Thunderbird F-16 Crashes In Nevada; Pilot Killed

posted in: Jet Teams | 7

US Air Force Thunderbirds - F-16 Fighting Falcon

UPDATE: The name of the pilot has been released.

ORIGINAL POST: An F-16 Fighting Falcon jet belonging to the US Air Force Thunderbirds crashed Wednesday inside the military’s Nevada Test and Training Range outside of Nellis AFB. The pilot of the jet was killed, however, the name has not been released yet pending next of kin notification. We expect to hear the name on Thursday. An investigation is being conducted into the cause of the mishap.

The team was performing an airshow practice routine near Creech AFB in Indian Springs, NV when the crash occurred. The Thunderbirds are based at nearby Nellis AFB, which sits on the outskirts of Las Vegas, NV. They opened their 2018 airshow season just a week and a half ago after canceling a couple of appearances to allow extra training time for their new commanding officer.

This is the first fatal crash for the team since 1982, when the four pilots in the diamond formation were killed after failing to recover from a loop. The famous incident became known as the “diamond crash”, and occurred in the same training area as today’s crash.

There have been more recent nonfatal crashes; in 2016 Thunderbird #6 crashed just short of the runway at Peterson AFB in Colorado after the team performed a flyover for the US Air Force Academy graduation ceremony. The pilot ejected safely, and the crash was eventually blamed on a faulty throttle component. The same day, Capt. Jeff Kuss of the US Navy Blue Angels demonstration team was killed in a crash while practicing for an airshow in Smyrna, TN.

In 2017, Thunderbird #8 skidded off a soaked runway while landing at the Dayton Airshow in Ohio. The flight was not part of the airshow; it was a “familiarization flight” with a member of the team’s maintenance crew in the back seat. Both pilot and passenger survived, though the pilot was injured.

There are few details available at this point, but we will update you once the pilot’s name is released. In the mean time, be sure to check our forums for further discussion on the crash and what it means for the airshow season. The team’s participation at the March Air Reserve Base “The March Field Air & Space Expo” has been cancelled.

New Details On Blue Angels’ Fat Albert Replacement Process

posted in: Jet Teams | 2

Fat Albert Replacement Confirmed

In a statement to NewsRadio 1620 in Pensacola, Naval Air Systems Command, commonly known as NavAir, confirmed that they are looking to the Royal Air Force for a replacement for a new Fat Albert.

The new report sheds a little more light on the situation after the original news that the RAF was listed in a contract to replace the current Fat Albert.

The biggest take away from the new post is that acquisition of a C-130J from the Royal Air Force would serve as a permanent replacement for the Blue Angels. The aircraft’s primary role is to transport the team’s equipment, and there is no confirmation yet whether the new C-130J will perform at airshows or not.

“High operational tempo and current in demand nature of Navy assets” was listed as the reason for the Navy looking to the Royal Air Force for a replacement instead of just taking one from the fleet. In addition, the current Fat Albert air frame is “nearing its structural end of life and the United Kingdom MOD C-130J presents an economical solution for its replacement.”

The Royal Air Force currently has a surplus of C-130J models in storage, making them an ideal source of a new Blue Angel support aircraft.

Fat Albert and the rest of the C-130T fleet has been grounded since last summer’s crash of a C-130 in Mississippi that killed all 16 service members. Before that, Bert missed airshows while undergoing an extensive overhaul.

At this time, the acquisition and delivery of the new C-130J is still in the planning stages. It is unknown when the new Fat Albert will be obtained by the team, let alone resume flying. It is also yet to be confirmed that the aircraft will don the famous blue and gold colors once acquired, but the fact that this is a permanent solution is promising.

We may very well be in for an entire show season without Fat Albert. Although disappointing for the fans, it is even harder on the team as they need to rely on other transportation. It may even lead to more broken jets as the team struggles to get spare parts in time to perform.

Stay tuned to AirshowStuff for updates on this developing story, and add your own thoughts in our forums!

Also take a look at the Blue Angels 2018 airshow schedule!

