Interesting Observations From The 2019/2020 Military And Jet Team Schedules

posted in: Airshows, Jet Teams, Military, Schedules | 3

USAF Thunderbirds and Crowd - AirshowStuff

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!

US Navy Blue Angels 2019 Airshow Schedule Released

posted in: Airshows, Jet Teams, Schedules | 5

US Navy Blue Angels - AirshowStuff

Here is the 2019 airshow schedule for the US Navy Blue Angels! Will you see them in 2019? Let us know! Post in the AirshowStuff Forums or on the AirshowStuff Facebook page and make sure you share pictures after the show!

Schedules often change during the year – for the latest updates please be sure to check our forums!

2019 US Navy Blue Angels Airshow Appearance Schedule

March 16-17: NAF El Centro Air Show – NAF El Centro, CA
March 23-24: California International Airshow – Salinas, CA
March 30-31: NAS Key West Southernmost Air Show – NAS Key West, FL

April 6-7: Sun-n-Fun Fly-In Expo – Lakeland, FL
April 13-14: Wings Over South Texas – NAS Corpus Christi, TX
April 20-21: OFF WEEK
April 27-28: MCAS Beaufort Air Show – MCAS Beaufort, SC

May 4-5: Ford Lauderdale Air Show – Fort Lauderdale, FL
May 11-12: JB Andrews Air Show – JB Andrews, MD
May 18-19: Cape Girardeau Regional Air Festival – Cape Girardeau, MO
May 22: U.S. Naval Academy Air Show – Annapolis, MD
May 24: U.S. Naval Academy Graduation Flyover – Annapolis, MD
May 25-26: Northeastern Pennsylvania Airshow – Scranton, PA

June 1-2: Star Spangled Salute Air Show – Tinker AFB, OK
June 8-9: Great Tennessee Air Show – Smyrna, TN
June 15-16: Ocean City Airshow – Ocean City, MD
June 22-23: OFF WEEK
June 29-30: Quad City Air Show – Davenport, IA

July 6-7: KC Downtown Air Show – Kansas City, MO
July 13: Pensacola Beach Airshow – Pensacola Beach, FL
July 20-21: Duluth Air Show and Aviation Expo – Duluth, MN
July 27-28: Grand Junction Air Show – Grand Junction, CO

August 3-4: Seafair Boeing Air Show – Seattle, WA
August 17-18: 61st Chicago Air And Water Show – Chicago, IL
August 24-25: New York Air Show – Stewart ANG Base, Newburgh, NY
August 31-September 1: Atlantic Canada International Air Show – Greenwood, NS

September 7-8: Spirit of St. Louis Air Show – Chesterfield, MO
September 14-15: OFF WEEK
September 21-22: NAS Lemoore Central Valley Air Show – NAS Lemoore, CA
September 28-29: MCAS Miramar Air Show – MCAS Miramar, CA

October 5-6: California Capital Airshow – Sacramento, CA
October 12-13: San Francisco Fleet Week – San Francisco, CA
October 19-20: Fort Worth Alliance Air Show – Fort Worth, TX
October 26-27: Jacksonville Sea and Sky Spectacular – Jacksonville Beach, FL

November 2-3: Thunder Over South Georgia – Moody AFB, GA
November 8-9: Blue Angels Homecoming Airshow – NAS Pensacola, FL

Want to look a little further ahead? We also have a copy of the preliminary 2020 US Navy Blue Angels schedule!

USAF Thunderbirds 2020 Preliminary Airshow Schedule Released

posted in: Airshows, Jet Teams, Schedules | 0

US Air Force Thunderbirds - AirshowStuff

Here is the preliminary 2020 airshow schedule for the US Air Force Thunderbirds! This schedule has been released on a preliminary basis only, and will likely see notable changes. Please make sure to check back with us in December of 2019 when an updated 2020 schedule is released!

