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.
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.
Enjoy the 2019 cruise video footage from the oldest squadron in the US Navy, the VFA-14 Tophatters. This video also celebrates the squadron’s 100th anniversary. The “Lids” are based out of NAS Lemoore.
My interaction with the Lids Centennial Jet
I was fortunate to see the Centennial CAG and XO jets while at NAS Lemoore open house/airshow. Both of the “color” jets have some great footage in the video. The squadron also had some great geedunk for sale!
The third annual TBM Avenger Reunion took place on May 19, 2018 at the Illinois Valley Regional Airport in Peru, Illinois. The event is hosted and organized by TBM owner, Brad Deckert. What started out in 2016 as an Avenger fly-in and workshop has morphed into a first class warbird airshow that retains a fly-in style vibe.
On the surface, it seems as though the name would suggest strictly TBM Avengers, but that is not the case. The show includes numerous other aircraft from World War II, Korea and Vietnam wars. The ramp area is wide open allowing spectators to get up close and personal with the aircraft. The aircraft owners and support crew are usually right alongside to answer questions about the aircraft or the type’s history.
All throughout the day, aircraft of all types arrive for the fly-in or to participate in the flying portion of the show. While not looking skyward, reasonably priced vendors are available for meals and souvenirs. Fixed wing aircraft and helicopter rides are available onsite as well.
Housekeeping: The Avenger is a Grumman plane, and is known as a “TBF.” Why is this a “TBM” Reunion?
The Avenger was originally designed and manufactured by Grumman. Grumman built Avengers were designated the TBF. When the successor fighter to the F4F Wildcat was designed by Grumman, the F6F Hellcat, the Navy immediately placed an order for them. Since Grumman could not produce both the Avenger and Hellcat simultaneously, General Motors Eastern Division began production of the Avengers. These GM-built Avengers were designated “TBM”. General Motors went on to produce 7,546 Avengers, with the most prominent version being the TBM-3E variant.
All of the aircraft that participated in the reunion were TBM built aircraft, and I believe all of the flying Avengers world wide are also currently TBM versions. Hence the logical connection to call the event a TBM Reunion/Gathering.
The Main Event: Eleven Avengers!
Brad Deckert has devoted his passion and resources into his TBM. Brad started the annual “gathering” (now known as the “reunion”)as a way for the Avenger community to come together. The owners can swap information and knowledge with each other, and the airshow allows them to show off their aircraft. The show is also a fantastic tribute to all of the local veterans.
Any event that gathers eleven of the same type of warbird aircraft is going to be impressive! The event brought together TBMs that are frequently seen on the airshow circuit and several that are more uncommon at public events.
I have done my best to list the owner’s name and somehow identify each individual participating TBM. If I have something wrong, please send me a note and I will correct it!
Perhaps one of the most under represented contributions of WWII is the role of the escort carriers. These smaller carriers traveled with the convoys to protect them from air, surface and submarine threats.
The Avenger played a huge role in the large and small naval battles, including the incredibly important battle for the North Atlantic. Convoys of allied ships shuttled supplies and troops from North America to allied ports in England and continental Europe. These convoys were targeted by German U-Boat submarines and losses were running up quickly due to the wolf pack hunting style of the subs. If the convoys could not get supplies to Europe, the fate of the ETO may have been different. The escort carriers equipped with Avengers played a vital role in the success of the battle for the shipping lanes of the North Atlantic.
Tim Savage’s TBM is painted in the scheme worn by allied aircraft used in the North Atlantic region. The effectiveness of the paint scheme is easy to appreciate and see. Ultimately, the Avenger dropped more tonnage than any other naval aircraft, and sank numerous surface ships and is credited with 30 enemy submarines.
Brad & Jane Deckert’s “T83” – NL81865
The Deckert’s TBM saw combat in World War II during the Okinawa campaign with the Marines of VMTB-34, flying off the carrier USS Vella Gulf. She served with the Navy until 1956 and was subsequently used to fight forest fires in Canada. More information, including flights and appearances can be found on their website.
