Battle Creek Field Of Flight Airshow Shines Again In 2016

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USAF Thunderbirds - Battle Creek Field of Flight Airshow and Balloon Festival 2016

The Battle Creek Field of Flight Airshow and Balloon Festival proved yet again to be an amazing Fourth of July party this year. The show is a staple for many West Michigan families and it is easy to see why. It offers a variety of entertainment, such as carnival rides and games, an art fair, concerts, and of course the airshow, hot air balloons, and fireworks. This year also featured the Great Lakes Timber Show and motorcycle stunt shows.

Rob Holland and Jack Knutson - Battle Creek Field of Flight Airshow and Balloon Festival 2016Hot Air Balloons - Battle Creek Field of Flight Airshow and Balloon Festival 2016

The 2016 edition of the airshow was headlined by the return of the US Air Force Thunderbirds jet team. The Thunderbirds used to be an annual lock at the show, but recent years have seem some variation with appearances by the US Navy Blue Angels and USAF F-22 Raptor. Spectators were amazed by the six red, white, and blue F-16 Fighting Falcons of the team on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. The rest of the lineup featured well known civilian performers like Rob Holland, Matt Younkin, and Kyle Franklin. Fortunately, the weather allowed the hot air balloons to fly several times during the week. Saturday and Monday each concluded with an excellent fireworks show.

The greatest strength of the show continues to be the inexpensive, family-friendly atmosphere. While so many shows virtually strip search guests and confiscate water bottles or any hint of food, Battle Creek openly welcomes coolers full of food and drink. This makes for an extremely more comfortable experience right from the get go and can make attending a viable option for those who may not have a ton of money to spend. Of course, the show does offer some of the best airshow food around for those who want it!

Matt Younkin - Battle Creek Field of Flight Airshow and Balloon Festival 2016USAF Thunderbirds Opposing Pass - Battle Creek Field of Flight Airshow and Balloon Festival 2016

Although details have not yet been announced, the festival will return in 2017. Set yourself up for family fun and entertainment by ensuring it is in your plans!

Hawgsmoke 2016 – A-10 Thunderbolt II Action In The Desert

posted in: Event Recap, Military | 0

A-10 Warthog Strafing Run - Hawgsmoke 2016 - Davis-Monthan AFB

In the hot Arizona desert south of Tucson lies Davis-Monthan AFB, where aircraft and aircrews representing A-10 units stateside and abroad were present to see who would be the best in the biennial Hawgsmoke competition. Hosted by the previous winners, the 47th Fighter Squadron (FS) known as the Termites, the 2016 Hawgsmoke competition centers around A-10 crew camaraderie and aerial precision in gunnery and payload delivery.

Hawgsmoke is an offshoot of the now discontinued Gunsmoke competition the US Air Force (USAF) began in 1949 at Nellis AFB, Nevada and ran until 1995. In 2005, the A-10 community came together for the first Hawgsmoke competition at the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center near Alpena, Michigan. Since then, A-10 units have been coming together every two years to grow their bond as an attack community and to earn bragging rights for their squadron.

This year’s participating units flew in aircraft and aircrews to fill up the roster, with nearly all of the world’s A-10 squadrons in attendance. The units that took part in this year’s competition were:

  • AATC Test Squadron of Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona
  • 47th FS of Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona
  • 74th FS of Moody AFB, Georgia
  • 75th FS of Moody AFB, Georgia
  • 107th FS of Selfridge ANGB, Michigan
  • 104th FS of Westfield ANGB, Maryland
  • 303rd FS of Whiteman AFB, Missouri
  • 163rd FS of Fort Wayne ANGB, Indiana
  • 25ft FS of Osan AB, Republic of Korea
  • 76th FS of Moody AFB, Georgia
  • 354th FS of Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona
  • 357th FS of Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona
  • 358th FS of Whiteman AFB, Missouri
Fallen Hawg Ceremony - Hawgsmoke 2016 - Davis-Monthan AFBA-10 Warthog Formation - Hawgsmoke 2016 - Davis-Monthan AFB