Preliminary US Air Force Thunderbirds 2020 Appearance Schedule

March 7-8: Fiesta of Flight – Laughlin AFB, TX
March 14-15: OFF
March 21-22: Luke Days Air and Space Expo – Luke AFB, AZ
March 28-29: March Field Air and Space Expo: Thunder Over the Empire – March AFB, CA

April 4-5: Sun-N-Fun Fly-In and Expo – Lakeland, FL
April 11-12: OFF
April 18-19: Maxwell AFB, AL
April 25-26: Wings Over Columbus – Columbus AFB , MS

May 2-3: Ford Lauderdale Air Show – Fort Lauderdale, FL
May 9-10: Beale AFB, CA
May 16-17: Shaw Air and Space Expo – Shaw AFB, SC
May 23-24: Miami Beach Air & Sea Show – Miami Beach, FL
May 26: USAF Academy Graduation – Colorado Springs, CO
May 30-31: OFF

June 6-7: California International Airshow – Salinas, CA
June 13-14: Ocean City Airshow – Ocean City, MD
June 20-21: Thunder over the Valley – Youngstown ARB, OH
June 27-28: Warriors over Wasatch Air and Space Show – Hill AFB, UT

July 4-5: Battle Creek Field of Flight Air Show and Balloon Festival – Battle Creek, MI
July 11-12: Arctic Thunder Open House – JB Elmendorf, AK
July 18-19: Duluth Air and Aviation Expo – Duluth, MN
July 25-26: Ellsworth Air and Space Show – Ellsworth AFB, SD

August 1-2: Grand Fork AFB Air Show – Grand Forks AFB, ND
August 8-9: OFF
August 15-16: Chicago Air and Water Show – Chicago, IL
August 22-23: Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Armed Forces Airshow – Avoca, PA
August 26: Thunder over the Boardwalk – Atlantic City, NJ
August 29-30: New York Air Show – New Windsor, NY

September 5-6: OFF
September 12-13: Airshow London – London, Ontario
September 19-20: The Great Pacific Airshow – Huntington Beach, CA
September 26-27: Kansas City Air Show – Gardner, KS

October 3-4:Aviation Roundup Airshow – Minden, NV
October 10-11: Aerospace Valley Air & Space Show – Edwards AFB, CA
October 17-18: Bell Fort Worth Alliance Air Show – Fort Worth, TX
October 24-25: Wings over North Georgia – Rome, GA
October 31-November 1: Orlando Sanford Air Show – Sanford, FL

November 7-8: NASJRB New Orleans Airshow – New Orleans, LA

Again, this schedule is for 2020. If you’re looking for 2018 airshow appearances, check out USAF Thunderbirds 2019 Airshow Schedule Released

Canadian Forces Snowbirds 2019 Airshow Schedule Released

posted in: Airshows, Jet Teams, Schedules | 0

Canadian Forces Snowbirds - AirshowStuff

Here is the 2019 airshow schedule for the Canadian Armed Forces Snowbirds! Will you see them in 2019? Let us know! Post in the AirshowStuff Forums or on the AirshowStuff Facebook page and make sure you share pictures after the show!

Schedules often change during the year – for the latest updates please be sure to check our forums!

2019 Canadian Forces Snowbirds Airshow Appearance Schedule

May 18-19: Barksdale Defenders of Liberty Airshow – Barksdale AFB, LA
May 22: TBA
May 25-26: Westmoreland County Airshow – Latrobe, PA
May 29: Carolina Air and Auto Center Open House – Winston Salem, NC

June 1-2: Saint Hubert Air Show – Longueuil, QC
June 8-9: Spectacle Aerien de Val-d’Or – Val D’Or, QC
June 12: Armed Forces Day – North Bay, ON
June 15-16: Ocean City Air Show – Ocean City, MD
June 19: Miramichi Air Show – Miramichi, NB
June 22-23: Bagotville Air Show – Bagotville, QC
June 26: TBA
June 29-30: Barrie Air Show – Barrie, ON