Charlie Cartledge’s “Delta 95” – NL436GM
Lake Erie Warbirds‘s TBM-3E rolled off the assembly line in Trenton, NJ in August, 1945. However, the aircraft never saw service during WWII. She was stricken from the Navy’s records in 1956 and subsequently used as a fire bomber until the 1960s. Her original flying career ended for awhile, being used for spare parts and as a wind machine for product testing. Thankfully, she was spared additional “abuse” and flying restoration began in 1985.
Tom Buck’s “George Bush” – NL683G
Tom Buck, a member of EAA Warbird Squadron 4, brought his TBM painted in the livery of President George HW Bush’s Avenger. Then Lt. Bush was flying for VT-51. On September 2, 1944, Lt. Bush’s Avenger was badly damaged while on a mission, and was forced to bailout near Chichi Jima. He was rescued and went on to received the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Michael Kopp’s “Ida Red” – NL9584Z
Ida Red is another example of a North Atlantic paint scheme. Ida is a TBM-3E variant and was number 2701 off of the assembly line. After her US Navy service, she was sold and used on the west coast as a fire bomber. Around 1996 she was purchased by David Tinker and relocated to Michigan where she frequently participated in airshows around the Midwest. Ida had been absent from events for several years, and it was great to see this familiar air frame back in the air.
Commemorative Air Force – Missouri Wing’s “VT-87”- N5264V
Commemorative Air Force Missouri Wing‘s TBM was received by the Navy in May, 1945. She later served as a trainer during the Korean War with VS-27. After she was declared surplus, she was used as a fire bomber until 1977. The Missouri Wing obtained the aircraft in 2000 from a private owner in Florida.
Heritage Flight Foundation’s “IBM” – N85650
The Heritage Flight Foundation operates out of Westerly, Rhode Island and operates a distinct model of the TBM compared to the others in attendance. Their Avenger has the tail configured for radar operations.
“What is that Turkey all about?”
The Avenger is affectionately known in the Navy as the “Turkey”! Like all nicknames, the true origin is never completely known. Here are the two that I have found:
On carriers that operated both the F4F Wildcat and TBF Avenger, the performance difference between these two aircraft is quite significant. Some say the nickname comes from the size and maneuverability difference of the Avenger while landing. When the gear and flaps were down to land, an Avenger was much like a real life flying turkey, ungainly and awkward.
The second explanation is much simpler. The Avenger is powered by a Curtiss-Wright R-2600, a very large 14-cylinder radial engine. A radial engine is cooled via airflow of the engine while in flight. However, when on the ground, the engine cowling has large flaps that can be extended to help vent some of the hot air. When open, these flaps look like a turkey’s tail feathers.
Both origin stories seem accurate. I will leave it to you to decide which is correct!
Commemorative Air Force – Rocky Mountain Wing’s “309” – NL53503
Paul Keppler and Jeff Kaney displayed their aircraft and performed a short dogfight demo. Paul’s F-86 Sabre is painted in the livery of James Jabara, the first Korean War ace and first USAF ace.
Jeff Kaney’s MIG-17 is painted in an artic splinter type scheme and is quite distinctive.
Wings of the North’s F4U-4 Corsair
Wings of the North brought their beautiful F4U-4 down to the event and made several notable photo passes. Arguably, the Corsair is one of the most iconic American fighter aircraft of the WWII era, and is beloved in the warbird community. The display also included some aerobatic maneuvers. There is just something special about the sound of the Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp engine!
Tim Savage’s A-26 Invader “Silver Dragon” – NL99420
Tim Savage brought two of his aircraft to the event. Certainly the most colorful aircraft on the field, his beautiful A-26B Invader, “Silver Dragon”. This particular A-26 is configured with six .50 caliber machine guns in the nose for assault/strafing missions.
Although not as immediately recognized as the B-25, a similar mission aircraft, the Invader continued to serve the USAF in the Korean and Vietnam wars. The A-26 is starting to become more popular in the warbird collector community with greater numbers of flyable air frames returning to flight status.
