Civilian F-5 To Join Heritage Flight Program, Pyro Approved For F-22 And F-35 Demos

posted in: Airshows, Military, Popular Posts | 1

US Air Force Heritage Flight - AirshowStuff

An easy to overlook update from Air Combat Command has yielded some exciting developments with the Air Force’s single-ship demonstration and Heritage Flight programs!

The update in question is the publishing of the 2019 version of the Demo Team Support Manual; a long document which spells out all of the requirements that airshows must meet in order to host the F-22 Raptor, F-35 Lightning II, F-16 Fighting Falcon, and A-10 Thunderbolt II demonstration teams during the season. These details are often mundane and invisible to spectators, like the number of required rental cars and mandated access to a 24/7 fitness center, but the manual does give a glimpse at the many factors that need to be carefully considered when planning an event. The 2019 version includes a couple of noteworthy mentions that will be very noticeable to spectators.

First, the Heritage Flight program is being expanded to include a Northrop F-5 fighter jet! The F-5 is an interesting addition because it was primarily exported to US allies and saw only limited USAF service. It will represent the Vietnam War era previously represented by USAF-operated F-4 Phantom IIs, which did not return to the Heritage Flight program after the 2013 sequestration year shut down all military demonstrations and left active service in 2016. This left the A-1 Skyraider as the only approved participant from that time period. F-5s did fly a couple thousand sorties in Vietnam, but certainly are not closely associated with the war.

The pilots in the program meet at Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, AZ every year for the Heritage Flight Conference, a weekend practice session to prepare for the upcoming airshow season. Civilian participation in the Heritage Flight is kept under tight control, and only a small group of specially approved pilots are allowed to fly in them, and only in certain aircraft types. Aside from the F-5, only P-51 Mustangs, P-38 Lightnings, P-40 Warhawks, P-47 Thunderbolts, F-86 Sabres, and A-1 Skyraiders are approved. There are several other privately owned fighter jets that could theoretically be included; an F-4 Phantom II flown by the Collings Foundation and a pair of F-100 Super Sabres are the most notable. Sadly, it seems likely that logistics and costs will prevent them from participating any time soon.

An interesting note is that while the F-5 is increasingly flown as a civilian warbird in the US, the US Navy and Marine Corps still actively use versions of the aircraft as aggressors during training and the T-38 Talon advanced trainer that was developed from the F-5 is a mainstay of the Air Force training fleet.

The other interesting takeaway from the support manual update is that pyrotechnics have been approved for use during the F-22 and F-35 demonstrations. The pyro is limited to a wall of fire on the high speed pass only, similar to the limitations already approved for the F-16 demo. The A-10 demo continues to be approved for additional pyro as it includes simulated strafing and bombing attacks in its routine. Most shows do not elect to use pyro with the demos, but it’s great that it will be more available in the future for those that do.

Find out where you can see the USAF single-ship demonstration teams in 2019 by visiting our airshow and aviation event calendar, and share your thoughts about the new F-5 on our forums!

Royal Air Force Red Arrows Announce Initial Schedule For 2019 US And Canada Tour

Royal Air Force Red Arrows - AirshowStuff

The Royal Air Force Red Arrows have released an initial schedule for their highly anticipated 2019 North American Tour!

This is the first visit by the Reds since 2008, when they made several appearances during a short stint in the US and Canada.

The Reds will cross paths with the North American display teams several times; the US Navy Blue Angels in Chicago, New York, and St Louis; the US Air Force Thunderbirds in Atlantic City, and the Canadian Forces Snowbirds in Toronto and Huntington Beach.

The last time a European jet team toured the US and Canada was in 2017, when France’s Patrouille de France came over in March through early May. During that visit, they performed a number of displays and flyovers and stopped at the home bases of both the Blue Angels (NAS Pensacola, FL) and Thunderbirds (Nellis AFB, NV) for photo ops and knowledge exchanges. They even managed to squeeze in a massive photo flight with the Canadian Snowbirds.

