Tag Archives: F-22 Raptor Demo

2022 Selfridge ANGB Open House

Selfridge ANGB hosted their open house airshow on July 9-10, 2022. Like many airshows across the country, this one was previously postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the show did not feature a military jet team, the action in the sky was filled with warbirds, two parachute teams and was headlined by the USAF F-22 Raptor Demo.

Misty Blues

The all women’s parachute team, Misty Blues, opened the show each day with the flags of the United States and Canada followed by a large streamer promoting the team’s colors. Afterwards, the ladies walked the crowd line signing autographs and posing for photos with members of the audience.

JN-4 Jenny

The flying portion of the show each opened with the Friends of Jenny LLC‘s JN-4 Jenny. The Jenny is perhaps the most iconic American built aircraft of the early days of flight. It was one of the nation’s first aircraft designed to teach people how to fly, the aircraft synonymous with “barnstorming”, flew the airmail and eventually created what is commercial aviation.

This Jenny is only one of seven known to be left flying in the world today. The Jenny underwent a restoration beginning in 2012 and she took her first flight in many years on October 2, 2013. Many of the components needed to be refabricated, which was done using copies of the original Curtiss blueprints. She is painted to replicate the original Jenny “38262” which was in flying with the Army Air Service and was the first aircraft to fly the US Air Mail from Washington DC to New York City on May 15, 1918.

A-1 Skyraider

Warbird Heritage Foundation brought their AD-1 Skyraider. The AD-1 was designed as a single place to replace the dive bombers (Dauntless and Helldivers) and torpedo planes (Avengers) on the decks of the Navy’s carriers in World War II. The aircraft did not see service until 1946. Although too late to see service during WWII, Skyraiders were the light and medium attack aircraft of the fleet until the mid-1960s, seeing service in the Korean and Vietnam wars.

This particular aircraft is BuNo 09257 and built in 1947. It served with the fleet until 1956 when it was stricken from the inventory. It was purchased in 1982 as surplus and returned to flying condition in 1989. It was acquired by the Warbird Heritage Foundation in 2008.

So, if it is a NAVY plane, why does it wear a USAF livery? The answer is simple, when the Navy retired the planes, the USAF needed an aircraft that could loiter in a combat zone a long time, carry a large amount of ordinance and serve as an escort for the combat rescue helicopters. They remained in service with the USAF until the early 1970s.

Greg Colyer – Ace Maker Airshow

Greg Colyer started the jet warbird portion of the airshow with the “Ace Maker” T-33 Shooting Star. The T-33 was the nation’s first jet trainer. It saw service with the USAF, Navy and multiple allied nations into the 1970s. Many of the current versions flying, including “Ace Maker” are license built Canadair variants which had a more powerful engine.

Greg earned his pilot’s license while serving with the US Army. After leaving the Army he continued to fly and worked as an Air Traffic Controller. He continued to fly and performed an occasional airshow. Life changed in 2007 when he took his first flight in a T-33. Every since he wanted to own and perform in a T-33. His dream came true when he purchased the original “Ace Maker” and began performing at airshows across the United States. He now owns three T-33s and is working on developing a 2-ship T-33 team with “Scratch” Mitchell, a former RCAF CF-18 Hornet demo pilot.

AT-6 Texan – Tuskegee Airmen Tribute – Lt. Col. Jefferson

The Tuskegee Airmen Museum flew a tribute to Lt. Col. Alexander Jefferson, a native of Detroit, Michigan. He graduated from pilot training in 1944 and did his combat training at Selfridge Field. He went on to serve with the 332nd Fighter Group, 301st Fighter Squadron “Red Tails” in Ramitelli, Italy. He was shot down on his 18th mission and was a prisoner of war for eight months in Poland. Mr. Jefferson continued to serve in the Air Force Reserves until 1969 with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He passed away on June 22, 2022.

P-51D Mustang “Swamp Fox” – RT Dixon

RT Dixon performed an aerobatic display in his beautiful P-51D Mustang “Swamp Fox”. In addition to the aerobatic display, he did a formation pass with the AT-6 Texan as part of the tribute to Lt. Col. Jefferson. The P-51 was another aircraft the Tuskegee Airmen flew during WWII.

Swamp Fox was delivered to the USAAF on May 7, 1945, serial number 44-74202. She was too late to see service during WWII and served stateside in various roles and units until September, 1957 when she was removed from the inventory as surplus. She began a restoration in 2007 in Chino, California and flew again in 2012. The markings are those of Lt. Will Foard, 364th Fighter Squadron, 357th Fighter Group, 8th Air Force, based out of Leiston, England. Mr. Foard was able to see his restored “Swamp Fox” in December, 2012 and took flight in her with Robert Dixon Sr. piloting.

