USAF to Resume Flyovers at Special Events

posted in: Flyovers, Military | 0

military flyoversThe United States Air Force announced today that they will resume flyovers at select major sporting events in October.

Back in March 2013, Sequestration grounded all flyovers and airshow demonstrations. In September of last year, airshow performances by the USAF Thunderbirds and F-22 Raptor were approved for 2014, but the Air Force outreach budget was cut about 45% overall. This limited any flyovers. In the past, over 1,000 events nationwide had flyovers.

Chief of Civic Engagement for Air Force public affairs says: “The Air Force does not yet have fiscal 2015 guidance from the Defense Department for its flyovers, so the service must abide by fiscal 2014 guidance that requires the service to request an exception from the Defense Department for flyovers.” 

Judging by this statement, it seems that while some flyovers will resume, there won’t be many of them and it’s not back to the old days. However, it’s nice to see flyovers resume to some degree!

The following events will have a flyover from the USAF:

  • Oct. 3 Major League Baseball playoff game between the Washington Nationals and the San Francisco Giants
  • Oct. 4 Air Force Academy game against the Naval Academy
  • Oct. 11 NASCAR Bank of America 500 in Charlotte,NC
  • Oct. 18 Air Force Academy game against New Mexico

Information from the Air Force Times contributed to this blog post. 

Five Things About: NAS Oceana Airshow 2014

posted in: Airshows, Event Recap | 0

Shockwave Jet Truck - NAS Oceana Airshow 2014

Five Things is our regular feature to review the airshows that we attend. You already know that the performers were great, so instead of recapping who flew what, we want to jump straight to the most notable moments or stories; things that would remain in your head on the drive home and for a long time afterward.

Airshow: NAS Oceana Airshow
Location: NAS Oceana, VA
Date: 9/20/14-9/21/14

1) Hornets Everywhere
NAS Oceana is synonymous with F-18 Hornets. As the master jet base for the East coast, Oceana is home to 18 Hornet squadrons and over 200 F-18s. Both the F/A-18C Hornet and F/A-18F Super Hornet demonstration teams are part of VFA-106, the main training squadron at the base. In previous years, all of this would guarantee lots of jet noise at the airshow, including a performance by both demonstration teams as well as a unique “fleet airpower demonstration” performed by some of the operational units on base. In the current budget climate though, nothing is guaranteed. The entire airshow was called off last year, and the Hornet demo teams were not able to perform at any shows this year. Everyone wondered what the 2014 airshow would look like without any Hornet participation (aside from the Blue Angels). But then, as we reported, activity around the base seemed to indicate a return of the Hornet demos. As the show neared, this theory was confirmed and it was announced that both demo teams would perform, and that a smaller-scale fleet airpower demo would also take place.

Bill Leff - NAS Oceana Airshow 2014_MG_3194a_WM

Sure enough, spectators at the airshow heard the roar of a Hornet many times during the weekend. The F/A-18C performed early in the show, followed a little bit later by the airpower demo. Although the six-Hornet airpower lineup was significantly smaller than previous years, which saw 12 or more aircraft of many types performing, everyone was happy just to have one. Unfortunately the airpower demo was decidedly hampered by the bad weather, and the VFC-12 aggressor Hornet was unable to perform its intended vertical dogfight sequence. Still, several VFA-32 Super Hornets put on a unique show including simulated bombing and strafing runs, a short simulated dogfight, “buddy” air to air refueling, and a formation flyby with a sneak pass.

US Navy Blue Angels - NAS Oceana Airshow 2014US Navy Blue Angels - NAS Oceana Airshow 2014

2) Special Color Schemes
Hornets not only dominated the skies over NAS Oceana, they dominated the static display ramp as well. As the home base for so many squadrons, Oceana has many special “CAG” paint schemes. One running complaint from previous airshows is that the units never put any effort into displaying these special and colorful schemes. This year the show finally listened to the fans and no fewer than 10 specially painted Hornets were placed on the static ramp in a large triangle formation. It was certainly an imposing sight and one that is not seen anywhere else. Fingers crossed that this is done for every future show as well!