July 4: TBA
July 6-7: Saskatchewan Air Show – Moose Jaw, SK
July 20-21: TBA
July 24: Fort St. John International Air Show – Fort St. John, BC
July 27-28: Wings Over Springbank, Springbank, AB
July 31: Thunder in the Peace Air Show – Peace River, AB

August 3-4: Quensel Skyfest – Quensel, BC
August 7: Pentiction Peach Festival – Pentiction, BC
August 9-11: Abbotsford International Airshow – Abbotsford, BC
August 14: TBA
August 17-18: Edmonton Airshow – Edmonton, AB
August 24-25: Spectacle Aerien de Riviere-du-Loup – Riviere-du-Loup, QC
August 28: Community Charity Airshow – Brantford, ON
August 31-September 2: Canadian International Airshow – Toronto, ON

September 7-8: Aero Gatineau-Ottawa – Gatineau, QC
September 11: Niagara-on-the-Lake – Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON
September 13-15: Airshow London – London, ON
September 18: TBA
September 21-22: Peterborough Air Show – Peterborough, ON
September 28-29: Wings Over Wine Country – Santa Rosa, CA

October 5-6: The Great Pacific Airshow – Huntington Beach, CA
October 12-13: TBA
October 19-20: TBA

US Navy Blue Angels 2020 Preliminary Airshow Schedule Released

posted in: Airshows, Jet Teams, Schedules | 1

US Navy Blue Angels

Here is the preliminary 2020 airshow schedule for the US Navy Blue Angels! This schedule has been released on a preliminary basis only, and will likely see notable changes. Please make sure to check back with us in December of 2019 when an updated 2020 schedule is released!

Preliminary US Navy Blue Angels 2020 Appearance Schedule

March 14: NAF El Centro Airshow – El Centro, CA
March 21-22: LA County Air Show – Lancaster, CA
March 28-29: MacDill Air Fest – MacDill AFB, FL

April 4-5: Wings Over South Texas Airshow – NAS Kingsville, TX
April 18-19: Joint Base Charleston Air & Space Expo – JB Charleston, SC
April 25-26: Vero Beach Air Show – Vero Beach, FL

May 2-3: MCAS Cherry Point Air Show and Open House – MCAS Cherry Point, NC
May 9-10: Dyess Big County Airfest – Dyess AFB, TX
May 16-17: Power in the Pines Open House and Air Show – McGuire AFB, NJ
May 20: U.S. Naval Academy Air Show – Annapolis, MD
May 22: U.S. Naval Academy Graduation Flyover – Annapolis, MD
May 23-24: Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach Park – Jones Beach, NY
May 30-31: OFF

June 6-7: Scott AFB Air and Space Show – Scott AFB, IL
June 13-14:Chippewa Valley Air Show – Eau Claire, WI
June 20-21: Memphis Air Show – Millington, TN
June 27-28: Dayton Air Show, Dayton, OH

July 4-5: National Cherry Festival Airshow – Traverse City, MI
July 11: Pensacola Beach Air Show – Pensacola, FL
July 18-19: OFF
July 25-26: Milwaukee Air and Water Show – Milwaukee, WI

August 1-2: Boeing SeaFair Airshow – Seattle, WA
August 8-9: 4 Wing Cold Lake Air Show – Cold Lake AB, Canada (Expected to move to July 18-19)
August 15-16: Great State of Maine Air Show – Brunswick, ME
August 22-23: OFF
August 29-30: Thunder Over Michigan – Ypsilanti, MI

September 5-6: Cleveland National Air Show – Cleveland, OH
September 12-13: Maryland Fleet Week and Air Show Baltimore – Baltimore, MD
September 19-20: NAS Oceana Airshow – NAS Oceana, Virginia Beach, VA
September 26-27: MCAS Miramar Air Show – MCAS Miramar, CA

October 3-4: Naval Base Ventura County Airshow – NAS Pt. Mugu, CA
October 10-11: San Francisco Fleet Week – San Francisco, CA
October 16-17: Blue Angels Homecoming Air Show – NAS Pensacola, FL