F-100 Super Sabre – Dean Cutshall

Early Vietnam era flight was represented by Dean Cutshall performing in his F-100F Super Sabre. The “Hun” as the Super Sabre was nicknamed, was America’s first aircraft capable of sustained super sonic flight. Dean’s version was built in 1958 as 56-3948, and is a two-seat variant. She flew in various roles for the USAF until 1973 when she was transferred to the Turkish Air Force. In Turkey, she saw combat in the invasion of Cyprus and was eventually retired to the desert in Turkey where she sat idle for 10 years. She was sold by the Turks and eventually brought back to the United States who intended to restore it. The owner failed to have the work done and eventually sold it to Dean. He and his crew ( Paul Swick and Jim “Prez” Prezbindowski) restored it including a new engine and numerous internal and external updates. She was returned to her USAF livery, although wearing civil registration N2011V. The Hun now resides in Fort Wayne, Indiana and is one of only several known flying examples left in the world. Of those known, Mr. Cutshall’s is the only one that flies regularly.

A-4 Skyhawk

The Warbird Heritage Foundation‘s second aircraft participating in the show was their A-4B Skyhawk. The Skyhawk replaced the AD-1 Skyraider on the decks of the Navy’s carrier fleet as the primary light bomber. The A-4 was extremely popular amongst the pilots and served in a number of roles for the Navy, Marines and numerous allied air arms. The aircraft’s agility and high subsonic speed made it an ideal aircraft to serve in other roles such as the Navy’s advanced trainer, adversarial aircraft (the aerial co-star of the original Top Gun film) and the mount of the Navy’s Blue Angels flight demonstration team from 1974 to 1986.

This particular Skyhawk is an early “B” model, built in 1958 and served with the US Navy until stricken from the records in February, 1970. The airframe’s history seems to be hazy from 1970-1980, but it appears she was serving as a technical trainer during that period. She was rescued from that role in 1987 and restoration to flight was initiated. She flew briefly in 1989 and then went on display at the EAA Oshkosh Museum. Warbird Heritage Foundation acquired the aircraft in 2007 and again restored her to flight status. Her first flight took place in 2009 and is now seen regularly at airshows across the Midwest region of the United States.

US Army Golden Knights

US Customs & Border Patrol Demo

The aerial branch of the SE Michigan branch of the US Customs & Border Patrol is stationed at Selfridge. They performed a demonstration of a rope extraction.

Team Selfridge Demo

Selfridge Air National Guard Base is the second largest joint Reserves bases in the United States. The primary occupant is the 127th Wing of the Michigan Air National Guard, with aircraft assets including the KC-135 Stratotanker, A-10 Thunderbolt II (Warthog) and C-130 Hercules. Additionally, the United States Coast Guard uses the facility for MH-65 Dolphin helicopter operations as Air Station Detroit. Other operators include components of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force Reserve, and Army Air National Guard, operating CH-47 Chinooks.

Czech-Mate Team

Michael Terfehr of 45 North Aviation leading the way in the T-33, Ron Staley in the blue L-39 and Scott Gusakov in the “Tumbling Goose” L-39.

The team formed in 2019 and primarily performs in the Midwest, with the aircraft being based in Michigan. All members of the team belong to the Classic Jet Aircraft Association and the Red Star Pilots Association. The L-39 Albatross is the worlds most numerically popular jet warbird at this time.

USAF C-17 Globemaster III Demo (East Coast)

The USAF C-17 East Coast Demo Team brought the huge Globemaster III to Selfridge. The team is based at Joint Base Charleston South Carolina. Although a large cargo aircraft, the pilots state that it handles like a fighter aircraft and is quite agile.

The C-17 began operations in 1993 with the USAF and is the primary medium cargo and troop transport. The aircraft is designed to to use short runways and allows for a large payload. The storage area can be configured to handle a number of different types of cargo, including seats, palletized cargo, and tracked vehicles.

RCAF CF-18 Hornet Demo

Our Canadian allies were represented by the CF-18 Hornet Demonstration Team. Captain Jesse “Modem” Haggart-Smith is the team’s demonstration pilot. Modem earned his wings in 2016 and has over 600 hours in the Hornet. The CF-18 is Canada’s primary fighter aircraft and the RCAF routinely deploys internationally to support allied nations and perform security duties requested by the United Nations.