Blue Angels Look To Royal Air Force For Replacement Fat Albert Aircraft

posted in: Jet Teams | 3

Blue Angels Look to RAF for C-130J

“Fat Albert” could soon be traveling with the Blue Angels, thanks in part to the Royal Air Force.

FBO.gov, the Federal Government’s Contracting website posted a contract notice looking for an urgent replacement for the Blue’s current Bert.

The Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) intends to negotiate and award a sole source contract with the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence (MOD), Whitehall, London, United Kingdom for the procurement of one (1) C-130J under the authority of FAR 6.302-1, “Only One Responsible Source and No Other Supplies or Services Will Satisfy Agency Requirements.” The Government requires a suitable replacement aircraft, which must be delivered in an expeditious manner, to avoid a gap in logistical support of the Blue Angels flight demonstration squadron. The aircraft being procured from the UK MOD has the requisite amount of life and technical capability to support the Blue Angels mission.

The Blue Angels have been without their famous “Fat Albert” since last summer, when the crash of a KC-130T aircraft grounded the fleet. The Navy and Marine Corp’s fleet of aircraft remain grounded. Recently, the Blue Angels announced new pilots for Fat Albert.

The Royal Air Force currently has a surplus of C-130J models that have been placed in storage.

The acquisition of a new C-130 for the Blue Angels brings several benefits to the squadron. First, it permanently fills a gap left by their current aircraft being grounded. In recent seasons, the team has had to rely on trucks or borrowing a KC-130T (mainly when Bert was undergoing maintenance) to fly in Bert’s place. The second thing a new aircraft offers is a chance to potentially change Bert’s routine.

No timeline has been given for this replacement aircraft, but the fact one is potentially coming is a step forward in this saga of trouble for Bert. Hopefully we’ll see her flying in the skies at an airshow soon!

Add your thoughts on this surprising news in our forums!

See the Blue Angels 2018 schedule

Information from TheDrive.com contributed to this story

Red Arrows Engineer Killed In RAF Valley Hawk Crash

posted in: Jet Teams | 0

Royal Air Force Red Arrows

A Royal Air Force engineer was killed Tuesday when a Red Arrow jet crashed at RAF Valley in North Wales. Corporal Jonathan Bayliss was riding in the Hawk T1 aircraft when it crashed around 1:30pm local time.

The pilot survived and is currently receiving medical treatment for his injuries. The Hawk training aircraft was flying from RAF Valley to RAF Scrampton, where the famous aerobatic display team is based, at the time of the incident.

Bayliss was n Aircraft Technician with the aerobatic team. Born in Dartford, Kent, he joined the Royal Air Force in 2001 and was selected as a member of the Red Arrows team in 2016. In 2017, he was leader of the Red Arrows’ dye team, who help replace the jet’s famous red, white and blue smoke systems after landing. For 2018, as a member of the Circus team, Bayliss was a part of a small group of highly-trained engineers who travel with the aircraft and provide technical support to the Red Arrows when the aircraft operate away from their home base.

Corporal Jonathan Bayliss

Sergeant Will Allen, leader of the Red Arrow’s group of traveling support engineers, known as the “Circus” said: “Jon had a big a presence on the Squadron and with his wide beaming smile, and dry humour, could lighten up any dull moment or lift spirits when needed. Both inside and outside of work, he was a generous, kind and caring man who could also always be relied upon.”

Eyewitnesses reported seeing only the pilot eject from the aircraft as it neared the ground. Photos show black smoke rising from the airfield. An air ambulance helicopter was dispatched to the scene and airport fire services responded. Some reports indicate that a bird strike may have led to the crash, but the accident is under investigation.

AirshowStuff extends our condolences to the family, friends and teammates of Corporal Bayliss.

Major Changes to 2018 F-35 Lightning II Airshow Schedule

posted in: Airshows, Jet Teams, Military, Schedules | 6

USAF F-35 Lightning II

A recent update to the ACC schedule has removed five shows originally scheduled for 2018. This comes after a few shows were added to the schedule a few weeks ago.

