Enjoy the 2020 cruise video from VAQ-130 Zappers. The squadron is part of Air Wing 3, based at NAS Whidbey Island and fly the EA-18 Growler. In August 2020, the squadron returned from its 206-day deployment aboard the USS Dwight D Eisenhower. The deployment broke the record for longest deployment without hitting a port.
VAQ-130 is currently the oldest electronic warfare squadron in the US Navy, with a history dating back to 1968.
On December 7, 2020 the aviation community lost a legend of the industry. Chuck Yeager was an Ace fighter pilot in World War II, a historic test pilot, author and even had some acting experience in movies and TV commercials. When I was growing up, I idolized Mr. Yeager. He was larger than life and was the hero type for an airplane obsessed kid like me growing up in the 1970s and 80s. I read his two autobiography books, I clipped out his advertisements for AC Delco and the F-20 that were in the magazines. He had done it all in the aviation world and was the coolest pilot in the world in my eyes.
I always said if I ever had the chance to meet him, I would do so. I finally had the opportunity to meet him on August 9, 2003. At the time, the Thunder Over Michigan airshow was in its infancy. It was primarily a warbird airshow and would bring in a number of special guests to attract visitors. In 2003, amongst the special guests was Charles “Chuck” Yeager. It was announced that Mr. Yeager would be signing autographs during the Sunday show. I got in line to wait for my turn to meet my childhood hero.
Up to this point, I had never met any of my person celebrity icons. I had mixed feelings about doing so. I was always afraid that I would make a fool of myself, fumbling for something to say or that the celebrity would be rude or different than I expected. My brush with Mr. Yeager confirmed my fears!
In short, Mr. Yeager was rude to me and his personality was not what I had hoped for in meeting my aviation icon. However, I believe that there is an explanation for his actions. While in line, the guy in front of me had a HUGE bag of items. He clearly was at the show for the autographs. As we drew closer to our turn, he started grabbing out his items. A photo, a couple magazine ads, a X-1 die cast plane, etc. Meanwhile, I was in awe seeing the legend in front of me smiling and speaking with the people in front of him. Fast forward a few minutes and I was next in line. I get my item to be signed ready, confirm my camera is working and anxiously wait my turn.
Then the trouble started. I was watching the guy that was in front of me at the table. He started talking to Mr. Yeager and pointing for him to sign this and that. Also do not sign here or put his hand there while signing. Finally, Mr. Yeager yelled at him “stop barking orders and this is the last thing I am signing for you!” The guy packed his items and Mr. Yeager’s assistant asked me to step up. Mr. Yeager was now visually upset.
I handed over my photo and Mr. Yeager asked my name to personalize the photo. “It is an honor to meet you Mr. Yeager” I said. “You are my childhood hero.” Mr. Yeager grunted as a response and personalized my photo. He shook my hand and brushed my photo to the side quickly to move onto the next person. I was terribly disappointed with the experience. Crap…that was not how I wanted my time to go with him. I was in shock at that point. Excited to have met a historical figure, but disappointed.
After time has passed, my feelings have changed about the matter. Many of my aviation friends and colleagues have met Mr. Yeager and expressed their opinion about him. Some positive, some have been negative. I chose to think that the guy in front of me tarnished the experience. He upset Mr. Yeager with his demands and bossy demeanor. Mr. Yeager did not have time to “shake it off” and get back to his normal self. Like I mentioned, most of the people before me were treated friendly and given some time with him. I wish my interaction with him was different, but I consider myself fortunate to have had the experience.
Although my time with Mr. Yeager was brief, I accomplished my goal of meeting him and shook the man’s hand. I still believe him to be an icon of the modern aviation era, and he is still one of my heroes!
The 2018 Brantford Community Charity Airshow took place on August 29, 2018 at the Brantford Municipal Airport. 2018 had several notable changes, including the name and partnership with the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum (CWHM).