Sadly, the CF-18 was only able to perform on Saturday. While the team brought two aircraft (standard for the airshow industry), both were subject to maintenance issues on Sunday.

USCG MH-65C Dolphin Demo

Selfridge is home to USCG Air Station Detroit. The MH-65 Dolphin is the assigned duties such as search and rescue, law enforcement and homeland security missions. Air Station Detroit has a large area of operations that include southern portion of Lake Huron, Lake St. Clair, Lake Erie, and Lake Ontario. In total, the area covers 1,100 miles of shoreline from Saginaw Bay, MI to the St. Lawrence Seaway.

USAF F-22 Raptor Demo

The feature performance of the 2022 show was the USAF F-22 Raptor. Maj. Joshua “Cabo” Gunderson provided a high energy demonstration of America’s premier air-superiority fighter.

Around The Field

Selfridge had a nice static display, but still small compared to prior years.

VAQ-131 Lancers EG-18G Growler

The static display highlight for me had to be the pair of Growlers from VAQ-131. The unit is stationed at NAS Whidbey Island, Washington. Seeing their CAG aircraft was great!

2022 Space Coast International Airshow

The 2022 Space Coast International Airshow was held on May 21-22 at the Space Coast Regional Airport. The show had several highlights including the F-22 Raptor demo and the EA-18 Growler demo. The airshow announced that the static display was the largest in the show’s history. Most of the static aircraft were from the Valiant Air Command’s museum. Static highlights for me included the F-14 Tomcat, Canberra and F-4 Phantom II.

SOCOM PARA-COMMANDOS

The show openers were the SOCOM Para-Commandos, a joint unit comprised of active duty Army Special Forces, Navy SEALS, Air Force Combat Controllers and Marine Raiders.

John Black Aerobatics

Local performer, John Black, flies his Super Decathlon in an aerobatic routine. John retired from the US Air Force as a Lt. Colonel and flew F-15 Eagles for the Florida Air National Guard.

Valiant Air Command Warbirds

Three of Valiant Air Command‘s warbirds participated in the show. B-25 Mitchell “Killer Bee”, N2S Stearman, and C-47 Skytrain “Tico Belle”

Marchetti S.211

Doug Matthews piloted his Marchetti S.211 for his final public displays. This was my first time seeing this little trainer jet. Looks like a fun ride!

Army Aviation Heritage Foundation “The Sky Soldiers”

The Army Aviation Heritage Foundation brought three of their Vietnam veteran aircraft to perform. Two UH-1 Hueys and the AH-1 Cobra. Besides performing, rides were also available for purchase. These aircraft can be heard from a long distance and perhaps no other sound is as distinctive as those from these two types of helicopters.

A-10 Thunderbolt II (Warthog)

Two A-10s from the 76th Fighter Squadron “Vanguards” participated. The 76th is stationed at Moody AFB in Georgia and is part of the 476th Fighter Group. The unit has its origins with the original “Flying Tigers” and the “FT” tail code along with the shark mouth on the nose are a tribute to that legacy. Saturday’s performance featured both jets in flight, while Sunday only one of the jets flew while the other was in the static display area.

USN EA-18 Growler Legacy Demo Team

One of the newer demo teams on the airshow circuit is the EA-18 Growler team. Traditionally the display is a 2-ship performance. However for the entire weekend, the second jet was down due to a mechanical issue. Saturday’s display was flown by Flt. Lt. Tom “Fogo De Chao” Budd (an exchange pilot from the RAAF) and Lt. Brandon “Fat Amy” Baker. Sunday’s performance was flown by Lt. Eddie “Ham” Desch and Lt. Kelsey “DIP” Daucher (a graduate of Florida Institute of Tech, located in nearby Melbourne, FL).

Legacy Flight

Stuart Milson piloted Cavanaugh Flight Museum‘s AD-5W (EA-1E) Skyraider. This Legacy Flight was special since the formation included two electronic warfare aircraft. The museum’s Skyraider was delivered to the Navy in 1955 and served in VAW-12 “Bats” until 1960. The airframe was then transferred to VAW-11 until it was retired from service in 1963. The airframe is painted in the scheme it wore while serving in VAW-12. In addition to the Skyraider, Stuart Milson performs the heritage flight in numerous Navy warbirds including the Corsair, Hellcat and Bearcat.