Each squadron arrived on June 1st to a warm welcome from the DM personnel and each other. That afternoon, in keeping with Hawgsmoke tradition, the service men and women, friends, and families gathered in front of the parade grounds near a static A-10 to remember fellow Hawg drivers who were lost in and out of the service. Each year the complete list of names is read, sadly with a few new names added from the previous Hawgsmoke. A four-ship of Warthogs perform a missing man at the conclusion of Taps. To end the ceremony, all take part in shooting a small glass of alcohol and breaking the glass in the ceremonial fire pit as a final toast to their lost comrades. With that, the first day of Hawgsmoke is finished asecond the machismo builds in anticipation of the following day’s competition.

At the Barry M. Goldwater Range east of DM, a four-ship of the competing teams is sent in with a payload comprising of MK-76/BDU-33 25-lb. practice bombs, AGM-65 Mavericks, sometimes an LAU-131 rocket launcher with practice rockets, and a belt of 30mm practice rounds. The 30mm practice rounds are designed with an aluminum tip that breaks away in the air after firing, shaping the remaining round like a large, blunt slug to produce a more visible impact for scoring observers. Pilots that came without their own aircraft were able to make use of some of the many A-10s stationed at DM.

The competition consists of a series of bombing runs and strafing passes at various angles and altitudes along with a specialized tactical section. These conventional parts are consistent with each Hawgsmoke competition, while the tactical elements shift each Hawgsmoke, tailored to the desired training pilots are looking for for that particular year. The tactical element is flown in a 10-minutes window where the units must destroy as many targets as they can. This year’s tactical range pitted units against realistic threats templated around a series of targets to better prepare pilots for completing precise missions in hostile situations.

This year’s Hawgsmoke was another success and assuredly plenty of fun for all, but with every contest comes a victor, and for 2016’s Hawgsmoke, the winners were:

45-degree High Altitude Dive Bomb:
1. Capt. David Knighton – 47th FS, Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ
2. 1st Lt Christopher Shelley – 76th FS, Moody AFB, GA
3. Maj. John “Atlas” Meyers – 25th FS, Osan AB, Republic of Korea

30-degree Dive Bomb Heading and Altitude Reference System, degraded delivery:
1. Capt. Tyler Shipman – 47th FS, Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ
2. Maj. Jeff Sliwoski – ANG/Air Force Reserve Command Test Center, Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ
3. Capt. Ryan Yingling – 104th FS, Westfield ANGB, MD

10-degree Low Angle High Drag Pop-up:
1. Capt. Simon Long – 47th FS, Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ
2. Lt. Col. Alan McCracken – ANG/Air Force Reserve Command Test Center
3. Capt. David Knighton – 47th FS, Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ

Long Range Strafe:
1. Lt. Col. John Marks – 303rd FS, Whiteman AFB, MO
2. Capt. Ben Best – 107th FS, Selfridge ANGB, MI

Low Angle Strafe:
1. Capt. Josh Woodard – 354th FS, Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ
2. Capt. Max Sery – 25th FS, Osan AB, Republic of Korea

Top Conventional Team (Maj. Jeff Watterberg Trophy):
47th FS, Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ

Top Tactical Team (Capt. Steve Phillis Trophy):
25th FS, Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ

Top Overall Pilot (Lt. Col. Robert Brown Trophy):
Capt. David Knighton – 47th FS, Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ

Top Overall Team (Col. Al “Mud” Moore Trophy)
47th FS, Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ

Since the Termites dominated the competition once again, a special rule comes into play that prohibits a unit from hosting the event twice in a row. The second place top overall team will be hosting the next Hawgsmoke in 2018. In just a couple short years ahead, the A-10 Thunderbolt II units will meet back again, with some new faces and some familiar ones too, to duke it out in a friendly competition to see who will be the next top Hawg.