Tim, and now his son Job, are well known in the warbird community and their passion for warbirds is contagious.
John O’Connors AU-1 Corsair – N965CV
John O’Connor surprised the crowd with several passes of his newly restored AU-1 Corsair (actually an F4U-7). The AU-1 variant of the Corsair was designed to serve as a low-level fighter-bomber, and had additional weapons hard-points added. A fully loaded AU-1 weighed approximately 20% more than an F4U-4 variant!
Sadly, the aircraft is now back in the repair shop after an accident on takeoff a few months after this event. Fingers are crossed to see her in the air again soon.
Michael Gillian’s FM-2 Wildcat – N909WJ
Mike Gillian’s FM-2 (a GM built version of the Grumman designed Wildcat) is an example of an aircraft that attends many smaller airshows and fly-in style gatherings. His aircraft is in beautiful condition and is a prime example of the early US Navy and Marine fighter aircraft of early WWII.
The Wildcat was considered inferior to the Japanese Zero at the start of the war. However, aerial tactics improved as did the skill of the Aviators and soon there after, the Wildcat could effectively fly and defeat the Zero. Grumman later improved the design and the mighty F6F Hellcat was born. The Wildcat held the line while American designers and manufacturers made fighters that could meet or exceed the performance of the Zero. The Wildcat is a a fairly rare breed these days, and it is a treat to see this Naval Aviation icon.
T-6 Texan & SNJs
Around the field
Usually, general aviation aircraft do not interest me much unless I am going flying. However, this Cessna 195 is one sharp bird!
You just never know what will show up…!
A pleasant and unexpected surprise to see was this lovely F-86 on static display. Having two F-86s at a show is amazing these days, and this one is extra special. This is the oldest flying F-86 in the world, and may be the oldest jet currently flying in the world (this is always debated, hence the emphasis on “may be”).
This is an early F-86A Sabre, and was the 5th off North American’s Inglewood, California assembly line. The aircraft, formerly serial number 48-178, served with the US Air Force and was destined to become a “gate guard” to end her flying days. Instead, she was sold in 1970 and made airworthy again using parts from several other F-86A air frames. She was a regular on the US airshow circuit until 1990, when the aircraft was again sold and exported to England. There, she continued airshow flight demonstrations until around 2015 when she was sold again and returned to the United States.
Recently, the jet was acquired by Heritage Aero, Inc. and returned to flight worthy status again for a collector client. The first flight back in the US occurred in October, 2015 in Rockford, IL.
What a fantastic, and unexpected treat to see this piece of FLYING history! Sadly, she did not participate in the flying portion of the show, but it was still exhilarating to see an aircraft of some historic magnitude on the ramp. Hopefully the next time is in the air!
This is gathering and reunion a truly unique experience these days. If you are a warbird fan, this is an event you should not miss. Details for the next Avenger Reunion can be found on the web at https://tbmreunion.org/
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.
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
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!
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.
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.
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 “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!
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.
NAS Lemoore opened its doors to the public September 21-22, 2019 for their first airshow since 2011. This was my first time out to NAS Lemoore and the base was nothing like I expected – especially for a Navy base. The base is located in the heart of California’s Central Valley, and is a huge complex. The base is so large that it has two separate areas. One is the command portion, and the other is the operations section. Unlike the other military bases I have been to, there is no surrounding city. The base is actually in the middle of farm land, literally in the middle of nowhere. NAS Lemoore and “Nowhere” turned out to be an oasis of excitement and an excellent experience.
The show was headlined by the Navy’s Blue Angels and also included performances by the Patriot Jet Team, demos by the F-15 Eagle and F-35C Lightning II, a tactical demonstration by aircraft of the fleet, civilian warbird performances by Skyhawk 518, Greg Colyer in his T-33 “Ace Maker” and CAF SoCal Wing brought their F6F Hellcat, P-51 Mustang, F8F Bearcat, Zero and PBJ-1J Mitchell. The static display was full of aircraft from the base’s squadrons except VFA-25 and VFA-86, which were deployed. The fleet’s newest aircraft, the F-35C Lightning II, was on display both in the air and on static display with aircraft from VFA-125 and VFA-147.