The canceled shows are:
– Myrtle Beach, SC – April 28-29th
– MCAS Cherry Point, NC – May 5-6th
– Seattle, WA SeaFair – Aug 2-5th
– Reno Air Races, Reno, NV – Sept 14-16th
– Ft. Worth, TX – Oct 13-14th

At this time, the reason for the schedule change is unknown. AirshowStuff has reached out to ACC and the F-35 Heritage Flight team for a comment.

With the changes, the F-35 will perform in ten Heritage Flights this year and appear at two international shows as a static display. The team will also make a third, much requested performance at the Royal International Air Tattoo, known to many as RIAT at RAF Fairford, Gloucestershire, England in mid July.

This news comes after we learned the F-35 would be doing more than ever- adding extra flybys to it’s 2018 performance. In years prior, the aircraft would only takeoff and join up with the other aircraft for the Heritage Flight.

What are your thoughts on the schedule changes? Were you planning to go to any of the canceled shows? Join the discussion on our forums and let us know.

Thunderbirds Are Go For 2018 Daytona 500 Flyover

posted in: Flyovers, Jet Teams | 2

US Air Force Thunderbirds

The US Air Force Thunderbirds are set to perform the flyover for NASCAR’s Daytona 500 on Florida this Sunday. This will be the team’s first public performance with their new leader, Lt. Col. Kevin Walsh.

The race will be broadcast on FOX at 2:30 PM Eastern time on Sunday, February 18th. Fans near Daytona Beach will likely see the jets flying around earlier in the weekend as well, as they practice (9-10am on Saturday) and take VIPs for media flights.

Flying over the race is somewhat of a tradition for the Thunderbirds, who use the trip as a warm up for their intense travel schedule during the regular airshow season. The team’s first full airshow performance is scheduled for March 24 and 25 in Melbourne, FL.

Snowbirds Change 2018 Schedule To Add Airshow London Performances

posted in: Airshows, Jet Teams, Schedules | 0

Canadian Forces Snowbirds

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds will once again soar over London, Ontario this September. Organizers of Airshow London announced today that the team has added the show to their 2018 schedule and will perform on September 7, 8, and 9.

London is one of Canada’s largest airshows and it was quite surprising that it did not appear on the original 2018 schedule for the Snowbirds. The team instead planned to perform in Mont-Joli, Quebec that weekend instead. We have very little information on that event and do not know if it will be held now or not.

We have updated our copy of the 2018 Canadian Forces Snowbirds schedule to reflect the change. Please make sure to follow our forums to stay up to date as it continues to change throughout the year!

Blue Angels Add “New” F/A-18B Hornet To Squadron

posted in: Jet Teams | 1

US Navy Blue Angels F/A-18 Hornet

The Blue Angels have a new jet in their squadron! The Blues announced Friday that they’ve taken acquisition of BUNO 162419, a two-seat F/A-18B Hornet.

While this jet is new to the team, it is not new to the fleet. All of the US Navy Blue Angels aircraft are former fleet aircraft. Pictures online show that this particular jet once served with VX-23, the “Salty Dogs”, at NAS Patuxent River, VA. The jet is now painted up in the Blue’s famous blue and gold paint scheme. It will likely be used as a #7 media/backup jet once fully integrated into the team.

Blue Angels Receive New Jet

This new jet comes at a good time as the team was plagued by maintenance issues during the 2017 show season. Even with the best maintainers in the Navy, the team was only able to field five flyable jets at several shows over the summer months. They simply did not have enough aircraft in the squadron.

Further compounding the problem was the grounding of Fat Albert following a crash of a Marine KC-130 in July, which grounded the type. Part of Fat Albert’s role is to quickly retrieve equipment and replacement parts, but with Bert grounded the Blues had to rely on slower methods of getting parts for their jets.

Eventually the team will transition to F/A-18E and F/A-18F Super Hornets, but that is still probably a couple years off. In the mean time, 162419 will help them thrill spectators everywhere they go!