Here is the initial schedule as announced today. The release notes that additional appearances will be announced at a later date, so make sure to keep an eye out here for updates and on our airshow calendar for an extensive list of airshows and aviation events, plus other major schedules all listed in one place! You can also check our forums for discussion on the schedule and shows! We also hope you’ll share your own photos and videos of the Reds performances!

RAF Red Arrows 2019 US and Canada Tour Schedule

August 13: Gatineau, QC
August 17-18: 61st Chicago Air and Water Show – Chicago, IL
August 21: Thunder Over the Boardwalk – Atlantic City, NJ
August 24-25: New York Air Show – New Windsor, NY
August 31-September 1: Canadian International Airshow – Toronto, ON

September 7-8: Spirit of St. Louis Air Show & STEM Expo – St. Louis, MO
September 20-22: Oregon International Air Show – Hillsboro, OR

October 4-6: The Great Pacific Airshow – Huntington Beach, CA

Here is the full press release released today, emphasis ours:

A list of locations where people can see the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team display during a major tour of North America has been released.

The confirmed displays include appearances by the Red Arrows in Canada and on both the east and west coasts of the United States, with more events expected to be announced in the weeks to come.

Speaking from Nellis Air Base, Nevada, UK Defence Minister Mark Lancaster said:

“I am delighted people all over the US and Canada will be able to see our world-famous Red Arrows in action.

“Previous tours have generated huge amounts of investment for the UK, and we hope the team lighting up the skies of two of our closest defence allies will bring more of the same.”

The team will fly to North America for the Western Hawk 19 tour this summer, expecting to arrive in Canada on August 8.

The display locations in Canada and the US where the Red Arrows are confirmed as performing in 2019.
Display locations confirmed for the forthcoming tour to North America by the Red Arrows.
During the deployment – which will be the largest to the region in a generation – the Red Arrows will help to support a range of British interests and promote trade and cooperation, as part of the United Kingdom’s prosperity agenda.

As well as displaying at locations and shows across North America, the team will also attend several engagements on the ground, coordinated by the Department for International Trade (DIT) and the UK Government’s GREAT campaign.

The first locations being confirmed for where the Red Arrows will display are:

RAF Red Arrows 2019 North American Tour - AirshowStuff

Ottawa – Gatineau-Ottawa Airshow
Chicago – Air and Water Show
Atlantic City – Thunder Over The Boardwalk
New York – New York Airshow, Stewart International
Toronto – Canadian International Airshow
St. Louis – Spirit of St. Louis Airshow & STEM Expo
Portland-Hillsboro – The Oregon International Airshow
Los Angeles (Huntington Beach) – The Great Pacific Airshow
Other public events, display locations and flypasts are still to be set, with engagement opportunities planned from coast-to-coast. Further announcements will follow as confirmations are made.

The Red Arrows are renowned as one of the world’s premier aerobatic display teams, having performed almost 5,000 times in 57 countries since 1965.

Flying nine BAE Systems Hawk fast-jets, the team showcases the excellence of the Royal Air Force and demonstrates the global reach and capability of the Service, together with representing the best of British at home and overseas.

Previous tours by the Red Arrows, including to the Middle and Far East, have helped generate important investment and sales for the UK across a range of sectors.

UK International Trade Secretary Dr Liam Fox said:

“The Red Arrows have a rich tradition of working with the GREAT Britain Campaign and DIT to promote trade, investment, tourism and education, all while presenting a positive impression of the UK.

“Their tour of North America will provide an invaluable opportunity to deepen the partnership with some of our closest allies and trading partners.

“It will include an integrated programme of trade missions and business engagement, involving both the display team and ground crew, and build on the experience of previous tours to provide even stronger support for our business objectives.”

A visually-exciting display is promised by the Red Arrows during a tour to North America.

Preparations are already being carried out to create a memorable and visually-exciting display to be enjoyed by people watching throughout the latest deployment.

Squadron Leader Martin Pert, Red 1 and Team Leader of the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, said:

“Confirming this initial group of display locations where we will perform in North America is not just exciting for those people hoping to attend these events – but also for the whole Red Arrows team as well.