F-18 CAG Hornets - NAS Oceana Airshow 2014L-39 Albatros - NAS Oceana Airshow 2014

3) Shockwave, Front and Center
The Shockwave jet truck and other jet-powered ground vehicles are always crowd favorites, but NAS Oceana offered a particularly good chance to get up close to this flame throwing beast. The fence line at the show is located on the ramp so as to allow room to taxi directly in front of the crowd. The performers use this to parade down the line after their flights, but Shockwave took full advantage and started up right in fron of the crowd. Instead of doing the usual flamethrowing and afterburner pops on the runway, Shockwave driver Chris Darnell did them just feet from the front row and left no doubt about how Shockwave got its name.

4) Blue Angels Knock It Off
After an absolutely perfect Friday, the weather on Saturday and Sunday was less than ideal. Both saw mostly low clouds and a bit of rain, though by Sunday afternoon the weather cleared for a Blue Angels high show. Saturday was not so fortunate; the Blues were unable to complete even a full flat show before landing. Just a few passes into the demo, an isolated rain shower moved in over the field. The team kept flying as some in the crowd headed for cover. About a third of the way through the demo, the team called a knock it off due to the lack of visibility. It was almost comical to listen to the radio as they diamond and solos tried to make contact. One of the solos had been over the nearby oceana turning around between maneuvers before losing sight of the field, and he was basically trapped in a pocket of better weather. The diamond and other solo had found a hole in the rain on the other side of the base, and only as the rain moved out were they able to join for a break to land. The many fans who had stuck out the wet weather to watch the team were rightfully crushed. Of course, as the jets taxied to parking the sun broke out and the visibility lifted.

NAS Oceana Airshow 2014F/A-18C Hornet - NAS Oceana Airshow 2014

5) Beach Blast
One of the unique aspects of the NAS Oceana airshow is the Saturday night Beach Blast. This is an event designed to bring the airshow to the city’s crown-jewel beachfront for a short period. Unlike the traditional on-base Friday night airshow, the Beach Blast was included in this years festivites. As the sun set, the Blue Angels were introduced on the stage in a city park along the beach. Soon after, a Super Hornet from the base flew by with afterburners fully engaged. In the dim evening light they glowed like a torch – an awesome sight to behold. This year the crowd was treated to several max-afterburner passes before several jumpers from nearby Skydive Suffolk decended to the park under canopy. What a night on the beach!

– Ryan Sundheimer

Schedule for the NAS Oceana Airshow!

posted in: Airshows | 1

If you’re heading to the NAS Oceana airshow, get there early! The gates will open at 8am Saturday and Sunday and the flying will begin at 10am. The Blue Angels will fly around 3pm. NAS Oceana airshow

The following is a schedule of performers from the NAS Oceana airshow website. As always, the schedule is subject to change up until show time.
10:15 – Air Show starts with Bill Leff T-6 warm-up
10:25 – Jason Newburg Viper warm-up
10:40 – F/A-18C Tactical Demonstration
10:55 – L-39 Albatross Demonstration
11:05 – Fleet Air Power Launch and Demonstration
11:35 – National Anthem Flag Jump and Fleet Aircraft Flybe
11:50 – Fleet Aircraft Recover
11:55 – Greg Shelton Stearman Solo
Noon – Kent Pietsch Comedy Act
12:16 – Bill Leff T-6 Demonstration
12:31 – Bob Carlton Salto Jet Powered Glider Demonstration
12:43 – Jason Newburg/Viper Performance
12:55 – L-39 Albatross Demonstration
1:07 Skydive Suffolk Jump Team Performance
1:17 Geico Skytypers Demonstration
1:37 Kent Pietsch Dead Stick Performance
1:50 Greg Shelton/Sam Wing Walk Performance
2:05 Justin Lewis/Micro Jet Demonstration
2:15 Shockwave Jet Truck
2:25 Navy Wounded Warrior-Safe Harbor Presentation
2:35 F/A-18F Super Hornet Tactical Demonstration
2:50 Kent Pietsch RV Top Landing
3:00 U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron/Blue Angels
4:00 Finish

Saturday evening, head to 31st street on the VA Beach Oceanfront for the Beach Blast! The Blue Angels will be introduced to the crowd and parachuters will jump onto the beach and there will be a free concert. The Beach Blast begins at 6:30pm. Parking is available at a garage on the corner of 31st Street and Atlantic Avenue.

Five Things About: Selfridge ANGB Open House and Airshow 2014

posted in: Airshows, Event Recap | 0

US Navy Blue Angels - Selfridge ANGB Airshow 2014

Five Things is our regular feature to review the airshows that we attend. You already know that the performers were great, so instead of recapping who flew what, we want to jump straight to the most notable moments or stories; things that would remain in your head on the drive home and for a long time afterward.

