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.
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.