“Air and ground crews are now hard at work, preparing the display which will be seen by audiences in the UK, US and Canada this summer, while detailed planning is well underway to carefully, and safely, plot our overseas tour.

With these airshows announced, we can now join friends and fans alike in visualising what people will be able to enjoy when the Red Arrows make our biggest ever visit to the US and Canada. – Red 1

“However, the air display is only half the story – much of our activity in support of UK interests overseas is centred on considerable ground engagement. As a team, we are particularly enthusiastic about meeting so many individuals, from business leaders and military counterparts to young people and airshow crowds.”

After displaying at the Royal International Air Tattoo, between July 19 and July 21, in the UK, the Red Arrows will undertake a short period of maintenance and preparation before departing for North America.

Former Blue Angel Explains Super Hornet Transition Plans, Talks New Routine

posted in: Jet Teams, Popular Posts | 2

US Navy Blue Angels - AirshowStuff

We now know a lot more about the US Navy Blue Angelscoming transition to the F/A-18E Super Hornet thanks to former Blue Angel #1 Captain Ryan Bernacchi. He spoke to Newsradio 1620 in the team’s hometown of Pensacola, FL recently, and explained not only the difference between the team’s current F/A-18 “Legacy” Hornets and the coming Super Hornets, but also the current status of the transition.

Bernacchi started by explaining why the transition is going forward in the first place. When the Blues began flying Hornets in the late ’80s, significant engineering work was done to modify the jet for airshows. This work applied to the A and B model Hornets. More recently, similar work was done to prepare some older C and D model Hornets for shows as well. These modifications include things like the smoke system and the ability to fly inverted for longer than a stock jet. Although the team has continued to fly these older jets, they are aging and relatively few usable airframes remain eligible for the already approved modifications. In response, the Blues were forced to look at either pursuing younger Legacy Hornets or transitioning to Super Hornets.

Their findings are very interesting. Bernacchi says that even though the Legacy Hornets are now retired from active Navy service – the final operational flight was February 1st – the vast majority of the youngest airframes are earmarked for service with the Marine Corps and Navy Reserves. A middle group of airframes from production lots 13 and 14 were available to the team, but had enough differences from the team’s current aircraft that they required a similar engineering effort for airshow modifications. Surprisingly, the end conclusion was that it would cost roughly the same amount to transition to anything newer than the team’s existing jets, whether moving to newer Legacy Hornets or Super Hornets! The final decision to go to Super Hornets was made this past December.

Here’s a video showing Legacy Hornets and Super Hornets flying side by side:

So when can we look forward to new jets in the distinctive blue and gold paint scheme? Bernacchi says that the current plan is to have 11 modified Super Hornets – early production models that never saw operational service – ready for winter training at the end of 2020. They would debut in the spring of 2021. This matches the preliminary 2020 airshow schedule released by the Blues, which is notable for ending a month earlier than usual. We speculated that this was to allow extra time for the off-season transition, and that appears to be the case.

Bernacchi is also quick to point out that this project will take a backseat to maintaining and upgrading the frontline force, so it may slip due to potential budget cuts or other difficulties. The team can continue performing in their current jets for some time if it does get pushed back, but he was careful to emphasize that the new jets are not combat-ready models and they are not coming from any combat units.

What will the show look like after the transition? Bernacchi and former Blue Angel solo pilot Cdr. Frank “Walleye” Weisser spent time at NAS Patuxent River in Maryland analyzing the aircraft’s capabilities and fit for the team. His verdict after flying maneuvers in a simulator and in real life is that it will work well for the team, but it will require some adjustments. One maneuver – which Bernacchi did not name – is likely to be modified or dropped, but he feels some others will look better than they do now.

One proposal is for the diamond and solos to each drop one maneuver in order to streamline the show and improve the flow during the routine. This would shorten the show slightly, but even just three minutes per flight spread over ten performances (including practices) a week adds up to dozens of hours of airframe time saved each year. Bernacchi says that in addition to vetting the aircraft systems for potential failures, they spent a great deal of time looking into other factors of aircraft fatigue like how certain maneuvers and rejoins are flown. Although he did not go into specifics, he said they came up with a plan to substantially reduce the fatigue impact on the airframes, which will extend their lives with the team.

