participating in the flying portion of the show on the hot ramp area. This year there were four hot ramp areas to walk. An impressive variety of aircraft were present from the early 1930’s to present day aircraft from the USAF and local police units. It is so neat to walk by these aerial titans and get to see them up close and personal. You get to see the variety of designs, the different paint schemes and the overall size of these airframes. It is a virtual history lesson with each and every aircraft practically since no one model is alike in this day and age. It is amazing to think that in just a short span of time, all of these aircraft will be flying and providing visual and audible bliss to those that enjoy aviation.

The Opening: Thunderbolts and Lightnings

P-47 Thunderbolts

This year, four Jugs participated in the flying, although on Sunday it was reduced to three due to a mechanical problem on “Snafu”. For many years, the P-47 was a rare aircraft. However, there are numerous examples now, with several more currently in restoration. The P-47s included:

  • “Snafu”
  • “Dottie Mae”
  • “Hairless Joe”
  • PoF’s unnamed Razorback

P-47D Thunderbolt
“Dottie Mae”

P-38 Lightnings

Two P-38s were in the air at this event. Planes of Fame’s “23 Skidoo” and Allied Fighter‘s “Honey Bunny”

P-38 Lightning
“Honey Bunny”

Late Morning: WWII ETO Aircraft

The late morning brought out the European Theatre of Operations aircraft. Aircraft from various West Coast museums were prominent, including Yanks Air Museum, Warhawk Air Museum, Palm Springs Air Museum, Commemorative Air Force – SoCal Wing, and of course Planes of Fame.

The demonstration included several C-47s full of paratroopers from the WWII Airborne Demonstration Team that jumped to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion of 1944. Several P-40s and numerous P-51 Mustangs participated. Several notable oddities were witnessed (with explanation). PoF’s Pilatus P2-06 was painted in a German Luftwaffe camouflage scheme. Also the rare P-51A Mustang normally marked as “Mrs. Virginia” was painted in RCAF markings to commemorate Hollis Hills, an American serving in the RCAF, and credited with the first aerial victory in a P-51. Both aircraft were temporarily painted for movie use.

Intermisssion: Veteran Panel Discussion

Intermission is a special time at the show. Although traditionally a time that allows for food and restroom breaks or even a stop to a vendor table, this show is different. Every year, PoF brings in a group of veterans to speak about their experiences. The group is a diverse blend of veterans that varies from both sides.

This year, the highlight for me was Colonel Clarence “Bud” Anderson. During WW II, he flew P-51 Mustangs in the 357th Fighter Group and was a triple ace. After the war, he became a test pilot and later commanded a fighter squadron and eventually became a wing commander in Vietnam . Mr. Anderson is also known for being a close friend of Chuck Yeager. Bud Anderson also wrote a memoir of his aviation days, To Fly and Fight: Memoirs of a Triple Ace.

P-51 Mustang triple ace, Clarence “Bud” Anderson speaks during the veteran’s panel. He is America’s last living triple ace.

Early Afternoon: PTO WWII Aircraft

Flying resumed with the aircraft of the Pacific Theatre of Operations, including PoF’s original A6M5 “Zeke” and GossHawk Unlimited‘s PB4Y-2 Privateer. Fans of the radial engine growl were not disappointed. With numerous passes high and low, the audience got a fantastic view of the various types represented: fighters, dive bomber, medium bomber, torpedo bomber and heavy bomber.

Korean War Era

The Korean War era was well represented this year with a variety of aircraft. Korea occured at a time when the various services were transitioning from piston powered aircraft to jets. “Old” types like the P-51 and F4U were still operational and saw service early in the conflict. The US Navy had two newer aircraft on their decks, the AD-4 Skyraider and F7F Tigercat, while the Brits had the Sea Fury. The USAF used the F-80/T-33 Shooting Star and F-86. The Communist forces were also transitioning from piston power to turbines, moving from types like the YAK-3 to MIG-15.

This year, an A-26C Invader “Sweet Eloise” (44-34313/N4313) owned by Black Crow Aviation LLC represented the USAF medium bomber presence. Sadly, PoF’s F-86 was unable to participate due to mechanical issues.