We at AirshowStuff would like to thank 2nd Lt. Sydney M. Smith for permitting us to observe the exciting event, the 47th FS for their accommodating hosting of the 8th Hawgsmoke competition, and all of the men and women that have kept this tradition alive and well.

TBM Avenger Gathering Kicks Off Summer With A Bang

posted in: AirshowStuff, Event Recap, Warbirds | 0

TBM Avenger Photo Flight

Aviation fans got an early treat this year when a whopping ten TBM Avengers came together for one special weekend in April.

The event, held at the Illinois Valley Regional Airport in Peru, IL, grew out of an annual private get together organized by local TBM owner Brad Deckert. The idea for this year was to get as many Avengers together as possible, and things quickly grew from there into an open invitation for aircraft and enthusiasts. As word spread and more pilots made plans to attend, estimates grew from 50 airplanes to 100 airplanes to 200 airplanes. Portions of the airport grass were converted to overflow airplane parking, and fuel trucks were purchased and borrowed since the airport had none.

TBM AvengersTBM Avengers

The day before the main event, Friday, featured plenty of action itself. Throughout the day, the lineup of the giant torpedo bombers on the ramp allowed for a running count of Avengers in attendance. One by one they arrived and joined the lineup. The tenth and final aircraft arrived in the late afternoon. The airport was open for normal business all day, so traffic filtered in and out. One Avenger flight was launched in the afternoon; a four-ship formation along with a Cessna 210 photo ship. It was a warm up of sorts for the main photo flight that evening.

As the sun went down, crews gathered with several photographers to brief a major sunset photo flight. By shuffling pilots between airplanes, eight formation-qualified aircraft were established. The plan was to launch as two four-ship flights, Alpha and Bravo, and then join up together. The Cessna and a T-6 Texan were used as photo ships. With sunset approaching, it was a race to get out of the briefing and into the aircraft. AirshowStuff was able to hitch a ride in Bravo Four, the CAF Missouri Wing‘s Avenger and the last aircraft in the formation.

TBM Avenger Photo FlightTBM Avenger Photo Flight

Unfortunately, 70 year old warbirds are not known for reliability and one aircraft could not get started. The rest launched and headed north to find some sunlight. Another aircraft began trailing smoke just after takeoff and returned to the airport as a precaution, leaving six aircraft – three in each flight. Alpha flight was already established in an echelon formation off of the T-6 photo ship when Bravo caught up, so the three newcomers joined up behind them to form a double echelon formation. After a few moments for photos, the formation was shifted into a six-ship echelon, stacked upwards. From our position on the end of the line, we were looking down at the amazing sight of five Avengers and a T-6, all lined up. Thanks to the skill of the pilots, and some pleasantly still evening air, the formation held together quite impressively until it was time to split apart. Two of the Bravo aircraft, including ours, headed back to the airport while the other four stayed for more shots with the other photo ship.

TBM AvengersT-6 Texan at sunset

Saturday morning was the opening of the official event, which was completely free. Turnout was fantastic, and the airport was well prepared to handle it. Thousands of people wandered the ramp, getting an up close look at the many different kinds of aircraft parked there. Aided by absolutely perfect weather, arriving aircraft filled the pattern and clogged the taxiways. Several major warbirds, such as two P-51 Mustangs, an AD-4 Skyraider, and a T-28 Trojan flew in for the day as well. The Avengers got things going right off the bat, and launched all nine airworthy aircraft (one was hangared for maintenance) together. A three-ship formation led the parade, with the others following in trail for several passes before landing. The airport remained open the entire time, with more aircraft arriving constantly.

