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 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!