THE FLEET AIR POWER DEMO
The fleet air power demo included aircraft from VFA-2 Bounty Hunters, VFA-151 Vigilantes, VFA-14 Top Hatters, VFA-125 Rough Raiders (Saturday only) and VFA-147 Argonauts (Sunday only).
F-35C LIGHTNING II DEMO
The Navy surprised the crowd with the first public F-35C Lightning II demo. Although not officially a formal demonstration yet, the routine used is the prototype for the 2020 airshow season which is rumored to be the first official year of the Navy’s F-35C Demo Team. The aircraft is powerful and the display was very aggressive with numerous afterburner passes and high-g turns. The F-35 certainly has to be the loudest jet currently flying. No complaints from me though. I love the sound of Freedom’s Thunder.
COMMEMORATIVE AIR FORCE – SOCAL WING
Commemorative Air Force – SoCal Wing brought several of their warbirds to NAS Lemoore for display and participation in the flying portion of the show. The aircraft included the F6F Hellcat, F8F Bearcat, P-51 Mustang, A6M Zero and PBJ Mitchell. The aircraft flew multiple passes, including solos and several different formations. A top notch collection showcased by pilots that know how to show them off.
US NAVY LEGACY FLIGHT
The Navy’s Legacy Flight was performed by two F/A-18 Super Hornets from VFA-122 Flying Eagles and Rich Sugden flying his FJ-4B Fury. The Fury is the only flying example of the type. The aircraft was damaged after a wheels up landing several weeks later and will require a lengthy repair period.
F-15C EAGLE – CALIFORNIA AIR NATIONAL GUARD
Perhaps the biggest surprise was the F-15 Eagle demo flown on Saturday. California Air National Guard’s 144th Fighter Wing presented their specially marked F-15 for the occasion. The paint scheme is a celebration of the unit’s 75th Anniversary. It was AWESOME to see and hear the mighty F-15 again. Once a staple of the US airshow circuit, seeing an F-15 is becoming extremely rare and almost non-existent in the air.
PATRIOT JET TEAM
This was the first time I saw the Patriot Jet Team and was extremely surprised at how much I enjoyed their demo. The team is made up of former USAF Thunderbirds and USN Blue Angels pilots. Accordingly, I expected a show similar to the military teams. However, the show was more like a performance by the European military jet teams and included colored smoke. The flight performances were well executed and had an equally well done narration. I am now a huge fan of the Patriot Jet Team!
US NAVY BLUE ANGELS
What can I write that has not already been said a million times prior about the Blue Angels? Nothing…so check these images out and see a brief glimpse of the talent and skill that make them arguably the most popular military jet team in the world! FLY NAVY!
NAS LEMOORE RESCUE
Besides hosting the Navy’s West Coast fighter jet squadrons, the Navy also has several MH-60 Seahawks based at NAS Lemoore for rescue purposes. These Naval Aviators provide assistance locating and retrieving downed flyers when a tragedy occurs. However, these crews also help the local first responders when necessary. The local area is mountainous and relatively uninhabited. The unit’s skill set is ideal to assist when local resources are limited and time is of the essence.
The NAS Lemoore Seahawk crews provided an example of a search and rescue (SAR) demo, including a narration of why certain techniques are used. Well done Sailors! FLY NAVY!
Kent Pietch is likely my favorite civilian performer on the circuit. Sure, I have seen his act many times, I have photographed for his team, and I have ridden along in the vehicle he lands on when performing the truck top landing. Yet, the talent and execution make this one hell of a performance – every time! Personally, Kent is a class act and after watching what he can do with an aircraft not really designed to be an airshow star, you have no doubt he is a leader in the industry.
Photos of the F/A-18 tails on hand at the show. Love the CAG Bird colors…hopefully the tradition will continue. If not now, in the near future.