Again, this schedule is for 2020. If you’re looking for 2019 Blue Angel airshow appearances, check out US Navy Blue Angels 2019 Airshow Schedule Released

USAF Thunderbirds 2019 Airshow Schedule Released

posted in: Airshows, Jet Teams, Schedules | 3

US Air Force Thunderbirds - AirshowStuff

Here is the 2019 airshow schedule for the US Air Force Thunderbirds! Will you see them in 2019? Let us know! Post in the AirshowStuff Forums or on the AirshowStuff Facebook page and make sure you share pictures after the show!

Schedules often change during the year – for the latest updates please be sure to check our forums!

2019 US Air Force Thunderbirds Airshow Appearance Schedule

February 17: Daytona 500, Daytona Beach, FL (Flyover)

March 3: Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Las Vegas, NV (Flyover)
March 14: Creech Appreciation Day, Indian Springs, NV
March 23-24: Thunder and Lightning Over Arizona – Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ
March 30-31: Travis AFB Open House – Travis AFB, CA

April 6-7: Heart of Texas Air Show – Waco, TX
April 13-14: OPEN
April 27-28: Wings over Wayne Open House – Seymour Johnson AFB, NC

May 4-5: Keelser AFB, MS
May 11-12: JB Andrews Air Show – JB Andrews, MD
May 18: Kirtland AFB Air Show – Kirtland AFB, NM
May 25-26: Jones Beach Air Show – Jones Beach, NY
May 30: USAF Academy – Colorado Springs, CO

June 1-2: Defenders of Freedom Air Show – Offutt AFB, NE
June 8-9: Fort Wayne Air Show – Fort Wayne, IN
June 15-16: Minnesota Air Spectacular – Mankato, MN
June 22-23: Dayton Air Show – Dayton, OH
June 29-30: OPEN

July 6-7: Mid-summer Break
July 13-14: Rionegro (Medellin), Colombia
July 20-21: Fargo Air Show – Fargo, ND
July 24: Cheyenne Frontier Days – Cheyenne, WY
July 27-28: Milwaukee Air and Water Show – Milwaukee, WI

August 10-11: Abbotsford International Air Show – Abbotsford, BC
August 17-18: Sioux Falls Air Show – Sioux Falls, SD
August 21: Atlantic City Air Show – Atlantic City, NJ
August 24-25: Rochester International Airshow – Rochester, NY
August 31-September 2: Cleveland National Air Show – Cleveland, OH

September 7-8: Grissom Air Reserve Base Air Show – Grissom ARB, IN
September 14-15: National Championship Air Races – Reno, NV
September 21-22: Naval Air Station Oceana Air Show – NAS Oceana, VA
September 28-29: Robins AFB Air Show – Robins AFB, GA

October 5-6: Puerto Rico International Air Show – San Juan, PR
October 12-13: Atlanta Air Show – Hampton, GA
October 19-20: Wings Over Houston Air Show – Houston, TX
October 26-27: Sheppard AFB Air Show – Sheppard AFB, TX

November 2-3: Florida International Air Show – Punta Gorda, FL
November 15-17: Aviation Nation – Nellis AFB, NV

Want to look a little further ahead? We also have a copy of the preliminary 2020 US Air Force Thunderbirds schedule!

George H. W. Bush To Be Buried In Blue Angel Socks As Eternal Tribute To Navy Service

posted in: Jet Teams, Miscellaneous, Popular Posts | 0

TBM Avenger "George Bush" - AirshowStuff

When former President George H. W. Bush is buried this week, the US Navy Blue Angels will be with him. On his socks.

The 41st President was well known for his love of colorful socks, often using them to make a statement or support a cause. Bush’s spokesman Jim McGrath shared this image on Twitter of the final pair of socks, which feature the iconic Blue Angel delta formation, with smoke on, against a blue sky. Also featured are the Wings of Gold that signify a naval aviator.