Late Afternoon: Warbird Aerobatics

Stew Dawson F7F Tigercat Aerobatics

Stew Dawson put the F7F Tigercat “Here Kitty Kitty” owned by Lewis Air Legends thru an amazing aerobatic demonstration. The power and sound of the Tigercat is incredible.

Greg Coyler: Ace Makers Airshows T-33 Shooting Star

Greg “Wired” Colyer performed jet warbird acrobatics in his newly restored T-33 Shooting Star “Ace Maker III”. Greg is well known around the airshow industry and puts on a high energy demonstration in the Shooting Star. While not performing, Greg founded the nonprofit (501c-3) T-33 Heritage Foundation to help in the preservation of the type. Look for Greg at an airshow near you at the Ace Maker website.

Greg Colyer’s debuted his newest T-33 “Ace Maker III” at the Planes of Fame show.

Sanders Sea Fury Aerobatics

Frand Sanders performed a fantastic acro routine in the Sea Fury. The Sea Fury has smoke generators on each wing which provide beautiful vortice smoke trails. The climax of the routine is the down low and in close photo pass with the smoke on.

Reno Air Racing Demonstration

Returning in 2019, the Reno Air Racing Unlimited Division demo increased in size and included P-51s included “Voodoo”, “Strega” and “Goldfinger”. The lone Sea Fury was “Dreadnaught”. The demo included several hot laps and even included the opening by the PoF T-33.

Show Closing: USAF Heritage Flight

The close of the show includes the flight display by the USAF’s F-16 Viper demo team. Officially known as the “Fighting Falcon”, the F-16 is perhaps the most successful modern fighter aircraft and is also the aircraft used by the USAF Thunderbirds demonstration team.

After the high energy demo, the pace slows down to pay tribute to the heritage of the USAF. This show included a flight of arguably the service’s two most successful multirole aircraft, the P-47 Thunderbolt and the F-16 Viper.

Perhaps two of the America’s greatest multirole aircraft, the P-47 Thunderbolt and F-16 Fighting Falcon perform the USAF Heritage Flight.

Views around the field…

The Planes of Fame Airshow is a world class event, and certainly one of the best warbird shows in the United States. Sure, some aircraft are there each year, but you just never know what surprises may unfold. Besides the aircraft, it is always welcome to see friends that have become like family that you may only see once or twice a year.

It was refreshing to see politics set aside with the entire airport working together to make an incredible event possible. Cheers to an amazing show and I cannot wait till the next one.

Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome – WWI Air Show 2019

In the small town of Red Hook, New York lies one of America’s true aviation treasures, the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome. Founded by Cole Palen in 1958, the museum sought to preserve the flying history of the Pioneer (1900 -1913), WWI (1914 – 1918) and the Golden Age of Aviation (1919 – 1940). Mr. Palen ended up creating the first museum of flying antique aircraft in the United States.

What started out as six WWI aircraft has turned into a collection of over 60 aircraft, some originals and some replicas, spanning the years from 1900-1940. In addition to their collection of flying aircraft, the museum has a number of artifacts, static display aircraft, antique automobiles and motorcycles. They are even restoring a WWI era tank.

Each weekend from mid-June through October the Aerodrome comes alive with two distinct airshows. Saturday shows focus on the “History of Flight” while the Sunday shows focus on the WWI era aircraft.

I attended the WWI show on September 15, 2019.

Stepping back in time…

Once you park and cross the street, you enter into the Aerodrome area. You pay for your admission and the fun begins. The Aerodrome is set up like a small airfield in the early days of flight. Hangars of various size are placed around the field. These hangars house the museum’s flying aircraft. Usually the vacant hangars have their aircraft on the field for the day’s flight. The hangars with aircraft inside are usually from the opposite day’s show, but are open for your visual inspection. The restoration area is a fun place to go to have a look. The hanagars also have a theme to them, the early era flight companies like Curtiss, Fokker and Ryan Flying Company for example.

