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.
The 2019 National Warplane Museum Airshow took place on July 12 – 14th and brought in a nice selection of warbird aircraft . Featured performers included the USAF A-10 Thunderbolt II demo, Canadian Harvard Aerobatic Team and the Alabama Boys comedy routine by the talented Greg Koontz.
B-17 Flying Fortress “Movie Memphis Belle”
The National Warplane Museum leased the B-17 Flying Fortress “Movie Memphis Belle” to take to events and for riders to purchase flight experiences. She is a replica copy of the first 8th AF Bomber crew to complete their tour of 25 missions. The aircraft starred in the movie “The Memphis Belle” and has been a huge hit on the airshow scene for a number of years. She looks “rough” but that is part of her appeal. She looks like a B-17 used almost daily during the 8th AF bombing campaign. The Movie Belle is nearly a visual replica of the original, but there are two main differences. Can you spot the differences? If so, drop me a note…I know ’em!
Canadian Harvard Formation Team
The Canadian Harvard Formation Team performed their routine. Looking as sharp as ever, the yellow Harvard aircraft put on a routine that is impressive considering how demanding the aircraft is to fly. Pilots always said that if you can handle a Harvard (Texan in America), you can handle any of the fighter aircraft of the era.
C-47 Skytrains / C-53 Skytrooper
The National Warplane Museum’s own C-47 “Whiskey 7” led a handful of C-47s and a C-53 in a tribute to the 75th Anniversary of the D-day Invasion. Several of the aircraft were on the return leg of their trip back from recent festivities at Normandy Beach in France. Several on display were nice to see and a total surprise to see them.
B-25 Mitchells “Champaign Gal” and “Miss Hap”
Two B-25s were in attendance, “Champaign Gal” from the Champaign Aviation Museum and “Miss Hap” from the American Airpower Museum. Miss Hap was the fourth B-25 off of the assembly line and is the oldest surviving B-25. Another notable is that the airframe was the personal transport of General Hap Arnold.
P-40 Warhawk “American Dream”
The TP-40N Warhawk “American Dream” from Warbird Adventures was the lone P-40 present. The P-40 has a strong history in the western New York area since they were designed and built by Curtiss-Wright, with the factory located in Buffalo, NY. “American Dream” has been modified with dual controls, which allows for a passenger and the ability for the passenger to pilot the aircraft. This configuration is extremely rare and is the only commercially available P-40 for dual instruction.
F4U/FG-1D Corsair “GodSpeed”
Goodyear built Corsair “GodSpeed” is painted in tribute to Marine Aviator, John Glenn. Charlie Lynch was at the controls both days and performed an excellent aerobatic demonstration of the Corsair’s abilities.
P-40 & Corsair Formation
Charlie Lynch and Thom Richards joined up for several fantastic photo passes in the P-40 & Corsair.
P-51 Mustangs “Swamp Fox” and “Mad Max”
Two P-51 Mustangs were on hand for Geneseo 2019. P-51D “Swamp Fox” owned and operated by RT Dickson and TF-51D “Mad Max” owned and operated by Louis Horschel.
Around the field
If you have never experienced the Geneseo show, it is a must for Warbird enthusiasts and is an amazing experience. To see aircraft on the grass as they would have been in the 1930s and 1940s is just special. Geneseo also seems to be full of surprises and acts you would not expect at a Warbird show. Pictured below are a Beech Staggerwing, TBM Avenger, Stearman, A-10C from the USAF A-10 Demo Team, and the ever entertaining Greg Koontz.
Thanks for a great time Geneseo, hopefully see you in 2020!
The 2019 Thunder Over Michigan Airshow took place on August 3-4, 2019 at the Willow Run Airport and hosted by the Yankee Air Museum. This year’s theme was “Corsair Crazy” and was billed as the largest gathering of Corsairs since active duty use of the aircraft in Korea.
Many of my colleagues and friends were skeptical of the show. Sadly, several years were disappointing due to poor weather or mechanical issues that prevented attendance of some of the featured aircraft. However, 2019 was NOT that year. The weather was good and the Corsairs showed up to perform! The magic sound of the mighty Pratt & Whitney R-2800 radial engines flooded our ears and the blue “bent wing birds” thrilled our eyes. In total, 11 Corsairs of different varieties appeared. Only several cancelled due to maintenance and/or landing mishaps prior to the event. Still, having eleven machines in one spot was simply amazing and a sight to behold. And that does not include the other “heavy iron” brought in for the show!
Corsairs on the ground…
Corsair photo passes…
Corsair flat passes…
Corsair landing passes…
One of the fun things about Thunder Over Michigan is the abundance of reenactors and pinups that play along and let people to photograph them. Two of my favorites returned for 2019, Miss Blonde Ambition, and Miss Yankee Belle. Check out their Instagram pages for more shots!
A handful of P-51 Mustangs attended and several flew over the weekend. Merlin music to the ears!
Several B-25 Mitchells attended, including Yankee Air Museum’s own B-25, “Yankee Warrior” and “Georgie’s Gal” owned by the Liberty Aviation Museum.