Mother Nature did not want to cooperate very well, with low ceilings, dark skies and a complete downpour at the climax of the event. Several aircraft were unable to participate due to poor weather conditions allowing a flight to Brantford. However, the bulk of the performers were able to get some of their displays completed.
Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum DC-3 Dakota
The CWHM DC-3 opened the event with the Hamilton Sport Parachute Team onboard to bring in the colors. The low ceiling did not allow them to jump, but the aircraft made several nice passes. The aircraft displays the the markings of RCAF No. 435 and 436 Squadrons, which operated in Burma during 1944-45 and whose slogan was “Canucks Unlimited”.
Danny Richer’s BAC 147 Strikemaster
The Strikemaster is a retired light attack aircraft designed by the British and also used by several allied air forces. The design is the armed version of the Provost trainer and first flown in 1967. Danny Richer owns several warbird aircraft including the Strikemaster and a T-28 Trojan, and flies out of the Brantford airport.
Commemorative Air Force B-29 Superfortress “FiFi”
The Commemorative Air Force brought their B-29 Superfortress “FiFi” for the only Canadian appearance of the year. FiFi was the lone flying B-29 for a number of years and has been featured in several movies including “The Right Stuff”. The aircraft was rescued from U.S. Navy Proving Ground at China Lake, California and restored to flight. She flew regularly until 2006 when new engines were required. After a long 4-year re-engine project, she returned to flight.
Allied Heavy Iron
In a very rare formation, the B-29 was joined by the CWHM Lancaster. This formation showcased the USAAF and RAF/RCAF’s two largest bombers of WWII. Although similar in size, the Lancaster could carry a larger payload than the American designed B-29. The CWHM Lancaster is the only flying example in North America and is always exciting to see such a rare piece of military history in the sky. The roar of four Merlin engines is also amazing!
RCAF CF-18 Hornet Demo
The RCAF CF-18 Hornet demo team brought the noise with a flat show demonstration of the Hornet. This year’s demo jet is painted to in a celebration of the 60th Anniversary of NORAD.
RCAF Heritage Flight
At the conclusion of the CF-18 demo, the rumble of the Lancaster could be heard in the distance. Unknown to the spectators, the team had special plans to perform the Heritage Flight with the Lancaster! We could not believe our eyes as the two aircraft joined together in formation and made the turn towards the showline. Sadly, the weather also decided to turn into a downpour at the same time. The first pass is captured, but the rain forced the camera gear into the bag. Still, it was a special formation and one I will remember for a long time.
The Snowbirds were able to take to the skies to close the show. The heavy rain from earlier passed and the cloud deck began to rise. The team was still required to perform a flat show, but it is equally impressive as the high show. The variation in the sky can be seen in several photos.
“Doug The Great”
A longtime staple of the ground portion of the Brantford show has been Doug Hunt. He stands out in the crowd for obvious reasons, but really brings a fun element to the show. Doug also resides in Brantford and is a multi-talented performer. Details about his other talents and his world record can be found at his performer website.
Doug is always happy to stop and talk to the kids and take photos. It is hard to determine who is having more fun, the kids taking photos with him or Doug himself. I always enjoy seeing him each year and the kids flocking to see him up close.
Feature photo above by U.S. Navy photo by Lt. JG Douglas Spence.
Enjoy the 2018-2019 cruise video from VFA-102 Diamondbacks. The Diamondbacks currently fly the F/A-18F Super Hornet out of Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni and are one of the forward deployed Super Hornet squadrons of Carrier Air Wing 5. The squadron regularly deploys aboard the USS Ronald Reagan.
Below are photo highlights of the military themed airshow the weekend of June 30 – July 1, 2018. The event technically hosted a traditional airshow as well several days later, with some variation of the performers. This was my favorite show at Battle Creek in several years with a large variety of aircraft and performers.