What do you think the mystery maneuver is? Feel free to take a guess and add your thoughts on the transition in our forums! Also make sure to visit our airshow calendar to see where you can watch a Blue Angels performance in 2019 and 2020.

Set Your Airshow Plans With Our New Airshow/Aviation Event Calendar

posted in: Airshows, Popular Posts, Schedules | 1

Looking to plan your airshow schedule in 2019? AirshowStuff is happy to unveil our new calendar of airshows and aviation events in the US and Canada!

This calendar combines the major military/jet team schedules and other known events into a single list for easy browsing and comparison. You can use the filters to search by date, event name, location, state, country, or featured performer. We have also included links to event discussion threads on our forums, so you can get more information or ask questions about attending. If a thread doesn’t already exist for an event you want to discuss, please create one!

We hope that the new calendar will help both hardcore avgeeks and casual fans to find and connect with events near them. The calendar currently includes over 180 events in 2019 as well as preliminary 2020 airshow dates for the US Navy Blue Angels and US Air Force Thunderbirds. You can get to the calendar at any time through the button on the blue navigation bar at the top of this page.

We will be updating the calendar as schedules inevitably change throughout the year. If you see any incorrect information, or know of an aviation event that we have not included, please let us know through the forums, e-mail, or through our social media channels!

AirshowStuff’s Top Ten Onboard Videos Of 2018

As our 13th year of airshow coverage comes to a close, we’re taking a look back at another awesome season of aviation and airshows!

Our onboard videos have long been highlights, as they take viewers to all sorts of special places. Whether on the wing of a small aerobatic aircraft, or in the cockpit of a supersonic fighter jet, onboard videos put you in the heart of the action. Here are ten of our favorite onboard videos from 2018!

We also have lists of our top ten warbird videos and our top ten military videos!

The US Navy Blue Angels Like You’ve Never Seen Them Before

This footage, released by the DOD, comes from a camera attached to the nose of Blue Angel #1. Watch as the rest of the famous formation team holds position through several maneuvers like the diamond roll and vertical break!

PACAF F-16 Demonstration – Arctic Aggressor Style!

The Pacific Air Forces F-16 Demonstration Team is not that well known in the US, as they are based at Misawa AB in Japan and primarily perform at international events. However, in 2018 they visited Elmendorf AFB in Alaska and borrowed a spectacularly-painted arctic aggressor F-16 for their performances.

Flying the Spitfire in Oshkosh

After showing us how to preflight the Mike Potter Collection’s Spitfire Mk. IX, pilot Dave Hadfield was kind enough to share some cockpit footage with us. Watch as he flies this legendary warbird through several passes during the airshow!

A-10 Warthog Aerobatics and Heritage Flight

We were also fortunate enough to work with the USAF A-10 Thunderbolt II Demonstration Team this year at the Battle Creek Airshow. Strap into the cockpit for the full aerobatic performance and a Heritage Flight with a P-51 Mustang. We have more camera angles to share in the near future as well!

Ferrari vs. MiG-17 Race

Greg Howell, pilot of the Red Stripe MiG-17, sent us this footage of him racing the Precision Exotics Ferrari F430 at the 2018 Cannon AFB Air Show, Space and Tech Fest at Cannon AFB, NM. Watch as Greg swoops in down low right next to the speeding car – who will win the race?

Canadian Snowbirds Tank Cam

The Snowbirds were kind enough to share this tank cam footage with us after their performance at the NAS Oceana Airshow. Tank cam is a special camera housing mounted on the belly on Snowbird #1, providing spectacular views of the formation behind him! It’ll give you a new appreciation for the skill required to keep nine aircraft in formation during these loops and rolls.

Gamebird GB1 Aerobatics

Watching Philipp Steinbach fly the GameBird GB1 from the ground is impressive – the way this new aerobatic design snaps through maneuvers looks a lot more like an RC aircraft than any full size airplane should – but it is even more impressive to see it from this camera on the wingtip. Don’t blink or you’ll miss the crisp starts and stops!