The Class of ’45
The Class of ’45 demo is flown by Scott Yoak and Jim Tobul. Scott flies the P-51D Mustang “Quick Silver” and Jim Tobul flies the F4U-4 Corsair “Korean War Hero”. Arguably, these two aircraft are the most popular American fighter airframes from WWII and are subject to endless debates over which was superior. It is incredible to see these icons in the air and in their element.
Interestingly, the pilots both have a similar experience – restoring their aircraft with their fathers. Jim restored the F4U with his father Joe and the airframe is a combat veteran with over 200 missions over Korea. Scott restored his Mustang with his father Bill, and is an airframe made up of parts from over 200 other Mustangs. Full details of the aircraft are on their website: Class of ’45.
The demo includes solo aerobatics in each aircraft and wonderfully close and low photo passes. Then the two join and make several tight photo passes. The finale includes a show center crossover maneuver that is similar to those of the military jet teams.
Military Heavy Iron
Although primarily a warbird show, Thunder Over Michigan also usually produces an abundance of interest from the military. This year was no exception. The USAF sent the F-16 Viper demo team which tore up the skies. The RCAF brought the CC-130 Hercules for a demo and several F-15E Eagles came from Mountain Home AFB in Montana. The F-15 crews were both all female. Those ladies were enjoying their time in the air and provided some nice burner and vapes! I certainly miss the F-15 and F-15E demo teams. The Air Force also brought four AT-6 Texan IIs and they did several wonderful formation passes. The German Luftwaffe also participated again, sending an A400M Atlas cargo plane to participate in the static display.
Sunday we were treated to the departure of two F/A-18-G Growlers and the CH-47 Chinook from the Michigan Army National Guard.
Thunder Over Michigan was fun and enjoyed by my friends and family. I am eager to see what 2020 brings. Check out the Yankee Air Museum for details about the museum, purchasing rides on one of their aircraft and the Thunder Over Michigan Airshow.
A special thanks goes out to the Thunder Over Michigan team for their hard word on this show, and especially to Yankee Air Museum’s Executive Director, Kevin Walsh, for the hospitality and support of my photojournalism work.
I have always wanted to go to Miramar, and in September of 2019, I finally made it happen. The Miramar show has historically been impressive and highly attended. This year the lineup was stacked since the Royal Air Force’s Red Arrows Flight Demonstration Team included Miramar as one of the final stops on their 2019 North American Tour along with the other performers that included the US Navy Blue Angels, the USAF F-16 Viper demo, and the Heritage Flight. Not to be outdone, the Marine MAGTF demo is impressive on its own.
Sadly, the weather did not want to cooperate and provided gray skies and rain on and off for the first two days of the event. However, that did not prevent the Marines from Miramar or the other performers from putting on an incredible show. Sunday’s show was the beautiful blue skies I had hoped for and the Marines brought out all the stops for the final day!
MCAS Miramar is a huge facility, and is located just outside of downtown San Diego, California. The static display was well stocked and the Marine Squadrons stationed at Miramar had tables and tents set up near their aircraft to sell their squadron geedunk. The display was so large that I did not even get to see the entire static ramp. Hard to believe, but the flying starts early and there was simply so much to see and do that you cannot hit it all.
I really enjoyed this show and will plan on coming back regularly now. San Diego is a fun city and I plan to post some of the tourist stops I made on this trip in another post.
The US Marines MAGTF Demo
The MAGTF (Marine Air-Ground Task Force) is a demonstration of the Marine’s air and ground forces across the missions assigned to the Marines. This includes fixed wing assets such as the KC-130 Hercules, F-35B Lightning II, and F/A-18C Hornets, tilt rotor V-22 Ospreys, and rotor assets such as the AH-1W Cobra, UH-1W Huey and massive CH-53 Sea Stallion. Armor and riflemen were also flown in to simulate ground forces.
The demo was impressive and one could not feel anything but patriotic after watching. The crowd cheered and the Marines that participated enjoyed every clap and cheer. Truly the highlight of the event.
F-35B Lightning II
At the conclusion of the MAGTF Demo, the Marines did a brief solo demonstration of the F-35B Lightning II, the STVOL version of the airframe. The F-35 is a loud aircraft, likely the loudest in service today. The “B” is no exception, but does not have the high shrill sound of the AV-8B Harrier it is replacing the in Marine fleet. The aircraft is just incredible and I enjoyed seeing the STOVL capabilities. The squadron performing was the VMFA-211 Wake Island Avengers (stationed at MCAS Yuma) and part of MAG-13 stationed at Miramar.
USAF F-16 Viper Demo and Heritage Flight
The Viper demo performed a solo demonstration of the F-16 Viper as well participated in the Heritage Flight with Planes of Fame’s F-86 Sabre.
Warbirds from Planes of Fame and CAF SoCal
Although the show is billed as a “burner” show (slang for shows that feature modern military aircraft), it also featured some of the aircraft from the Planes of Fame Museum in nearby Chino and a freshly repainted Wildcat from the CAF SoCal Wing.