The flying aircraft are usually towed out first and placed on the flight line. After those machines are out, the vintage automobiles and motorcycles are brought out for a little ride around the field. After you get through looking into the hangars, the announcement is made that the show is about to start.

The Show Opens…

The Air Show begins in traditional barnstorming fashion…some fancy stick work resulting in some razzle and dazzle of the aircraft. This time was the De Havilland DH.82 Tiger Moth, an original aircraft and built in 1934.

The aircraft takes off and climbs up a few hundred feet. Then at show center, a roll of toilet paper is thrown overboard. The goal is for the aircraft to cut the paper ribbon numerous times before getting too low to the ground to be safe. This shows just how nimble the aircraft is and the skill set of the pilot.

After the Tiger Moth came down, a second aircraft went up to beat the previous pilot’s TP Banner score. This show, the second aircraft was the 1942 Fleet Finch 16-B, another of the museum’s aircraft that is an original version. Sadly, I did not make note of which aircraft was more successful.

A Brief Glimpse into Aircraft Development: 1910 Hanriot

Although the theme of the Sunday show is WWI, the museum brings out their 1910 Hanriot (a reproduction) to show just how fast the airplane developed in the short span of time.

The aircraft looks fragile and dangerous, and it turns out to be true. Take a close look and you see the infancy of aircraft design and the lack of pilot safety features. The plane taxied by for a close look, then lined up for take off. The plane did indeed get airborne, but only to an altitude of about 10-15 feet. Although capable of higher flight, safety is paramount and simply to show it is indeed capable of flying.

The Fokkers: D.VII and D.VIII

The collection of WWI aircraft come out shortly after the aerobatics. This visit brought out the Fokker D.VII biplane and the improved D.VIII monoplane. Both aircraft came into service with the German Air Force in 1918.

The D.VII came into service in April, 1918 and was vastly underestimated as an adversary due to the square look and thick wings. The aircraft quickly became respected and earned the reputation as a serious fighter aircraft. It turned out to be fast and highly maneuverable, both important attributes in a fighter aircraft. Herman Goring, the head of the German Luftwaffe in WWII, flew the type and claimed many of his victories in the D.7. The aircraft was so respected at the end of WW I that the Armistice Treaty included a provision that all of the remaining D.VII airframes be turned over to the Allies.

The D.VIII monoplane came into service in July, 1918. It was nicknamed the “Flying Razor” by allied pilots. The aircraft had a number of issues early on in development, but eventually became known as an agile aircraft and easy to handle. The type has the place in history as the last type to score an aerial victory in WWI. The D.8 has a truly unique sound due to the rotary engine powering it.

The Sopwith Scout

I was pleasantly surprised to see this aircraft on the flight line when I arrived. The aircraft was still being restored during my previous visits. The official name of the aircraft is listed above, but it is more commonly known as the “Pup”. The type entered service in 1916 and was considered a good airplane to fly, but not an exceptional fighter design. It was outclassed by the larger and more powerful German aircraft.

The SPAD VII

The SPAD VII came into service in late 1916 and early 1917. It was hoped to be the aircraft to end the dominance of the German Albatross over the skies of the battlefront. The type was replacing the nimble and popular Nieuport 11 and Nieuport 16 designs. However, German designs were also rapidly improving. The Spad 7 held the aerial lines and gave the pilots time to develop new tactics with the heavier and more structurally sound airframe. The type was later replaced by the Spad 8 on the front lines. However, the type was well respected and used as a trainer by various countries for many years after the war.

The Fokker Dr.1 and the Black Baron

Likely the most recognized aircraft of WWI is the Fokker Dr. 1 triplane and is synonymous with the German Ace, Manfred Von Richthofen. The type entered service in 1917 and was considerably more maneuverable than existing German designs at the time and was well armed.

Playing the part, the Baron of the Aerodrome is the Black Baron.

The Showdown…

The Black Baron challenged Sir Percy to an aerial duel for the right to the hand of the lovely maiden, Trudy Truelove. The Baron chose the Fokker Dr.1 while Sir Percy chose the Sopwith. In the end, Sir Percy prevailed and married his lady.

