USAF Thunderbirds Announce Return To Airshows Following Fatal Crash

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USAF Thunderbirds

The Thunderbirds are back! In a video posted by the team, Thunderbird #1 Lt. Col. Kevin Walsh announced that the team has been authorized to perform at the AirPower Over Hampton Roads airshow at Langley AFB this coming weekend. This will mark their first public performance following the fatal crash of Thunderbird #4, Major Stephen “Cajun” Del Bagno, in April.

Several airshow appearances were canceled in the wake of the crash, as the team observed a safety stand down from flying and then welcomed the previous Thunderbird #4 Major Nick “Khan” Krajicek back to the team to fly as the replacement slot pilot. Now that they have been approved to return to performing, they will get back to their previously announced 2018 airshow schedule.

Thunder In The Valley Airshow To Cease Operations Following 2018 Airshow

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Thunder in the Valley Airshow Ceases Operations

The Thunder in the Valley airshow, held annually in Columbus, GA will not be returning in 2019.

The Board of Directors of the event announced that due to raising costs and a difficulty in obtaining sponsorship money, the event would not continue.

“We feel the air show competes with many other events for the same patrons’ time and money, as well as corporate sponsorship dollars. We’ve had great success for 21 years, and we believe the time is right to bring the show to an end,” Phaedra Childers, the event coordinator said.

The air show, which began in 1997 as a local fly-in, had grown to be one of the largest outdoor family events in the Chattahoochee Valley. An average of 10,000 guests per day attended the show each year. Over the show’s 21 year history, more than $1 million in donations have been donated back to Chattahoochee Valley youth organizations and charities from the profits the show collects.

The 2018 edition of the show was held in April and included performances by the Aeroshell Aerobatic Team, Viper Airshows, Kent Pietsch and others.

Canadian Forces Snowbirds To Visit Blue Angels, Perform For Pensacola

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Canadian Forces Snowbirds

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds will be making a rare and surprise appearance at NAS Pensacola next week! The team will be performing demonstrations over the base on May 15 and 16. The Blue Angels also have practice demonstrations those days, but their May 15th (and May 18th) performances are shown as not open to the public. The demonstrations can be viewed from the National Naval Aviation Museum on base.

According to the Pensacola News Journal, this is the plan for public viewing:
– The flight line will open at 1 p.m. Tuesday, May 15, for the Snowbirds performance at 2 p.m.
– Access to the base will begin at 8 a.m., and the flight line will open at 8:30 a.m. before the Blue Angels fly at 9 a.m. Wednesday, May 16. There will be an autograph session after the performance in the museum atrium. The flight line will reopen at 1 p.m. to allow for viewing of the Snowbirds demonstration that begins at 2 p.m.
– The flight line will open at 10:30 a.m. for the Blue Angels practice demonstration at 11:30 a.m. Thursday, May 17.

The Snowbirds are Canada’s national demonstration team. They perform with nine CT-114 Tutor trainer aircraft flying in close formation. You can see their 2018 airshow schedule here on our blog!

USAF Thunderbirds Announce New #4 Pilot, Cancel Two More Appearances

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US Air Force Thunderbirds

The US Air Force Thunderbirds announced today that Major Nick “Khan” Krajicek will return to the team as the new Thunderbird #4. He flew as #4 with the team in the 2016 and 2017 seasons, and rotated out of the squadron only a few months ago. 

Major Krajicek takes over for fallen Thunderbird #4 Major Stephen “Cajun” Del Bagno, who was killed in a crash during practice earlier this month. Del Bagno was just beginning his time with the team. Team members usually serve two year tours, with about half of the officers leaving each year. We expect that Krajicek will serve the rest of Del Bagno’s tour, performing in 2018 and 2019. 

Since the team is working to bring Krajicek up to speed, they have canceled their appearances at the Joint Base Charleston Air and Space Expo in South Carolina and the Fort Lauderdale airshow in Florida. Further cancellations may be announced once the team evaluates their training progress. 

Maj. Nick "Khan" Krajicek has been named as the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron's Thunderbird 4/Slot Pilot for the remainder of the 2018 show season.

Here is the full text of the announcement:

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. – Maj. Nick “Khan” Krajicek has been named as the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron’s Thunderbird 4/Slot Pilot for the remainder of the 2018 show season.

Krajicek is an experienced Thunderbird alumnus who performed as the Slot Pilot during the 2016 and 2017 show seasons.

“We’re grateful to have Khan coming back to the team,” said Lt. Col. Kevin Walsh, Thunderbird 1, Commander/Leader. “His experience and familiarity with our team’s mission and the demonstration profile make him the right choice as we safely make our way back on the road to recruit, retain and inspire once more.”