It’s entirely fitting that Bush will represent the Navy in his grave. After all, he flew 58 combat missions in TBM Avenger torpedo bombers for the US Navy in World War II. He was shot down during an attack mission in 1944 and rescued by a submarine. The final Nimitz-class aircraft carrier to enter Navy service, CVN-77, is named for him.

He was made an Honorary Blue Angel in 2014.


Aviation continued to play a part in Bush’s life until the very end. The code-word used by family and friends to privately share news of his death was “CAVU”, an aviation acronym for ‘ceiling and visibility unlimited’ that signifies weather that presents no restrictions on flying.

Bush’s legacy as a naval aviator will live on; at least two civilian-owned TBM Avengers bear his name as part of their paint schemes.

Flying With The Canadian Forces Snowbirds

Flying with the Canadian Forces Snowbirds - Cockpit Cam - AirshowStuff

I have always been a fan of the Canadian Snowbirds. When I was just getting into airshows, their spectacular bursts were unlike anything I had seen before. As I became more familiar with the industry, their large formation rolls where they pull over the top while pointing right at the crowd stuck out as even more unique. And when I eventually earned my pilot’s certificate and spent some time at formation clinics, I found myself astonished by the difficulty of their many different nine-plane formations.

Canadian Forces Snowbirds - AirshowStuffCanadian Forces Snowbirds - AirshowStuff

To this day, the Snowbirds are my absolute favorite airshow performance to watch, and one of the very few that I make sure to see at least once a year. One could say I feel a special connection to the team; they feature prominently in my most powerful airshow memories, and just hearing some of the songs they’ve flown to will bring goosebumps to my arms in an instant.

All of this is to say: when Snowbirds Public Affairs Officer Lt. Michèle Tremblay contacted AirshowStuff last month to talk about a media ride, it was more than just a cool opportunity. The catch was that I would have to get from Michigan to the Oregon International Airshow in Hillsboro, Oregon. Thankfully, the logistics were straight forward and less than two weeks later, I was descending past Mt. Hood on my way into Portland.

Canadian Forces Snowbirds - AirshowStuff
The Canadian Forces Snowbirds, also known as 431 Air Demonstration Squadron, have been Canada’s national display team since the 1970s. The team is based at CFB Moose Jaw in Saskatchewan, and travels across North America each year performing for millions of spectators. Their show season usually begins in May and runs through October. They make a number of visits to the US each year, usually in the spring and fall.

I actually beat the team to Hillsboro, and watched the #10 and #11 jets – the advance party – arrive in the Thursday afternoon sun. We got my quick medical check out of the way before the main group of nine jets arrived. The team’s support hauler, a specially-outfitted semi-trailer truck, was already in place. The truck brings all sorts of equipment for the team, including tools, spare parts, bicycles, a Gator four wheeler, and space for luggage that doesn’t fit into the relatively small CT-114 Tutor aircraft.

I knew that the team had performed on the East Coast (Virginia Beach, VA) the weekend before, and we heard how the Canadian Army driver had driven the truck all the way from there to the team’s home base in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan for a short three hour stop to reload before finishing the cross country journey. I was thankful for my airline ticket just thinking about it.

Canadian Forces Snowbirds - AirshowStuff
The Snowbirds perform in nine Canadair CT-114 Tutor aircraft. The Canadian-designed and -built Tutor first flew in 1960 and served as the Royal Canadian Air Force’s primary jet trainer until 2000. Two other Tutors, flown by the team coordinators, travel with the team as spares. Because each aircraft is a two-seater, the team’s technicians fly from show to show along with the pilots. Although the age of the jets is a common point of discussion among airshow fans, the team plans to operate them until at least 2030.

The rest of the team arrived with a nine ship flyby, and after a quick debriefing I was told to report the next morning for ejection seat training(!) and other preparations.