Blue Angels Release 2018 Pensacola Practice Schedule

posted in: Jet Teams, Schedules | 40

US Navy Blue Angels Release Practice Schedule for 2018

The US Navy Blue Angels have released their 2018 Pensacola practice schedule!

Although the team travels the country during the year, they return home to NAS Pensacola in Florida most weeks. In order to stay proficient in their demanding routine, they traditionally fly practice performances over the base on Tuesdays and Wednesdays during airshow season (March through November). Look below for their planned practice dates, but keep in mind that these can and do change as the year progresses due to things like weather or other circumstances. We will do our best to keep the list updated here and on our forums, but we can only pass on information as it is released.

Also be sure to check the 2018 Blue Angels airshow schedule to see where else they’ll be performing!

Practices typically begin at 11:30 am central time and last about 55 minutes. Public viewing is available at the National Naval Aviation Museum at no cost. The outside viewing area for the Blue Angels practice is located on the museum’s flight line north of the museum. Signs are posted to direct visitors to viewing and parking locations, including limited parking for handicapped visitors. Open bleacher seating is available and seats 1,000 people. A limited quantity of chairs are available for a fee of $3 per chair, good for that day’s practice session. Concessions (bottled water, sport drinks, light food, and treats) and merchandise are also available. Chair service, concessions and merchandise are provided by the National Naval Aviation Museum Foundation and proceeds support the museum and foundation programs.

A valid ID is required for all visitors 16 and over to gain access to the museum flight line. Backpacks, daypacks and other similar items are not allowed on the flight line.

2018 Blue Angels Pensacola Practice Schedule
March 27th
March 28th*
March 29th
March 30th (9am-10am)

April 3rd
April 4th
April 10th
April 11th*
April 17th
April 18th*
April 24th
April 25th*

May 1st
May 2nd*
May 8th
May 9th*
May 15th
May 16th*
May 17th
May 18th (9am-10am)
May 29th

June 5th
June 20th*
June 26th

July 3rd
July 5th
July 6th (9am-10am)
July 11th
July 17th
July 18th*
July 24th

August 15th*
August 21st
August 22nd*
August 28th
August 29th*

September 5th*
September 6th
September 7th (9am-10am)
September 11th
September 12th*
September 18th
September 25th*

October 17th*
October 23rd
October 24th*
October 30th
October 31st

November 1st
November 2nd

*Denotes autograph session following the practice inside the National Naval Aviation Museum.

Again, practices may be canceled due to weather or other circumstances without notice. Please contact the museum for last minute information.

Florida’s Melbourne Air And Space Show Changes 2018 Dates, Retains Thunderbirds As Headliner

posted in: Airshows, Jet Teams, Schedules | 5

USAF Thunderbirds - Opposing Pass

The Melbourne Air and Space Show announced today that they have changed dates from March 17-18 to March 24-25. Organizers say that they decided to change dates in order to keep the US Air Force Thunderbirds as headliners.

The move is not entirely unexpected, as the two other airshows that originally planned to have the Thunderbirds in March also went on to change their plans.

First, Wings Over Atlanta at Dobbins ARB in Georgia canceled their March 24-25 show citing financial reasons. Then, the Luke Days airshow at Luke AFB in Arizona changed dates from March 10-11 to March 17-18 and picked up a commitment from the US Navy Blue Angels to replace the Thunderbirds as the headlining act.

This left Melbourne as the sole March appearance by the Thunderbirds, with an open weekend before and after. Now that they have slipped back to the original Wings Over Atlanta dates, they represent the first airshow of the Thunderbirds’ 2018 season.

All of this schedule churn is extremely unusual, but likely a result of the equally unusual dismissal and replacement of former Thunderbird #1, Lt. Col. Jason Heard after the 2017 season. The new Thunderbird #1, Lt. Col. Kevin Walsh, had not previously flown the demonstration and it is not surprising that he would require extra practice time to learn the profile. In fact, we speculated that this might end up happening at the time of the announcement. These schedule moves give the team an extra two weeks of training time, and by reconfirming their Melbourne appearance for March 24th, they seem confident that it will be enough.

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