The Class of ’45
The Class of ’45 is composed of two performers, Scott Yoak performing in the black and chromed P-51D Mustang, and Jim Tobul performing in his F4U Corsair. Both pilots perform solo aerobatics, showing off the impressive handling of these two WWII/Korean War era aircraft. Then the two join up for several impressive formation flying passes.
The stories related to the restoration of these two aircraft are very interesting, as are the biographies of the pilots.
USAF A-10 Warthog Demo Team and Heritage Flight
Battle Creek was home to A-10s for a number of years and it was good to see a Hog in the sky again. Capt. Cody Wilton demonstrated just why the A-10 is still the premier close-air-support aircraft in the world.
Tom Friedkin led the USAF Heritage Flight in P-51 Mustang “Bum Steer”
CAF’s Prowlers of the Pacific
Prowlers of the Pacific was a new act by the Commemorative Air Force (CAF) and is a tribute to the American air war in the Pacific Theatre. The act is a tribute to US Navy and Marine Aviators as well as airmen on the other side.
Canadian Harvard Aerobatic Team
The Hamilton, Ontario based Canadian Harvard Aerobatic Team returned to the Battle Creek skies after a several year absence. The Harvard is a challenging aircraft to fly, let alone in formation aerobatics. The rule of thumb in WWII was that if a cadet could master the SNJ then he/she could handle any of the high performance fighter aircraft of the era.
USN F/A-18 Super Hornet (East Coast Demo Team) and Legacy Flight
The East Coast F/A-18 Super Hornet Demo Team from VFA-106 “Gladiators” showed off the US Navy’s front line strike fighter. The Gladiators serve as the East Coast fleet replacement squadron, and are based at NAS Oceana in Virginia Beach.
One of the traits of the Super Hornet is the amount of vapor that the aircraft creates at high speeds. Below is an example of the upper wing vapes during the photo pass.
After the solo demo, Jim Tobul joined up to lead the Super Hornet in the Legacy Flight.
Solo Civilian Performances
Jerry Conley Early Jet History in “Vampy”
Jerry Conley performed in his de Havilland DH.115 Vampire. The Vampire was designed for the British and was the first single engine jet fighter aircraft. The design was a success and served in the air arm of many nations. The jet is fully acrobatic and has high performance for an aircraft of that era.
USMC MV-22 Osprey
The headliner of the 2018 event was the USMC MV-22 Osprey. The hybrid aircraft takes off like a helicopter and then tilts the engines and rotors to fly like a traditional fixed-wing aircraft. The benefit to this tilt-wing technology is the ability to use the aircraft like a helicopter, with increased performance and economy of a fixed-wing aircraft.
The Marines do not perform a high number of demonstrations, and Battle Creek was selected as one of only a handful of locations for 2018. The demo was flown by a crew from VMM-261 “Raging Bulls” based at MCAS North River, North Carolina. The unit is part of Marine Aircraft Group 26 and the Marine 2nd Aircraft Wing.
Its a wrap…
The 2018 concept of two different style airshows in just a handful of days apart was a real interesting concept and a welcome change of pace. The variety of aircraft and performers over the four airshow days was exhilarating and exceeded expectations. Although the event was unable to draw a jet team in for 2018, the blend of military, warbird and civilian performers made the absence of a jet team go unnoticed.
The 2018 Airshow London took place on September 7-9 at the London International Airport.
This year’s show was memorable for the number of aircraft participating as well as the weather. As you will see below, the various types of aircraft present were impressive. The total amount of aircraft were around 70, and the show was promoted as the largest display of military aircraft in Canada for 2018. The static display area was well done with aircraft all over the airport, with many of the larger aircraft open for tours and pilots near the fighter aircraft. What made this show impressive was the amount of aircraft participating via fly-bys, both from the RCAF and USAF. These fly-bys made seeing the impressive F-22, A-10 and F/A-18E Super Hornet possible.