Buck Roetman – Wild Horse Aviation

Buck Roetman founded Wild Horse Aviation in 2006 and is a modified Pitts S2S aircraft. The routine is a high-energy performance that thrills up high and down low to the surface. Buck has flown for over 35 years and has over 13,500 hours of experience. He began performing at airshows in 1998. In addition to flying, he also serves as an Aerobatic Competency Examiner for the International Council of Air Shows (ICAS).

USAF F-22 Raptor Demo

Maj. Joshua “Cabo” Gunderson shredded the skies in the F-22 Raptor. With the area’s high humidity, the jet made plenty of vapor clouds. The Raptor demo is simply amazing since the jet is so powerful and utilizes thrust vectoring. Even though I have seen this demo many times now, it continues to amaze me with the level of control and power available at any given second.

Heritage Flight

Stuart Milson also performed the Heritage Flight in P-51D Mustang “Brat III” from Cavanaugh Flight Museum. The museum’s P-51 was manufactured in 1944 and shipped to England. It was assigned to the 9th Air Force, 370th Fighter Group, 401st Fighter Squadron, and was flown by Lt. Hjalmar Johnsen.

2022 Heritage Flight Training Conference

The 2022 Heritage Flight Training Course took place at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base the first week of March. The aircraft and personnel began to arrive March 1 and flying operations were conducted between March 3 to March 6.

The USAF Heritage Flight is a formation flight of modern military aircraft with aircraft from World War II, Korea or Vietnam. The formations may include two aircraft and may be as large as four aircraft. The formations serve as a salute to our nation’s aerial air power and rich aviation history. Additionally, the formation serves as a living memorial to the men and women who have served – or are currently serving in our armed forces.

Although the formations look pretty simple, training for the crews, both USAF and civilian, is absolutely necessary. Training includes formations, timing and safety.

The Warbirds

This year saw a much smaller variety of aircraft attend, with only P-51s and a lone F-86 Sabre. Although this may seem disappointing to some, the collection of aircraft was still impressive.

A-10 Thunderbolt II (Warthog) Demo Team

Major Hayden “Gator” Fullam is the A-10 demo team pilot and commanding officer of the team. The demo is part of the 354th Fighter Squadron “Bulldogs” and is based at Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, Arizona. The A-10 is the USAF’s dedicated close air support aircraft and still unrivaled in the world despite being designed in the early 1970s. Although its official name is Thunderbolt II, the nickname “Warthog” is universally accepted and used by the pilots and maintainers.

The team usually brings two jets to an airshow, a specially painted “demo” jet and a spare from the available pool of squadron aircraft. The demo jet is currently painted in a Southeast Asia camouflage scheme, a tribute to the close air support aircraft of the Vietnam era. Sadly, the demo jet was not used either day I visited the conference.

2-Ship Heritage Flight with P-51 Mustang

In this session, Maj. Fullam flies with Bruce “Doc” Winter in his P-51D Mustang “Happy Jack’s Go Buggy”. The routine was flown twice, allowing each pilot the opportunity to lead the formation.

The practice also included a variation of the final break, which includes a turn into the opposite aircraft, which appears to be a cross-over, or a turn away (split break) from the opposite aircraft.

F-16 Fighting Falcon (Viper) Demo Team

Captain Aimee “Rebel” Fiedler is the newly appointed demo pilot for the Viper Demo Team. The demo is part of the 55th Fighter Squadron, located at Shaw AFB in Sumter, South Carolina.

Since 2020, the demo jet has been affectionately known as Venom, with the USAF applying special snake markings on the jet. Many other countries have applied special paint schemes to their demo aircraft, and this has been a welcomed addition by the USAF.

2-Ship Heritage Flight with F-86 Sabre

This session is an example of a multiple jet formation, two very successful USAF aircraft, the F-16 Viper and F-86 Sabre. The F-86 Sabre “HELL-ER Bust X” is owned by Comanche Fighters, and is piloted by Dan Friedkin. Mr. Friedkin is the founder and chairman of the Air Force Heritage Flight Foundation, the nonprofit organization that funds and supports the USAF Heritage Flight.

Like the A-10 demo, the routine was performed twice, with each respective jet taking turns leading the formation.

F-35A Lightning II Demo Team

Major Kristin “Beo” Wolfe is the demo pilot and commanding officer of the F-35A demo team. The team is part of the 421st Fighter Squadron, based at Hill AFB, Utah.

4-Ship Heritage Flight with 3 P-51 Mustangs

TF-51 Mustang “Bum Steer”
P-51D Mustang “Fragile But Agile” – owned by Comanche Fighters
P-51D Mustang “Double Trouble Two” – owned by Tom Friedkin

Like the other demos, the formations focused on the three respective P-51s each sharing a turn leading the formation. The others would assume left and right wing.

