Last week we got our best glimpse yet as to what the 2019 and 2020 airshow seasons will look like when the jet team and military demonstration schedules were announced at the International Council of Air Shows (ICAS) Convention in Las Vegas. We here at AirshowStuff were the first to post them publicly, and you can review them here on our blog or in our forums.
Although much of the information is pretty standard, there are always some surprises and less obvious revelations tucked away in the list of dates and shows. Here are some of the more interesting tidbits we noticed:
- One of the hottest topics in airshow circles these days is the RAF Red Arrows US/Canada tour in August and September. The Reds did have a couple of representatives at the convention, but they disappointed fans everywhere by not releasing a schedule with the rest of the teams. This wasn’t shocking really, but it does leave some fans stuck in limbo for travel plans. Stay tuned to AirshowStuff – we’ll bring you the schedule as soon as they do announce it!
- The North American jet teams cross paths at least a few times each year, and 2019 is no exception. The real surprise is the show at Joint Base Andrews near Washington, D.C., which features a rare combination of the US Navy Blue Angels and USAF Thunderbirds plus the A-10 Warthog demo team. The Canadian Snowbirds will meet each US team once during the year; the Blue Angels in Ocean City, MD and the Thunderbirds in Abbotsford, BC.
- Numerous shows will feature multiple single-ship demonstrations, but especially noteworthy are Milwaukee and Cleveland. Milwaukee has the benefit of sharing their weekend with EAA AirVenture just up the road in Oshkosh, WI, so it’s not shocking that they will get the Thunderbirds and the newly approved F-35 Lightning II Demo and also borrow the F-22 Raptor and F-16 Fighting Falcon from Oshkosh for a Heritage Flight. Hopefully Oshkosh gets something in return! Cleveland sees the Thunderbirds, but also gets the F-35 and A-10 demo teams in an unusual collection of Air Force teams at a civilian show.
- Not counting a handful of US appearances in Canada, there are two international airshows on the schedules for the US teams. The Thunderbirds will head to Rionegro, Colombia in July, and the A-10 demonstration team will perform at Santa Lucia AB in Mexico in April. Both seem a little random, but at least the teams will not be gone on an extended tour.
- The RCAF CF-18 Hornet Demonstration Team will not be performing at any US shows in 2019. We noticed that their schedule was cut down significantly and hoped that additional shows might be approved later, but it was then reported that the season is intentionally being “condensed” amid personnel shortages and aircraft maintenances woes in the RCAF. This is definitely disappointing because the CF-18 carries a special paint scheme every year, so it’s a bit of a collector’s item among photographers.
- One item that was noticed when the preliminary 2019 schedules were released a year ago is that the NAS Oceana Airshow will not host the Blue Angels for the first time in memory. In a strange twist, the Thunderbirds are scheduled for that one! The Blue Angels will instead be flying at NAS Lemoore in California, the first airshow there in many years. Oceana is also considered a favorite to land the Red Arrows during their US/Canada tour, so there is a real possibility of having two jet teams at Oceana but no Blue Angels.
- The US Marines are bad at releasing schedules. Not only do they only list a few shows, there are always errors and inconsistencies with the more polished lists released by other organizations. This year is no exception. Just three AV-8B Harrier demonstrations were announced, and four MV-22 Osprey demonstrations. For the record, last year four of each were announced but roughly eight shows saw Osprey demos by the time the season was over. The problem is that the Marines do not have dedicated teams or pilots, they simply fly the demonstrations with regular units that have much less availability. Their schedules also don’t mention the Marine Corps Air Station airshows that end up hosting demonstrations.
- Looking ahead to the preliminary 2020 schedules, the very first thing that screams off the page is a shortened Blue Angels season, ending in October. This isn’t an error; the season still ends with the traditional homecoming show in Pensacola, just a month before it usually takes place. This indicates an intentional extension to the off season, and comes just in time (actually a little early in our opinion) for the planned transition to Super Hornets. Nothing has been announced, but it sure looks like 2021 may be the first year in the new jets!
- A more minor entry in the Blue Angels’ 2020 schedule is the airshow at CFB Cold Lake in Alberta. The Blues list the show as August 8-9, but the organizers were quick to start promoting July 18-19 instead. Normally this would be a simple date swap, but the July dates happen to be one of the rest weekends the team is obligated to take; the team cannot perform more than seven weekends in a row. These breaks were instituted following the fatal crash of Blue Angel #6 pilot Capt. Jeff Kuss in 2016. If the organizers are to be believed, this rest weekend will be filled and the schedule will show nine performance weeks between breaks. Expect some more shuffling to occur, but luckily there is plenty of time for all involved to sort it out.
Did you notice anything else interesting in the schedules? Who are you most looking forward to seeing? Let us know in the comments or join the discussion on our forums!