The oddity of the weekend was the weather. Friday was beautiful, but clouds began to roll in later in the afternoon. It became cloudy for the Friday evening “Hour of Power” event, which was meant to showcase the arrivals of some of the jet aircraft. Saturday’s weather was partly sunny, with the temperatures dropping off significantly. Sunday’s weather was downright terrible, with no sunshine whatsoever and the temperatures were in high 40s and piercing winds. Certainly not the normal weather cycle for that time of year.
Arrivals and Friday Night’s “Hour of Power”
107th Fighter Squadron “Red Devils”
Several A-10 Warthogs from the 107th Fighter Squadron participated in all three days of the event. The jets are based at Selfridge Air National Guard Base in nearby Mt. Clemens, Michigan. Although the aircraft design is 50 years old, the A-10 remains the premier air-to-ground weapon system in the world.
RCAF CC-130 Hercules SAR Demo
A CC-130 Hercules from the 424 Tiger Squadron performed a search and rescue (SAR) demonstration. The SAR mission is extremely important given the vast open space of Canada. The 424 Squadron is based out of CFB Trenton and are the primary search and rescue squadron for the central and eastern coast of Canada. Their coverage ranges from the Canada/USA border all the way to the North Pole, and goes from Quebec City to the Rocky Mountains – an area that covers over 10 million square kilometers! A SAR team can deploy with 30-minutes notice during the week and up to two hours if an incident occurs during the weekend.
USAF F-22 Raptor
Two F-22 Raptors from the 325th Fighter Wing based at Tyndall AFB came to London to participate in the fly-by portion of the show. Since this was not an official demonstration of the jet, we were treated to some afterburner passes and some tight vertical pulls, which produced some nice vapor.
RCAF CF-118 Hornets
Two different CF-18s participated in the show making several fly-by passes with nice vapor and burners.
These jets were from 425 Tac (F) Sqn 3 Wing based at CFB Cold Lake, Alberta.
Paul Keppler’s F-86 Sabre
The F-86 Sabre is painted to represent Capt. James Jabbara, the USAF’s first ace. By the end of the Korean War, Jabbara had downed 15 MiGs, making him a triple ace.
Jet Aircraft Museum’s T-133 Shooting Star “Red Knight”
The Jet Aircraft Museum is based at the London International Airport and their mission is to preserve and display aircraft and other artifacts representing the RCAF from the early years of the jet age RCAF.
The beautifully restored “Red Knight” made its first public appearance at the 2018 show. Just days earlier, it made its first post-restoration flight on August 26th. The jet had spent several years in a full restoration with the generous help of numerous private and corporate donations along with approximately 1200 hours of volunteer labor to put the jet back into pristine condition.
The Red Knight started as an RCAF Training Command solo display of the CT-133 back in early 1958. Later that year, the formal Red Knight made its debut at the 1958 Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto. The jet was refinished into the overall red scheme by the Trenton air maintainers. The Red Knight performed annually through 1969, and 17 different pilots.
The only difference to the original paint scheme is the Maple Leaf logo on the underside. This was added in celebration of the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation and inspired by the 2017 CF-118 Hornet Demonstration Team.
Canadian Forces Skyhawks Parachute Demonstration Team
The Skyhawks are Canada’s official parachute demonstration team. With the low ceilings, the team did not get to participate with full demonstrations. However, the team did fly in the respective flags of Canada and the United States.
USAF F-16 Viper Demonstration Team
The USAF brought the F-16 demonstration team to showcase the multi-role lightweight fighter. Although the Viper has been in service for a number of years, it is still one of the most versatile production aircraft the world.
RCAF 431 Demonstration Squadron – The Snowbirds
The Snowbirds are the Canadian Forces jet team, performing in the CT-114 Tutor.
The civilian performers were represented by Pete McLeod and Mike Tryggvason. Pete McLeod is from the London, Ontario area is is currently a participant in the Red Bull Air Races. Pete flies an Extra 300. Mike flies a Giles 202 is a relative new comer onto the airshow circuit.