I have to admit that of all four demo teams, the F-35 team seems to be having the most fun. Maj. Wolfe got out of the cockpit with a smile on her face and congratulated the entire team planeside after each performance. I like seeing that kind of mutual respect and a close team.

F-22 Raptor Demo Team

Major Joshua “Cabo” Gunderson is the demo pilot and commanding officer of the F-22 demo team. The team is part of the 1st Fighter Wing, based at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia. The Raptor is the USAF’s air superiority fighter, and is widely considered the most capable fighter plane in the world.

3-Ship Heritage Flight with 2 P-51 Mustangs

P-51D Mustang “Val-Halla” owned by the Heritage Flight Museum and piloted by Greg Anders.
P-51D Mustang “Dolly/Spam Can” owned by Planes of Fame and piloted by Steven Hinton Jr.

The formation flew the routine three times. Each Mustang led the formation, with the final time having the F-22 lead.

“Practice Makes Perfect”

Some of the formations above may seem distant and out of place. However, these practice flights provide the training and experience necessary to master the formations seen at airshows and events across the country. By the end of the training syllabus, the formations are sharp and what you come to expect of the Heritage Flight. It was very neat to see the process and progress during the time at Davis-Monthan.

Thank You

I have to give a shout out to my friend Craig for suggesting this adventure (and the Blue Angels Winter Training trip). I also wish to thank his friend and now my new friend, Brad Bowen, for sponsoring us onto the base. Without it, the coverage and our experience of the ACC Heritage Flight Conference would be much different. Thanks fellas for a couple of great days and a memorable experience!

2021 Thunder Over New Hampshire

Pease ANGB located in Portsmouth, New Hampshire hosted the 2021 Thunder Over New Hampshire show on September 11-12. This was the base’s first show in ten years and included a historic first flight demo of the KC-46A Pegasus tanker which are stationed at the base.

Show Opener: USSOCOM Para-Commandos, Mike Wiskus and RI ANG C-130

The anthem performance opened the show with the USSOCOM Para-Commandos jumping from a Rhode Island ANG C-130 and Mike Wiskus providing the traditional airshow opening.

F-35A Lightning II – Vermont ANG

“The Green Mountain Boys” of the Vermont Air National Guard’s 134th Fighter Squadron provided the “sound of freedom” as the anthem concluded. They are the first Air National Guard unit to fly the F-35A and operate out of the Burlington ANGB.

Greg “Wired” Colyer – T-33 Shooting Star

Greg Colyer of Ace Maker Airshows brought his beautiful T-33 Shooting Star “Ace Maker” (N933GC). The T-33 is the trainer variant of the F-80 Shooting Star, and went on to serve for many years as the advanced trainer for the United States and many other allied nations.

Rob Holland

Nashua, New Hampshire native Rob Holland performed in his MXS-RH. Rob is the current US National Aerobatic Champion (10 consecutive years). Learn more about Rob Holland and his amazing custom MRX aircraft at Ultimate Airshows.

USAF F-22 Raptor

Major Joshua “Cabo” Gunderson piloted the F-22 Raptor. The F-22 Raptor demo is part of the 1st Fighter Wing, operating from Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia.

Scott Yoak P-51 Mustang “Quick Silver” aerobatics

Scott Yoak performed an aerobatic display in his P-51 Mustang known as “Quick Silver” (NL51HY). Quick Silver was restored over several years by his father, Bill Yoak, whom brought the aircraft to better than factory new when the restoration was complete. More information about the aircraft and its story can be found at the Quick Silver Website.

Mike Wiskus Aerobatics

Mike Wiskus performed a full display in his Pitts S-1-11B known as the “Super Stinker”. Mike is set to retire from airshows after the 2021 season.

New Hampshire ANG KC-46 Pegasus Demonstration

The 157th Air Refueling Wing located at Pease ANGB in Portsmouth, New Hampshire flew the first public demonstration of the USAF’s newest aerial refueling tanker, the KC-46A Pegasus. The unit currently operates 12 of the aircraft and are the only Air National Guard Unit assigned the aircraft.

USAF Thunderbirds

The USAF Thunderbirds were the feature act of the afternoon. The display was shortened due to an issue with the 5 jet. Maj. Curran landed and immediately went to a ready two-seater, and rejoined the display for the delta maneuvers.

Around the Airfield

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!

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.