TBM Avenger at sunsetP-51 Mustangs

After the main flyby, the flying entertainment was mostly in watching the arrival traffic. The airspace was astoundingly busy, right up there with Oshkosh itself; and at an untowered field no less! Several groups of T-6s performed formation flybys during the the day, and a four-ship of Avengers launched around lunch time for some flybys, including a missing man formation. Several warbirds came back for a flyby before heading home and a pair of T-33s made several passes before landing. Thanks to an aerobatic box at the airport, several pilots took advantage of the opportunity to renew their aerobatic certifications by performing short routines for an observer on the ground. The crowd dwindled as the day went on, and by sunset the Avengers sat peacefully on the ramp.

TBM Avengers at sunset

In the end the event was wildly successful, with over 250 aircraft (52 of them warbirds) in attendance and more than 10,000 people on the ground. Arriving aircraft maxed out at 137 in just an hour – that’s more than two every minute! There is talk of bringing it back next year. If it does return, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better use of a spring day!

TBM Avengers at nightTBM Avenger

The photos shown here are just a small sampling of the event. Please be sure to check out the full Gathering of TBM Avengers 2016 album in our gallery!

Thank you to Brad and Jane Deckert for hosting, to Jordan Brown and the CAF Missouri Wing for allowing us to ride shotgun, and to all of the other pilots and crews that made the event such a success! Be sure to check out Warbird Digest for more photos from the sunset flight!

Airpower Over Hampton Roads Thunders Back To Life With Excellent 2016 Show

posted in: Airshows, Event Recap | 1

F-22 Raptor with open bomb bays - Airpower Over Hampton Roads 2016

After a five year absence, airplanes and skydivers once again soared through the skies of Hampton, Virginia at Joint Base Langley-Eustis’ Airpower Over Hampton Roads airshow April 22nd-24th, 2016.

Langley, which was scheduled to hold an airshow in 2013 but had to cancel it due to sequestration. The return of Airpower Over Hampton Roads kicked off Langley’s 100th anniversary celebration, which will last through all of 2016.

Headlining Airpower Over Hampton Roads were the USAF Thunderbirds. Langley is unique because as far as airshows go, it’s one of the very few places where you can see the F-22 Raptor demonstration and the Thunderbirds at the same airshow. However, mother nature wasn’t too kind to the show. The Thunderbirds’ performance on Friday (practice day) had to be canceled due to thunderstorms which blew around objects on the field and brought dangerous lightning. The Friday night show and concert was canceled. Saturday, while starting off beautiful, also turned stormy right before the F-22 demo team was scheduled to begin their demonstration. The rest of the airshow was canceled out of an abundance of caution, leaving just Sunday to see the Thunderbirds fly.

Strike Eagle lands at Langley AFBRob Holland flies at Langley AFB

Sunday was bright and sunny, with the cold front that brought the stormy weather having moved through and to the south of the area. With cool temperatures, it was a perfect airshow day. All aircraft were able to fly, and the Thunderbirds finished off the day with their high show performance.

While the storms caused some trouble, they certainly provided for excellent photo opportunities. Check out what Randy Ball’s MiG-17 looked like against the stormy skies! We’ve also included a few preview pics. Our full album will be up soon.

Randy Ball at Airpower Over Hampton Roads 2016

Thunderbirds Taxi InUSAF Thunderbird Helmet - Airpower Over Hampton Roads

Static displays included a B-1 Bomber, C-17 Globemaster III, C-130 Hercules, F-15 Strike Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon, A-10 Warthog, EF-2000 Typhoon, NASA Langley aircraft and Langley’s own F-22s and T-38s.

The airshow featured a rare treat – a 3-ship Heritage Flight including a P-51 Mustang, F-35 Lightning and the F-22 Raptor! Check out our video of the entire F-22 Raptor demonstration, including an F-35 afterburner takeoff and the Heritage Flight!