RCAF CF-118 Hornet Demonstration Team and Heritage Flight
The theme to the 2018 Demonstration Team is a tribute to commemorating the 60th anniversary of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).
The Hornet demo team joined up with the JAM Museum’s CT-133 Shooting Star and performed an all jet Heritage Flight. Two stunning paint schemes in the sky at the same time!
Enjoy the 2018-2019 cruise video from VFA-41 Black Aces. The Black Aces currently fly the F/A-18F Super Hornet out of NAS Lemoore, and are one of the more iconic squadrons in the US Navy.
VFA-41 CAG Jet
I was able to see the VFA-41 CAG jet while attending the 2019 NAS Lemoore airshow. It was impossible to get a quality photo of the jet due to the placement, but I was able to capture both sides of the tails, which was the only deviation from the standard USN gray paint scheme.
Unlike some squadrons who keep the CAG jet painted similarly for several years, the VFA-41 CAG jet paint scheme has already been redone for 2020. I am eager to see it in person or at least in their next cruise video.
In August, 2018 I had the opportunity to take a ride on the Yankee Air Museum’s B-25D Mitchell. This ride was special in several ways, and it was something I had been dreaming about doing since I was a kid. This specific aircraft was likely the first flying “warbird” I ever encountered. I first saw “Yankee Warrior” back in the mid-1980s at the local Muskegon Air Fair, the main airshow near my home town. Although at the time it was known as “Gallant Warrior”. Every year it seemed to be there, and it was always one I snapped a quick photo of the nose art using my Kodak 110 camera. As my knowledge of WWII history and the B-25’s importance to the war effort increased, so did my desire to fly in one. The dream has finally come true.
Unlike many of the other flying B-25s, this is an early D model. The difference between the early and late models is easily distinguished. On the earlier models, like “Yankee Warrior”, the top turret is located in the rear third of the fuselage, and the tail gun station is merely an observation bubble with a single machine gun. On later models, the turret was moved to just behind the cockpit to allow for waist gunners, and a formal tail gunner’s position was created.
The B-25 was made famous by the “Doolittle Raid” of April, 1942. Sixteen B-25s took off from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet and made the first strikes against mainland Japan. Although the strikes did minimal damage, the impact to the Japanese defense strategy was immense. Additionally, the raid provided a much-needed boost to the morale of the American public.
Yankee Warrior was produced by the North American plant on December 15, 1943 as serial number 43-3634 and was originally destined to be a part of the Royal Air Force (RAF) lend-lease program. Instead the USAAF took possession and assigned it to the 12th Air Force in Corsica, Italy. The aircraft was assigned to the 57th Bomber Wing, 340th Bomber Group, and flew eight combat missions between April and May 1944. The journey to the RAF began on May 12, 1944 when the aircraft was flown back to the United States. The RAF took possession of the aircraft in October 1944 and assigned the airframe to the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Vancouver, British Columbia as a multi-engine trainer. The airframe remained in RCAF service until 1962, and was sold as surplus. After briefly flying in Canadian civil registry, the aircraft was sold to an American and brought to Ohio. Glen Lamont purchased the aircraft from the owner in Ohio in July of 1968 and the registered the aircraft as N3774 with the FAA, the code which remains today. Mr. Gallant had the nose art painted and the aircraft became known as “Gallant Warrior”. In 1988, the fledgling Yankee Air Force (now known as the Yankee Air Museum) purchased the B-25 to add to the museum’s flying collection. The aircraft was later renamed to “Yankee Warrior”.
The day of my flight was warm with minimal overcast skies. My partner for the ride was my daughter, Samantha, along with three other passengers. We were shuttled out to the active side of the airport and given a planeside safety briefing. The briefing was short yet provided all of the safety needs for the aircraft. Me, Samantha and one other passenger were assigned to start the flight in the aft section of the aircraft. Sammy and I took position near the waist windows while the other fella took the tail gunners seat in the very aft of the aircraft behind the top turret. The other two riders started out in the radio operator and bombardier positions in the front of the aircraft.