Airshow: Selfridge ANGB Open House and Airshow
Location: Selfridge ANGB, MI
Date: 9/6/14-9/7/14

Women in Aviation
The theme of the Selfridge airshow this year was “Women in Aviation”, and the show featured Patty Wagstaff, Jacquie Warda, Melissa Pemberton, Julie Clark, Suzanne Oliver, and the Misty Blues (the only all-women’s skydiving team in the country). Also on the show grounds were the Ladies for Liberty World War II singing troupe and Rosie the Riveters from the Yankee Air Museum’s Save the Bomber Plant campaign. The show heralded this as one of the biggest gathering of women aerobatic pilots in the country. From the Misty Blues’ pink and blue banners to Julie Clark’s synchronized aerobatics and fireworks display, the female aviators offered a very diverse display of aviation.

US Navy Blue Angels - Selfridge ANGB Airshow 2014KC-135 Stratotanker - Selfridge ANGB Airshow 2014

Military Participation!
The Selfridge Air National Guard base is home to the 107th Fighter Squadron (A-10 Thunderbolt II “Warthogs”) and the 171st Air Refueling Squadron (KC-135 Stratotankers) and both units put on a flight demonstration for their home show. While not a mmax performance tactical demo, a flight of four A-10s did formation passes and pattern work, while the KC-135 did several passes as well. This was a welcome sight for aviation fans who may not have seen either of these types in flight since 2012.

The display area featured four Warthogs for spectators to walk up to; one was roped off to showcase the numerous bombs and munitions (all were inert training rounds) that the A-10 is capable of carrying. A TC-135 (a trainer version of the KC-135, painted white and gray) was open for spectators to walk through. Static displays on a whole were slightly lesser compared to previous Selfridge airshows, but still raised the bar by the 2014 season standards; military aircraft on display included a C-17 Globemaster III, F-16 Fighting Falcon, CH-47 Chinook, HH-65 Dolphin, KC-135 Stratotanker, T-38 Talon, and Customs and Border Patrol H-60 Black Hawk helicopter.

US Navy Blue Angels - Selfridge ANGB Airshow 2014F-16 Fighting Falcon - Selfridge ANGB Airshow 2014

Grounded Warbirds
In previous years, Selfridge featured MiG-17, F-86, B-17, B-25, C-47, P-51, F4U, T-6, and BT-13 flights. This year, the only warbirds flying were the MiG-17 and Julie Clark’s T-34. Plenty of warbirds were on display – Yankee Air Museum’s B-25, B-17, and C-47, a T-28, the Tuskegee Airmen T-6, the World Heritage Air Museum Super Pinto, an L-39, and an L-29 – but none of them flew except for their departure Sunday afternoon (which many people waiting in their cars got to witness). With so much focus on aerobatics this year, it almost felt like there simply wasn’t enough time to fit in warbird flights, a staple that should be an important part of every airshow. With the theme of “Women in Aviation”, flying the Yankee Air Museum’s bombers would have certainly been a nice tie in with Rosie the Riveter and the “Save the Bomber Plant” campaign as well.

Misty Blues - Selfridge ANGB Airshow 2014T-6 Texan - Selfridge ANGB Airshow 2014

Homecoming for Blue Angel #1
Commander Thomas Frosch, Blue Angel #1, is a native of Clinton Township, Michigan, a 15 minute drive from the Selfridge National Guard Base. Frosch graduated from Fraser High School in Fraser, MI. As part of their visit, the Blue Angels did a fly-over of Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, MI on the campus of Michigan State University. Selfridge was the second visit to Michigan for the 2014 Blue Angels airshow season and this is the Blue Angels’s first appearance at Selfridge since 2005.

A-10 Thunderbolt II - Selfridge ANGB Airshow 2014C-47 and Rosie - Selfridge ANGB Airshow 2014

Air National Guard Base Logistics
I often have a love-hate relationship with base shows. On the one hand, they are free (or rather, pre-paid through tax dollars) and offer a unique and eclectic view of military aircraft, which have been rare sights in the last two years. On the other hand, they can be difficult logistically. A single file line of cars was the way in and the way out, leaving long waits and anxious fans trying to make it home. Because it is a military base, everyone entering must be searched and guidelines on what you can and cannot bring in are stricter than civilian shows (most large bags and umbrellas were turned away at the gate).