The big day arrived, and the four media riders went straight into learning the complex steps required to strap in, and the even more complex steps required to eject or evacuate on the ground. We grabbed flight suits, and were fitted for helmets, oxygen masks, life preservers, and parachutes by the helpful (and patient) technicians.

Flying with the Canadian Forces Snowbirds - AirshowStuffFlying with the Canadian Forces Snowbirds - AirshowStuff

Once we were all set, we went straight to the briefing room to meet the rest of the team and go over the details of the flight. As a dedicated media opportunity, the team was forgoing their typical Friday practice and instead planned a transit flight just for us. We would take off and head north, then turn west and follow the Columbia River to the Pacific Ocean near Astoria, OR. After a flyby there, we would turn south and fly along the coast before turning inland and returning to Hillsboro. Upon arriving back at the airfield the team would perform a site survey to familiarize themselves with the showline and then land.

Unfortunately, the FAA rep at the show incorrectly but adamantly stated that aerobatics could not be performed with passengers. The team grumbled but accepted it. The rest of the briefing covered the weather (clear skies, unlimited visibility), air traffic control, divert airports, and other such details that well-prepared pilots pay attention to. I would be flying with Snowbird #4, Maj. Stephen “Pup” Melanson in the First Line Astern position, right behind the “Boss”.

Outside, we were introduced to the aircraft technicians who would be helping us strap in. Cameras were readied, and soon it was time to mount up. All of our prepared gear was waiting for us, and my awesome (and again, patient) tech Cpl. Brandon Harvey made sure to catch all of the steps I missed. In my defense, when you’re covered in straps and handles that turn on oxygen or deploy a parachute, you tend to double check what you’re pulling!

Pup joined me in the small side-by-side cockpit, and talked me through the startup procedure once all of the pilots had checked in. The jets lined up on the runway in three groups of three, with #6 and #7 on our wings as the middle group. Pup explained the sequence as we rolled down the runway together and all nine aircraft worked to form up on our northbound leg.

Canadian Forces Snowbirds - AirshowStuff
Flying smaller aircraft allows the team to operate out of smaller airports than the Blue Angels or Thunderbirds. This helps them reach many smaller cities and towns across Canada’s rural regions. The team frequently performs self-contained Wednesday evening shows in towns that don’t feature a full airshow. They strive to inspire the audience, share the many opportunities available to men and women in the Canadian military, and demonstrate the skill, professionalism, and teamwork behind their aviation excellence. During their trips to the US, the team acts as ambassadors for Canada and highlights the long friendship between the two countries.

The scenery was breathtaking. In the clear afternoon air, we could easily see Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams, and even Mt. Rainier in the distance while haze filled the valleys below us. The team went through a couple of formation changes as Pup explained the spacing and alignments. Although we didn’t really move around ourselves, the #4 position gave me a great view of the other aircraft moving around on both sides of us. The changes were far more sudden and crisp than other formation flights I’ve been on, but at the same time controlled and smooth. I wouldn’t expect any different from some of the world’s best!

With smoke on, we gave a big sweeping flyover to the citizens of Longview, WA as we turned west. Each aircraft dropped into trail as we descended toward the river, which for the Snowbirds means a follow-the-leader line of nine jets, each with the freedom to maneuver as needed. Pup, knowing I fly, handed me the controls and let me slalom behind the pack ahead of us as we wound down the river. The controls were responsive but not touchy. I felt right at home and I can understand why the aging jet is still perfect for formation displays. The coolest part of the entire flight was when I pulled us into a turn and blasted right through the smoke trail of #3, bobbling slightly as we crossed his wake.

Sadly, my part only lasted a few minutes before we were called to rejoin – a maneuver that included a few violent whips and the hardest G of the flight, probably around 4 or 5. That was the tame version, Pup explained to me; the rejoins during the scripted show are even quicker and tighter.