Snowbird Pilot For A Day

This one is not strictly an onboard video, but it provides an awesome look into our flight with the Canadian Snowbirds, including radio comms!

F-18 Hornet Low Level Training and Star Wars Canyon Run

This footage, courtesy of Gotyacovered Photography, comes not from an airshow performance, but from real low level training. Join this F-18 pilot as he races over the trees, climbing and diving to follow the hills at high speed. Watch to the end to see a run through the famous Jedi Transition in Star Wars Canyon!

Low and Slow Over Oshkosh

Finally, enjoy some low and slow flying with a few trips around the ultralight runway traffic pattern at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh. This twin-engine AirCam is gigantic compared to some of the other aircraft on display, but it easily drops into the grass strip for some short-field landings. The joy of flying at its most basic!

Remember to subscribe to our Youtube channel for even more onboard videos – we’re adding more all the time!

AirshowStuff’s Top Ten Military Videos Of 2018

As our 13th year of airshow coverage comes to a close, we’re taking a look back at another awesome season of aviation and airshows!

Military aircraft are usually the stars of the show, and for good reasons. The speed, power, and sheer noise are captivating, and seeing some of these cutting edge machines is a rare treat for many. Here are ten of our favorite military videos from 2018!

We also have lists of our top ten onboard videos and our top ten warbird videos!

B-1B Afterburner Spiral

If we have one memory from this airshow season, it’s this ridiculous takeoff and climb. An approaching thunderstorm canceled the Wednesday night airshow at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, but this B-1 still had to get home. As the flight line cleared and lightning flashed in the distance, we waited for the Bone’s departure and were not disappointed. Four engines roared in full afterburner for several minutes as the strategic bomber spiraled up from the runway, disappearing into the clouds but continuing to make its presence known by the rumble.

Up Close and Personal with an F-22 Raptor

The most advanced air superiority fighter of the day is a serious piece of hardware, and still sensitive enough to be roped off and guarded everywhere it goes. Luckily, our friends at the Terre Haute Airshow and Tora Tora Tora worked with us to get a very special vantage point on the F-22 Raptor demo – inside the aerobatic box, directly underneath some of its incredible maneuvers!

MV-22 Osprey Sunset Demonstration

The V-22 Osprey is the only production tilt-rotor aircraft in the world, currently in use by the US Air Force and US Marine Corps. This Marine Corps crew showed off the unique capabilities of the aircraft just before sunset at the 2018 America’s Freedom Fest airshow in Goshen, IN.

CF-18 Hornet and T-33 Heritage Flight

The Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18 Hornet demonstration never disappoints (except when they are forced to run a lighter airshow schedule) and this video captures not only the beautifully painted 2018 demo jet in action, it also includes a special RCAF Heritage Flight with a T-33 painted up as the “Red Knight”.

Aerial Refueling Tankers On Parade

One of the themes for EAA AirVenture 2018 was a celebration of aerial refueling tankers, the often unsung heroes of modern air power. Although multiple tankers flew by during the week, it culminated in this tanker parade during the Saturday airshow.

US Navy Blue Angels With Comms

The US Navy Blue Angels are essentially the face of the military to many Americans, and we were fortunate to film their entire performance at the Terre Haute Airshow with almost no music or narration – just radio calls, jet noise, and awesome flying!

Ukrainian Military Muscle

Our friends at This Is Flight allowed us to share this video of the Ukrainian SU-27 Flanker performing at the 2018 Royal International Air Tattoo, or RIAT. Did you know that two civilian-owned Flankers were brought to the US and test flown before being purchased and taken away by a mysterious buyer?

F-22s Put on a Show

These Raptor drivers knew exactly what the EAA AirVenture crowd wanted; fast flybys, hard pulls, and lots of afterburner! Even when they were asked to hold, they made a point to “play” in sight of the crowd and showcased the incredible maneuverability of the aircraft.

“Dark Falcon” F-16 Demonstration

Another video that comes from our friends at This Is Flight; this one showcases the spectacular “Dark Falcon” paint scheme on the Belgian Air Force F-16 Display Team. This is maybe one of the most beautiful F-16s to ever exist!