The Cast

Take a flight!

Not only do you get to see history while at the Aerodrome, you can also experience history first hand. Prior to the formal air show, and for a short time after, you can purchase a flight aboard the Museum’s 1929 New Standard D-25. The aircraft has seating for up to four passengers and the flight lasts for about 15 minutes.

Around the Aerodrome

The field is full of fun things to look at and enjoy. The day passes quickly, too quickly for my tastes. The day is so action packed that all of sudden the sun is getting low and it is time to go.

If you have never had the chance to experience this fantastic place, you should make a point to visit. The atmosphere is fun and inviting with an equally friendly staff. It is an affordable and entertaining family event. Some times the aircraft lineup changes due to maintenance or other reason. You just never know what exactly will be in the air that day. And that is part of the fun.

I only briefly described the air show and the contents. This time I focused on the aircraft primarily. There is so much more for you to see and do. Come out and see it for yourself!

Next time I plan to see the History of Flight show to change things up. I cannot wait till that day! I will probably enjoy it so much that I may just have to go back the next day!

2019 National Cherry Festival Air Show

The 2019 National Cherry Festival Air Show was held over the scenic Grand Traverse Bay in Traverse City, Michigan on June 28-29. This year, the show featured the USAF Thunderbirds, F-22 Raptor Demo, USAF Heritage Flight, USMC AV-8 Harrier II Demo and the USCG Search And Rescue (SAR) Demo featuring two MH-60 Jayhawk helicopters from Air Station Traverse City.

USAF Thunderbirds

The USAF Thunderbirds were the featured performer of the National Cherry Festival Air Show. This was the first time I have seen the Thunderbirds perform here and the first time over the water. Some of the maneuvers were still as close as a traditional show, while others seemed to be farther. Regardless, it was a beautiful performance and well executed. The Coast Guard Cutter Neah Bay served as the show center line.

USMC AV-8B Harrier II Demo

The AV-8B demo is becoming a rare occurrence with the aircraft type nearing retirement. Although the jet is being replaced in the fleet by the F-35B, the Harrier is still an impressive machine and will be around for a few more years. The Harrier is known for being a loud aircraft while hovering, and over the water was no exception. The high pitch shrill of the air is mind numbing. The aircraft is not known for its overall speed, but it is truly amazing to see the jet go from a standstill hover to just shy of the speed of sound in a matter of less than a minute. It is also amazing to see it slow down to a hover. This ability to take off and land vertically allows it to be deployed by the USMC near the front lines or off of assault carriers to be available for air support in a matter of minutes. This ability to be close to the action is why the Marines insisted on a VTOL variant of the F-35 when replacement of the Harrier was discussed. I am hoping that this was not my last view of this legendary aircraft.

USAF F-22 Raptor Demo

The USAF sent their premier air superiority fighter, the F-22 to perform for the large Cherry Festival audience. The F-22 is now over ten years old, but still amazes me every time it is flying. The aircraft is capable of things that a traditional fighter jet are unable to do. Saturday’s performance was scrubbed after a few maneuvers due to a technical glitch with the aircraft. For the safety of the crew and the thousands of onlookers, it was decided to scratch the rest of the demo, including the Heritage Flight. What we did get to see was still impressive.

USCG SAR Demo

For me, the highlight of the show was the USCG Search and Rescue (SAR) demo. Primarily because it was my first time seeing it performed with the MH-60T Jayhawks. This is an important role that the Coast Guard is responsible for and covers a vast area of space. Air Station Traverse City is responsible for all of Lake Michigan, most of Lake Superior and all of Lake Huron. In total, Air Station Traverse City is responsible for air operations over eight states.

If you have never experienced the National Cherry Festival or the Grand Traverse Bay area of Michigan, you are missing out. The event is a fantastic family affair with a number of attractions that appeal to everyone. Thanks for a great time and I look forward to returning.

A special shout out of gratitude to Susan Wilcox Olson (Media Consultant) and Wayne Moody (Air Show Event Director) for the last second media accommodations which resulted in a fantastic vantage point.