To facilitate Krajicek’s requalification training, the Thunderbirds’ participation at the Charleston Air Show and the Fort Lauderdale Air Show have been canceled.

The team’s participation in the Laughlin AFB Air Show and the Air Power over Hampton Roads air shows are being evaluated and are dependent on the team’s readiness to perform a safe 6-ship aerial demonstration.

Krajicek has logged more than 3,400 flight hours as a military pilot, with more than 650 hours of combat experience. He flew UH-60 Blackhawks in the Army, is an F-16C/D Fighting Falcon instructor pilot and commissioned into the Air Force in 2004.

U.S. Pilot Elgin Wells Killed While Practicing for Chinese Airshow

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Elgin Wells, known for his “Starjammer” routine was killed when his aerobatic aircraft crashed during a practice flight ahead of the Zhengzhou airshow in Zhengzhou, China.

The crash occurred around 6:14pm local time on Wednesday the 26th of April. An investigation into the cause of the crash is underway.

The Zhengzhou Air Show is scheduled to kick off on Friday, April 27th and last until May 1st. Several airshow performers from the United States are scheduled to perform. In March, Well’s aircraft was shipped to China in preparation for the show.

Wells was a native of the Atlanta, GA area. From the age of 14, he began playing instruments and singing. His band, the “The Elgin Wells Group” won several awards, including the New South Music Award for Best Jazz Band. He has produced 12 albums, mainly in the jazz and blues genre.

He began flying in 1968 at the age of 18. His father, a fighter squadron commander who served in the Pacific during WW2 was a career pilot with delta Airlines. Elgin’s dad wanted him to join the airlines, but all Wells wanted to do was fly aerobatics. In the early 2000s, Elgin was flying Unlimited low level aerobatic competitions and helped lead a team of airshow pilots known as “Airshow Unlimited.”

Starjammer

In 1996, Wells began building the StarJammer, which has 250+ lights and a 4,000 watt amplifier and onboard loudspeakers as a sound system. As the World’s only aircraft of it’s kind, the StarJammer combines aerobatics and music together in one unique performance for both daytime and nighttime airshows.

Photo compliments of Elgin Wells Website

Planes Of Fame Airshow Lawsuit Settled; Popular Event Will Continue

posted in: Airshows, Museums | 1

P-51 Mustang "Spam Can/Dolly" - Planes of Fame Air Museum

The legal dispute between the Planes of Fame Air Museum, the Flying Tigers Aviation FBO, and the Yanks Air Museum has been settled.

The lawsuit, which aimed to end the popular Planes of Fame airshow put on by the museum, was initially filed immediately before the 2017 airshow. Several airport tenant companies alleged that the Planes of Fame Air Museum harmed their businesses by holding the show.

There was strong backlash from the aviation community against the suing companies, especially Yanks. Ultimately the 2017 airshow was allowed to proceed, but the dispute continued with an eye toward the 2018 airshow. Thankfully for aviation fans, all parties have now resolved their differences and pledged to work together to make any future airshows a success.

“We are happy to have reached an agreement so Planes of Fame Air Museum can bring to the aviation community one of the premier aviation events in the United States and the world,” stated Steve Hinton, president of Planes of Fame. “We are pleased that the tradition will continue as many in the aviation community from all over the world look forward to their annual trip to Chino for the air show.”

“Yanks Air Museum has the world’s largest collection of historic all-American aircraft. Yanks was created to share aviation history with everyone and we look forward to displaying and flying the museum’s aircraft at our home in Chino,” said Charles Nichols, founder of Yanks Air Museum.

“I’m glad we have settled the lawsuit and are looking forward to better serving the aviation community. I know with the additional support of Flying Tigers FBO and Yanks Air Museum, it will be the best air show ever and create a win-win for us all,” stated Michael Thayer, president of Flying Tigers.

The 2018 edition of the Planes of Fame Air Show is set for May 5th and 6th, 2018.

USAF Thunderbirds Cancel Appearance At Wings Over Columbus 2018

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USAF Thunderbirds F-16 Fighting Falcon

The USAF Thunderbirds have canceled their planned appearance at the 2018 Wings Over Columbus airshow at Columbus AFB in Mississippi. The move was announced in a video update by Thunderbird #1 following the death of Thunderbird #4, Maj. Stephen Del Bagno, in a crash during practice last week. The team had previously announced they were skipping their performances at the March ARB airshow this past weekend as well as Sun ‘n Fun in Lakeland, FL next weekend.

It is important to note that while the Thunderbird performances have been canceled, the airshows themselves will be held as originally scheduled. The Air Force’s Air Combat Command has been working to add single-ship demonstrations to affected shows; Sun ‘n Fun recently announced that the F-16 Fighting Falcon demonstration team (Viper Demo) will perform there to fill in for the Thunderbirds.