C-17: The Massive Yet Nimble Airlifter

We have to show a little love to a bigger military aircraft, the C-17 Globemaster III. This nimble airlifter can maneuver in ways you wouldn’t think possible, and stop in incredibly short distances. It showcased these abilities at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh.

Remember to subscribe to our Youtube channel for even more military videos – we’re adding more all the time!

AirshowStuff’s Top Ten Warbird Videos Of 2018

As our 13th year of airshow coverage comes to a close, we’re taking a look back at another awesome season of aviation and airshows!

Warbirds – aircraft that are no longer in military service – are one of the most popular searches across all of our channels, and it’s easy to see why. Many people have strong emotional connections to these aircraft, maybe due to a relative who flew one or just as a touchstone to history. Warbirds are almost by definition quite rare, and we are glad to share the sights and sounds of these vintage beasts! Here are ten of our favorite warbird videos from 2018!

We also have lists of our top ten onboard videos and our top ten military videos!

Two F7F Tigercats Flying Together

Listen to this exceptionally rare pair get the props going on their high speed pass in Oshkosh! A unique – and chilling – sound! One of the aircraft lost a wheel on landing, but was otherwise undamaged.

MiG-17 Afterburner at Sunset

Randy Ball flies what may be the perfect warbird routine – a mix of aerobatics, high speed passes, and photo passes. He knows what the crowd likes, and it’s even more beautiful at dusk!

Air to Air With an A-26 Invader and Four TBM Avengers

One of the coolest air to air flights we did all year was this rare opportunity to hang out the open door of a Beech 18 with five rare warbirds flying off the wing!

Warbirds Roaring Directly Overhead on the Hot Ramp

We work hard to film from spots with no music or narrators blasting over the PA, and this year our friends at the Terre Haute Airshow helped us out with amazing access to the hot ramp. Enjoy this compilation of warbirds, including a B-17 Flying Fortress, B-25 Mitchell, P-51 Mustang, and more – watch for them to blast right overhead on their photo passes!

An Inside Look at Tora Tora Tora – Right Next to the Bombs

They’re warbirds in two different senses – T-6 Texans and BT-13 Valiants masquerading as Japanese Zeros, Vals, and Kates – and we had a great time getting attacked by them while sitting in the pyro field during this performance by the Tora Tora Tora group!

Preflighting a Supermarine Spitfire in Oshkosh

This video has less action than most, but it’s also one of the most informative. Dave Hadfield, who flies a number of warbirds, was nice enough to show us around the Mike Potter Collection’s Supermarine Spitfire Mk. IX on the ground at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh. Learn everything you’ve ever wanted to know about preflighting a Spitfire! Dave also shared some cockpit footage with us – check back for that when we list our 2018 on-board videos!

Spitfire Flybys for RAF 100

Here’s the end result of the Spitfire preflight – some spectacular flybys lit up by the late afternoon sun. Oshkosh helped mark the 100th anniversary of the Royal Air Force with the Spitfire, a de Havilland Chipmunk, and a BAC Jet Provost.

Twilight Flybys From an F-5 Freedom Fighter

This nimble F-5 Freedom Fighter showed off just after sunset at the America’s Freedom Fest airshow in Goshen, IN. We’ll also have cockpit footage from this jet coming up with other on-board videos!

Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Trenchard Formation

Thanks to our friends at This Is Flight, we were able to share a look of this excellent and rare formation flown by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight over in the UK which includes one of only two flying Avro Lancasters in the world!

Jet Warbird Day at EAA AirVenture

Jet Warbird Day at EAA AirVenture means a sky full of jets. This video is part 2 of our footage – you can see part 1 here – and includes F-86 Sabres, the F-5 Freedom Fighter mentioned above, and the only flyby all week from the Gloster Meteor that just came to the United States this year. The Meteor and missing man formation before it were flown as a tribute to Marty Tibbitts, who was killed in a crash while practicing for the show.

Remember to subscribe to our Youtube channel for even more warbird videos – we’re adding more all the time!

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 | 23
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.

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