Southern California Fire Fighting
Another incredible demonstration (and a first for me) was the local aerial firefighting equipment, which included the massive Erickson S-64 Skycrane. and 2 converted UH-1 Hueys. Southern California is very dry and susceptible to large wildfires. Having aerial fire fighting equipment is essential to fighting these large fires.
Royal Air Force Red Arrows
It is always a treat to see one of the European jet teams since North American tours are usually once every 10-15 years. When they announced the tour, I immediately started looking to find a location to see them. I last saw them in 2008, and they performance made a lasting impression on me. Their show is impressive and action packed. Our jet teams are fantastic due to the pure muscle and brawn of their jets. The Red Arrows are graceful and elegant, yet still have some maneuvers that impress. However, one thing that this team has over the North American jet teams is the colored smoke. It is so beautiful to see the red, white and blue trailing behind the aircraft.
One last thing about the Red Arrows. In 2008, I had the opportunity to meet several of the pilots and crew. Once again in 2019 I had the same opportunity. These men and women were nothing but friendly and happy to answer all of the questions being sent their way. They had free things to hand out to the kids and adults to better understand the team and their goodwill mission to North America. The team was under major stress and away from home for a long stretch. You would never know it given the level of professionalism presented by these fine people. I have nothing but the utmost respect for the Red Arrows and will follow them again when the opportunity arises!
US Navy Blue Angels
The Navy’s flight demonstration team, the Blue Angels were the headline act and were equally impressive as their RAF colleagues. The team was sharp and performed in some difficult skies. Not too much to say about arguably the world’s most widely recognized and respected jet team other than SIMPLY THE BEST!
US Army Golden Knights
The US Army’s parachute demonstration team performed the parachute demonstrations for the event. Some of their jumps were scrubbed due to low ceilings. However, Sunday was flawless and allowed for jumps. Two notable additions to the 2019 team was the 60th Anniversary canopies and a new jump platform, the DHC-8-300.
Around the Airfield
Sometimes you have to miss the aerial action to catch some of the fun things that happen on the ground. In this instance, I was able to catch several of the squadron vehicles delivering the next rotation of staff to the squadron tents or merchandise tucked away for sale.
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.
The 2018 Planes of Fame Airshow was held May 4 – 6, at the airport in Chino, California. This year’s theme aircraft was P-38 Lightnings and had four flyable examples on hand. Another surprise was Yanks Air Museum pulled out their F-5G Lightning, a photo reconnaissance version of the P-38L, and placed it on static display. Unfortunately, P-38 “Lightning 33” had issues with an alternator and was unable to participate in the flying portion of the show. It was still mighty impressive to see three P-38s in formation at one time! A P-38 also participated in the USAF Heritage Flight.
This years event also included a segment on air racing, which featured passes by highly modified P-51 Mustangs air racers named “Strega” and “Voodoo”. Voodoo currently holds world’s record as the fastest piston powered aircraft at 531.64 mph.
A recently restored P-47D Thunderbolt “Dottie Mae” made her airshow debut at PoF, and she was absolutely beautiful. Dottie Mae is a later model bubble top variant of the Thunderbolt. Originally, the Thunderbolt had a razorback style aft of the cockpit. Planes of Fame’s P-47 is a razorback style and flew in formation with Dottie Mae. The bubble top shows the greatly improved reward vision.
THE PLANES OF FAME COLLECTION
Nearly all of the flyable aircraft in the Planes of Fame inventory participate in the annual airshow. Their collection of aircraft is impressive and contains rare birds like the P-47 razorback variant of the Thunderbolt, P-51A Mustang and the only flying examples of the P-26 Peashooter and N9M Flying Wing. The diverse collection contains US Navy aircraft from WWII such as the SBD Dauntless and TBF Avenger, well as classics such as the P-51 Mustang and P-40. Planes of Fame also has flying examples from the Korean War era such as the Yak-9, F-86 and MiG-15. The collection also includes a Vietnam era A-1 Skyraider.
COLLABORATIONS WITH OTHER MUSEUMS
Another reason why this show is special is that many of the nearby Museums share their aircraft which allows for many other aircraft variants to be viewed. Museums include:
The Lyon Air Museum CAF – SoCal Wing Palm Springs Air Museum Warhawk Air Museum Lewis Air Legends GossHawk Unlimted, Inc. Sanders Family Yanks Air Museum
These museums bring aircraft like the P-51B Mustang, PBY4 Privateer, F4F Wildcat, F6F Hellcat, F8F Bearcat, F7F Tigercat, P-51D Mustangs, Spitfires, P-63 King Cobra, P-40 Warhawks, C-47 Skytains.
Many other individual warbird owners also bring their aircraft, which also adds to the overall aircraft list.
The show also attracts demos from the USAF (this year the A-10 Warthog) and civilians such as Greg Colyer in his T-33 Shooting Star.
The lineup of aircraft below is just one of several, and by this view alone you can tell just how special this show really is. In my opinion, if you are a warbird fanatic like me, this is the ultimate warbird airshow to attend in the United States.