We have updated our 2018 USAF Thunderbirds schedule to reflect the confirmed cancellations, but we expect more appearances to be canceled as part of a safety stand down after the accident. Stay tuned to AirshowStuff for future updates.

USAF Thunderbirds Cancel Appearances After Fatal Accident

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Thunderbirds Cancel Shows

Following a crash which killed Thunderbird #4, the team has canceled some upcoming shows.

As of April 6th, the team’s performances at March AFB and Sun ‘n Fun have been canceled. The rest of the season schedule is still to be determined. Canceling shows while the team stands down to investigate the mishap and take time to grieve is standard protocol following crashes.

“Though we are deeply saddened by their loss of a valuable teammate, we totally understand and support the Thunderbirds’ decision. They have a requirement to take the necessary time to assess their current situation and plot a path forward, and we certainly respect their professionalism and diligence in ensuring their safe return to airshows,” said John Leenhouts, SUN ‘n FUN President/CEO.

Leenhouts also confirmed that this year’s daily airshows will include several activities to honor the service of Maj. Stephen Del Bagno, the fallen Thunderbird Number 4, and that a portion of the proceeds from this year’s event will be donated through the proper channels to support the Thunderbird family.

The Air Force’s Air Combat Command (ACC) and Sun ‘n Fun are working together to bring alternative USAF demonstrations to the event.

In a statement, Airshow Director Greg Gibson said “We appreciate ACC’s efforts on our behalf in such a short timeframe. They are working to make available a potential first-line combat aircraft to perform full aerial displays and/or engage in Heritage Flights with several of the numerous rare WWII fighters we have in attendance this year. We will make periodic announcements throughout the following days as these appearances are confirmed.”

Please visit our forums for further discussion on the crash and what it means for the airshow season.

US Military Answers Internet Demands By Sending Dozens Of Aircraft To Royal International Air Tattoo

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US Navy Blue Angels

The United States Air Force announced an unprecedented increase in airshow support today with the unveiling of the Royal International Air Tattoo Supporting Unit Coordination Command Squadron. The Royal International Air Tattoo, better known as RIAT, is a large military-themed airshow held every summer at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire, England. The new command will arrange demonstrations by all current US Air Force aircraft at the airshow.

The special unit came into being as an answer to international demand in the form of incessant comments left by RIAT supporters on any and every aviation-related internet post since mid-2017. Their sense of entitlement and lack of any sort of moderation impressed Air Force leaders. Unit Commander Colonel (Col.) Walter Haut explains:

“It is our mission to demonstrate US air power to the world, and we intend to do so by sending everything we have to a single airshow that isn’t even on American soil. Every time the Air Force wondered how to best showcase our technological might, we were immediately inundated with comments begging us to ‘come to RIAT.’ While initially shallow and whimsical of an idea to entertain, the frequency of these comments became a decidedly convincing argument that we simply couldn’t say no to any longer.”

RIAT Comments

“We’re excited to fly for the crowd at RIAT,” said Lieutenant William H. Blanchard, 2018 demonstration pilot for the newly re-activated F-15E Strike Eagle Demo Team East. “It means a lot to me to represent the US Air Force; I remember when I was a young child from Nebraska and my parents took me to see the Thunderbirds perform at an airshow in France. It inspired me to join the service and learn to fly – hopefully I can pass that on to a few of the younger Brits in the RIAT crowd to join the US Armed Forces.”

Other branches of the US military are also preparing numerous demonstrations of their own, pulling aircraft from US airshows and even from combat missions to support RIATSUCCS performances. The US Army has postponed a deployment of the 82nd Aviation Regiment’s newest AH-64 Apache attack helicopters to prepare them for the upcoming display.

US Army AH-64 ApacheUSAF F-15E Strike Eagle

The US Navy Blue Angels are also assuming RIAT-related roles, as they will be debuting their new UCAV aircraft at the event. These jets have been a topic of hot discussion since the leak of their transition in 2015, but this will not be the only new technology debuting to an overseas public before the national introduction.

RIATSUCCS Unit Patch

In a Lockheed Martin press conference, a representative was quoted as having said “We fully support and applaud the US military’s efforts to demonstrate abroad. In an act of solidarity, Lockheed will be sending two of their latest prototype aircraft for their official debut at the Royal International Air Tattoo. We will also be sending a fleet of brand new F-35 Lightning IIs to perform a mass-flypast with the Air Force counterparts to open the show.”

In response to this unprecedented move, the Royal Air Force announced plans to reciprocate the USAF’s gesture of friendship by sending a single C-17 transport to an airshow in the US. Unfortunately, the visit was immediately canceled.

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