Once everyone was seated and the safety belts were inspected, the all clear signal was given and the two large R-2600 Double Cyclone radial engines coughed to life. As the engines warmed up, the loud backfires could be heard and felt. The B-25 has a reputation as being a very loud aircraft inside, and it is one I can confirm! The engines are mounted close to the fuselage and have a “short stack” exhaust system. The minimal sound muffling of the engine exhaust lead to many of the aircrews having some degree of hearing loss after numerous flights on the aircraft. Although loud, I loved it. Reluctantly, we placed the ear protection over our ears and waited to taxi for takeoff. After a brief taxi, we were ready to go. The engines were run up to full power and the brakes were released. The Mitchell began to climb as the wheels retracted into the gear nacelles behind the engines. We leveled off and were cleared to explore the other aircrew positions. The fuselage in the Mitchell is narrow, with little room to move easily about.
The real challenge was to move into the forward compartments or stay put. Between the forward cabin and the rear is the bomb bay. The only way between is a small rectangular tunnel that can only be traversed while on your back. I am a big guy, so there was no way I was going to risk getting stuck. However, Sammy swallowed deep and decided to go for it. She climbed up and a few seconds later was into the forward crew compartments. She climbed down into the cockpit area and between the pilot and co-pilot into the bombardier’s position in the glass nose. Also known as the best seat in the house! Meanwhile, I checked out the top turret and went as far as I could to check out the tail gunner area. The other passenger from the front came back and checked out the gunners’ positions while Sammy was up front.
After a few amazing minutes, I got the signal that Sammy was coming back. She arrived fine and had an enormous smile on her face. “Dad is was awesome” she exclaimed with an equally satisfying smile. We tried to talk about her experience, but the interior noise just did not allow for easy conversation.
The signal was sent to get back into our seats and buckle in for landing. A few brief moments later, we touched back down at Willow Run Airport. We pulled back into our parking position and the engines were shut down. A brief calm encapsulated the aircraft. The crew door was opened and we climbed down. There was no doubt that all five passengers were in awe of our experience. Handshakes were exchanged between passengers and crew. Our time with a living piece of history was nearly over.
We took a quick walk around the aircraft for an up-close final inspection. The engines pinged and popped as they cooled. Traces of oil were evident on the engine cowlings, a normal event with radial style engines. We got back on the golf cart and were driven to the inactive area of the airport.
I was quiet. I wanted to listen to Samantha as she told me all about her experience up front. This was her first time in a warbird. It was our first time doing something like this together. It was a special occurrence we shared. We had different experiences. She was awed by the flight and the view. I was transported in time to the 1940s, imagining myself being flown on an important mission. Did I have the guts to do my job, or was this my final flight? Would I get back okay or would I be hurt by enemy gunfire or flak? It is surreal for me to think that these were daily occurrences during the Second World War.
Our ride was arranged by our dear friend and colleague, Kerry J. Newstead, the Canadian Editor of World Airshow News. Although he was originally supposed to be my ride companion, he sacrificed his spot to allow Samantha to experience it with me. Her ride experience ultimately resulted in a published article in World Airshow News. A huge debt of gratitude must also go out to Kevin Walsh, the Executive Director of the Yankee Air Museum, for the amazing support and generous opportunity. I had to wait a number of years to live my dream in a B-25. It was an experience that I will cherish my entire life, and it thrills me that I shared it with my daughter. It was drastically different than I envisioned as a kid, but it was such a fantastic experience. Of the approximately 10,000 B-25s produced, there are only about 100 airframes left, and of those remaining, about 45 are capable of flying. If you’d like to experience a flight in the Yankee Warrior (or one of their other aircraft), check out the Yankee Air Museum’s website for details on how to book a ride for yourself. Take the opportunity if you can, it is an experience that does not disappoint.