Flying with the Canadian Forces Snowbirds - Cockpit Cam - AirshowStuffFlying with the Canadian Forces Snowbirds - Cockpit Cam - AirshowStuff

Back in formation, we did two flybys over Astoria, including a low pass down the runway there before proceeding south along the coast. This was another dose of beautiful scenery, with big bluffs and rocky islands as far down the shoreline as the eye could see. Boss put us into a big 360 degree turn right over Tillamook Rock so that the pilots on each side of the formation could take in the view while also staring at his jet.

We continued a little further south, with a couple more formation changes thrown in. The ocean fell behind us as we climbed up over the hills of the Tillamook State Forest – a bad place to eject, Pup pointed out to me. The team dropped back into trail, and descended into Hillsboro as a line of white dots against the evergreens. The site survey was a quick four passes over the airport, then Pup whipped us back into formation again for a final Big Diamond flyby. The team separated into three groups of three again, and set down smoothly on the runway. Our techs marshaled us into position, perfectly spaced and lined up. My Snowbirds flight had come to an end.

Flying with the Canadian Forces Snowbirds - AirshowStuffFlying with the Canadian Forces Snowbirds - AirshowStuff

I’m forever grateful to the team for the opportunity to join them and I give special thanks again to Lt. Michèle Tremblay, Maj. Stephen Melanson, and Cpl. Brandon Harvey for their help. If you missed it above, make sure you check out the video of my Snowbird flight!

– Ryan Sundheimer

The Snowbirds have wrapped up their 2018 season, but I highly encourage you to make plans for one of their shows once the 2019 schedule is released in early December. You will be able to find that right here on the AirshowStuff blog, or in our forums.

Red Arrows Announce 2019 North American Tour

posted in: Airshows, Jet Teams, Popular Posts | 17
Red Arrows announce 2019 North American Tour across US and Canada
Photo credit: Alex Prins/This is Flight

The Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, the Red Arrows, are set to embark on a nine-week programme across the skies of North America is 2019.

The team announced “Western Hawk 19,” an August and September of 2019 tour across Canada and the United States.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said the Red Arrows would display across the Americas, reaching millions of people and showcasing the very best of British aviation.

“Our Red Arrows fly the flag for Britain across the globe, both in the skies and on the ground, and this tour will not only showcase their teamwork and aviation excellence, but also promote our great nation to billions of people across the world.

“After an incredible year celebrating RAF100, it seems only fitting that the Red Arrows prepare to illuminate the skies of our closest allies in 2019, celebrating and strengthening our incredible relationship with the US.”

The team’s last visit to the United States came in 2008, when they performed in New York, Virginia and other states. That visit in 2008 was a “short visit,” according to the Reds, and the 2019 visit is expected to be much longer.

The US program comes after the Red Arrows’ successful 2016 Asia-Pacific and the Middle East tour.

As well as displaying at a range of shows and events, the team will also attend engagements promoting the UK Government’s GREAT campaign, visit local schools, meet with business leaders and showcase the very best of British culture.

Air Vice-Marshal Warren James, the senior RAF officer responsible for the Red Arrows, said: “The deployment of the Red Arrows will demonstrate the global reach and capability of the RAF and our continuing support of the United Kingdom’s defence and commerce industries.

At this time, the shows the team will be performing at have not been announced, but stay tuned to the AirshowStuff Blog and Facebook Page for the information as soon as it’s announced! You can also discuss your thoughts on the tour and potential tour stops for the Reds in our forums.

Air Force Concludes Investigation Into Fatal Crash Of Thunderbird #4, Releases Report

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US Air Force Thunderbirds - F-16 Fighting Falcon

The US Air Force has released the crash investigation report for April’s fatal crash of Thunderbird #4, Maj. Stephen “Cajun” Del Bagno. Cajun was flying a practice routine with the team near Creech AFB in Nevada when his aircraft impacted the ground.

Very little information about the crash has been made public until now, and the remote location ensured there were few if any civilian witnesses. The report does not hold back, however, and describes in great detail how Del Bagno tragically succumbed to G-induced loss of consciousness, or G-LOC, during a high speed dive and failed to recover from it.