Also check out our other videos from the show in our Airpower OVer Hampton Roads 2016 playlist:

EAA Skiplane Fly-In 2016 – Oshkosh, WI

EAA Skiplane Fly-In 2016

Once again, there was plenty of snow on hand for the 2016 edition of the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Skiplane Fly-In at Pioneer Airport. The event took place on relatively cool and overcast February 6th. In all, 28 aircraft from four states flew in for the one day event, and more than 1,000 spectators gathered to see them. The fly-in included a chili cookout in one of the museum’s hangars. Photographers got a few great vantage points thanks to snow piles in the nearby parking lots, allowing an elevated view of the snowpacked runway.

Check out our video and some our photos below. Be sure to click through to our EAA Skiplane Fly-In 2016 album in the photo gallery to see them all!

EAA Skiplane Fly-In 2016EAA Skiplane Fly-In 2016
EAA Skiplane Fly-In 2016IMG_8415web

EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015 Photo Albums Uploaded: Over 400 Photos And 50 Videos!

posted in: Airshows, AirshowStuff, Event Recap | 0

Hey AirshowStuff fans, all of our full photo albums from EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015 have been updated with over 400 amazing photos to browse through! Check out some sample images below, and click the links to view the complete albums!

EAA AirVenture 2015 – Ryan Sundheimer

View full photo album: EAA AirVenture 2015 – Ryan Sundheimer

EAA AirVenture 2015 – Patrick Barron

View full photo album: EAA AirVenture 2015 – Patrick Barron

EAA AirVenture 2015 – Anthony Richards

View full photo album: EAA AirVenture 2015 – Anthony Richards

EAA AirVenture 2015 – David Jacobson

View full photo album: EAA AirVenture 2015 – David Jacobson

Also, be sure to check out our EAA AirVenture 2015 playlist on our Youtube channel, featuring more than 50 videos from throughout the week!

Photo Albums Uploaded: Cleveland National Airshow and Battle Creek Airshow 2015

posted in: Airshows, AirshowStuff, Event Recap | 0

New photo albums have gone up in our photo gallery! Check out a preview of each below and then be sure to follow the links to view the full albums.

Cleveland National Airshow 2015 – Ryan Sundheimer

View full photo album: Cleveland National Airshow 2015 – Ryan Sundheimer
Cleveland National Airshow 2015 – Ryan Sundheimer

Battle Creek Airshow 2015 – Patrick Barron

View full photo album: Battle Creek Airshow 2015 – Patrick Barron
Battle Creek Airshow 2015 – Patrick Barron

Heavy Bombers Weekend 2015 Photo Albums Uploaded

posted in: Airshows, Event Recap, Warbirds | 0

Two new albums have been added to the AirshowStuff photo gallery from Heavy Bombers Weekend 2015 in Madison, WI. We’ve covered the event here in a previous post, but since then it has been announced that the 2016 edition will take place in Janesville, WI instead of Madison. The plan is to rotate between the two cities from now on.

As before, many thanks go to Pete Buffington, Jeff Davis, and Wisconsin Aviation for their hospitality!

Check out our photo albums at the links below!

Heavy Bombers Weekend 2015 – Ryan Sundheimer

View full photo album: Heavy Bombers Weekend 2015 – Ryan Sundheimer
Heavy Bombers Weekend 2015 – Ryan Sundheimer

Heavy Bombers Weekend 2015 – Patrick Barron

View full photo album: Heavy Bombers Weekend 2015 – Patrick Barron
Heavy Bombers Weekend 2015 – Patrick Barron

Photo Albums Uploaded: Thunder Over Michigan 2015, Abbotsford Int’l Airshow 2015, and Battle Creek Airshow 2015

posted in: Airshows, AirshowStuff, Event Recap | 2

New photo albums have gone up in our photo gallery! Check out a preview of each below and then be sure to follow the links to view the full albums.