Specifically, the dive was part of the rejoin maneuver following the High Bomb Burst and four-ship crossover. Following the cross, the #4 pilot pulls up into a half loop, then flies down the show line inverted before pulling downward into a Split-S to drop into formation behind the lead aircraft. You can watch a video of the typical #4 rejoin sequence on our Youtube channel.

The report explains that on this particular occasion, Del Bagno flew at a maximum of -2.06 Gs while inverted, before immediately pulling to a peak of 8.56 Gs. It is believed that this quick transition from strong negative to intense positive Gs was too much for even the seasoned fighter pilot to handle. He lost consciousness for an estimated 5 seconds as the aircraft rocketed towards the ground. No attempt at ejection was registered by the aircraft systems and the aircraft impacted at nearly 60 degrees nose down and 90 degrees of bank with a descent rate of near 40,000 feet per minute.

Thunderbird #4 Major Stephen Del Bagno

Blue Angel #6, Capt. Jeff “Kooch” Kuss, was also killed while performing a Split-S about two years before Cajun’s accident. In that case, it was determined that he mistakenly initiated the maneuver lower than required. Following his crash, the Blue Angels removed the Split-S from their takeoff routine, although they do perform the maneuver later in the show.

As for the Thunderbirds, they resumed flying a few weeks after the crash, eventually bringing back former #4 pilot Major Nick “Khan” Krajicek to assume the slot position again. Based on observations at shows following the crash, they do not appear to have significantly changed the rejoin maneuver.

Here is the executive summary of the full 37 page report:

On 4 April 2018, the mishap pilot (MP), flying a F-16CM, tail number (T/N) 91-0413, assigned to the United States Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, the “Thunderbirds,” 57th Wing, Nellis Air Force Base (AFB), Nevada (NV), engaged in a routine aerial demonstration training flight at the Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR) near Creech AFB, NV. During the training flight, at approximately 1029 local time, the mishap aircraft (MA) impacted the ground and fatally injured the MP, without an ejection attempt.

The mishap mission was planned and authorized as a practice of a Thunderbirds aerial demonstration in the south part of the NTTR. The mishap flight was a formation of six F-16CMs (Thunderbirds #1-6), the standard Thunderbirds aerial demonstration flight. Thunderbird #4 was the MA/MP. During the High Bomb Burst Rejoin, an aerial maneuver near the scheduled end of the aerial demonstration training flight, the MP flew the MA for approximately 22 seconds in inverted flight between 5,500 and 5,700 feet above ground level. During this time, the MP experienced a change in force due to acceleration measured in multiples of the acceleration of gravity felt at the earth’s surface (G), between -0.5 to -2.06 G’s. While experiencing -2.06 G’s in inverted flight, the MP initiated a descending half-loop maneuver (Split-S). After five seconds in the Split-S, the MP attained a maximum +8.56 G’s. The MP experienced G-induced loss of consciousness (G-LOC) and absolute incapacitation at the end of that five-second period.

For approximately the next five seconds, the MP remained in a state of absolute incapacitation and made no deliberate flight control inputs as the MA accelerated toward the ground. Approximately one second prior to ground impact, the MP began deliberate flight control inputs as he transitioned from absolute to relative incapacitation. The MA impacted the ground at 57 degrees nose low with 89 degrees of left bank and the MP was fatally injured on impact, without an ejection attempt.

The Accident Investigation Board (AIB) President found by a preponderance of evidence the cause of the mishap was the MP’s G-LOC during the Split-S portion of the High Bomb Burst Rejoin maneuver. Additionally, the AIB President found by a preponderance of evidence two factors substantially contributed to the mishap: (a) the MP’s diminished tolerance to +G’s induced by the physiology of the MP’s exposure to –G’s (“Push-Pull Effect”) and (b) an associated decrease in the effectiveness of the MP’s Anti-G straining maneuver under those conditions.

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