Thunder Over Michigan Airshow 2015 – Ryan Sundheimer

View full photo album: Thunder Over Michigan Airshow 2015 – Ryan Sundheimer
Thunder Over Michigan Airshow 2015 – Ryan Sundheimer

Abbotsford International Airshow 2015 – Anthony Richards

View full photo album: Abbotsford International Airshow 2015 – Anthony Richards
Abbotsford International Airshow 2015 – Anthony Richards

Battle Creek Airshow 2015 – Ryan Sundheimer

View full photo album: Battle Creek Airshow 2015 – Ryan Sundheimer
Battle Creek Airshow 2015 – Ryan Sundheimer

Behind The Scenes With The 300mph Jet-Powered School Bus

Indy Boys Jet-Powered School Bus

Earlier this year, we had the fantastic opportunity to go out to the runway with Paul and Therese Stender of Indy Boys Inc. at the Battle Creek Field of Flight Airshow and Balloon Festival. You might recognize their names, but you certainly would recognize the vehicle; the world famous “School Time” jet-powered school bus!

Indy Boys Jet-Powered School BusIndy Boys Jet-Powered School Bus

There is actually very little school bus left in “School Time”; the cabin has bucket racing seats for just the driver and three lucky passengers, all with five-point safety harnesses and surrounded by a beefy roll cage. The area behind the seats is really just a shell covering for the massive J79 engine along with tanks for fuel and smoke oil. The entire assembly sits below the window line, leaving a lot of free space. At the back sit two parachute canisters for slowing the beast after the high speed run.

The bus does not have a traditional engine any more, so it needs to be towed until it’s time to start the jet up. Thus, the first part of the performance (after donning the mandatory Nomex racing suits) is to hook up the airshow-provided pickup truck and pull the bus out towards the runway. We were actually with Paul and Therese for two performances that day, and each had its own timing cue for them to meet.

Indy Boys Jet-Powered School Bus

The first performance saw Paul matched up with aerobatic pilots Rob Holland and Jack Knutson at the conclusion of their Firebirds routine. We staged just short of the 500-foot aerobatic show line, which meant plenty of buzz passes from the aircraft. Right on cue, Paul fired up the bus and cruised out to the runway, billowing smoke and flame to announce his presence. Rob and Jack had great fun buzzing both the bus and us, standing at the side of the runway. They flew just a few feet off the ground, right past the bus and through its smoke. Rob in particular made it a point to angle right for us when he could. For his part, Paul kept blowing huge fireballs from the bus and kicking the afterburner in just long enough to get a loud BOOM. After several minutes of this taunting, Paul lined the bus up and Therese took control, keeping an eye on Jack as he swung out wide. This was the big finale. Jack dove in on the runway, then flipped upside down. As he pulled even with Paul, Therese gave the signal and the bus rocketed away in full afterburner, looking to catch up to and pass the airplane. Meanwhile, Rob had positioned himself at the other end of the runway and was speeding head on towards them both! The three vehicles all met at show center as we hustled to jump in the chase car and speed down the runway. Not one to let an opportunity pass him by, Rob dove in behind the pickup, zipping overhead to give us one last haircut. As we pulled alongside the bus, now shut off but still hot, it was a quick operation to disconnect the parachutes and reattach the tow strap for the journey back to the parking spot.

Paul performed again later that afternoon, this time with Skip Stewart and Kyle Franklin in an act sometimes referred to as “The Immortals”. This performance is more choreographed than the earlier one, and the start cue was a stop watch. The flying and driving was very similar, but ground pyrotechnics were added to the mix. Large explosions went off every time Kyle and Skip crossed. The big finale was again a race/game of chicken combo, but the goal was to have a 3-way cross at show center directly in front of the wall of fire. The timing had to be perfect, so the pressure was on Therese to get the signal right. Kyle dove in from behind, Therese dropped her arm, Paul lit the afterburner, and away they went. Skip was already headed right for them from the far end of the runway. From our seats on the runway it sure looked like they nailed it!

We have to thank Paul and Therese for the opportunity to film with them, and also the Battle Creek Field of Flight Airshow and Balloon Festival for making it possible!

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