This is not the fault of the show organizers. It’s just the way military base shows work and operate. One should not forget that it is still an active base with active drills being performed. The A-10s doing a fly-by are, in actuality, on a mission. It would be nice if moving in and out of the show was easier, sure. But safety and order are priority one at a venue such as this.

– Patrick Barron

Five Things About: Wings Over Waukegan 2014

posted in: Airshows, Event Recap | 0

A-4 Skyhawk Wall of Fire - Wings Over Waukegan Airshow 2014

Five Things is our regular feature to review the airshows that we attend. You already know that the performers were great, so instead of recapping who flew what, we want to jump straight to the most notable moments or stories; things that would remain in your head on the drive home and for a long time afterward.

Airshow: Wings Over Waukegan
Location: Waukegan, IL
Date: 9/6/14

F-86 Sabre - Wings Over Waukegan Airshow 2014The Hoppers L-39s - Wings Over Waukegan Airshow 2014

Small Show Atmosphere
While airshows with jet teams and major gatherings get a lot of press, small shows are almost an entirely separate world. The layout is more intimate, the people are generally friendlier, and the gate rules are often relaxed. There is not an ‘ego’ to the event. Wings Over Waukegan is one of these small shows, and it provides a wonderful change of pace from larger blockbuster events. The entire show layout is smaller, and there are no chalet tents. The only tent, set up for performers and other VIPs, is at one end of the show line. The performer aircraft were parked directly in front of the main crowd area with just enough room to taxi out. Before the show, this section of the ramp was open to the public to get up close with the performing aircraft and pilots, something rarely seen at large shows.

Aircraft on Display - Wings Over Waukegan Airshow 2014MiG-17 - Wings Over Waukegan Airshow 2014

One Day Only
In fitting with the small show atmosphere, the event is only held for one day. This is not unheard of with smaller shows, but it certainly feels different to know that you cannot come back and see the same thing the next day. Photos must be taken with cautious settings as there is no second opportunity. This also makes the show organization much more vulnerable to bad weather since the crowd cannot alter their plans if rain or storms are forecast. Last year’s show dealt with large storms throughout the afternoon, but thankfully was successful enough to continue this year. However, the single day schedule is nice because it affords a chance to relax afterward without fear of an early morning to come.

Dave Dacy and Tony Kazian - Wings Over Waukegan Airshow 2014Team Aerostar - Wings Over Waukegan Airshow 2014

Luckily for the show the weather this year was very nearly perfect. Cloudless blue skies helped the photographers use the show’s sun-at-your-back orientation to its full potential and temperatures in the low 70s kept everyone comfortable. The one factor that wasn’t favorable was the decently strong on-crowd wind, and it led to some interesting moments during the show. Only a few performers used smoke during their routine, but those that did quickly smothered the crowd with it. During the jet warbird segment it got so bad that the aircraft could not be seen until they were past. A T-33 making a high speed pass and suddenly appearing in front of you is a pretty cool sight!

Warbirds Front and Center
The core of the Wings Over Waukegan show is undoubtedly the warbirds. The Warbird Heritage Foundation, a major player in Midwest shows, is based on the field across from the crowd area and puts most of their aircraft on display each year. The WHF A-4 Skyhawk served as the show finale this year, but their P-51 Mustang, T-2 Buckeye, A-1 Skyraider, F-86 Sabre, and L-39 Albatros also either flew or sat on static display. Other warbirds came in for the show, including a T-37 Tweet that put on an impressively nimble aerobatic demo, and an F4U Corsair that performed aerobatics and a US Navy Legacy Flight with the A-4.

P-51 Mustang - Wings Over Waukegan Airshow 2014Wall of Cadets - Wings Over Waukegan Airshow 2014

An Army of Cadets
One of the most stunning aspects of the Waukegan show was the massive number of cadets present. Be they Civil Air Patrol, Young Marines, or other groups with a similar purpose, the cadets and their handlers almost outnumbered the actual spectators at the show. Every static aircraft had a minimum of 3 to 5 cadets stationed around it on guard duty, making photos difficult or impossible to come by. Once the hot ramp closed, a line of cadets marched out to form a human wall in front of the spectators rather than simply setting up some sort of fence. Luckily some areas of the crowd line had normal snow fencing, but anyone with the misfortune of sitting behind the cadets surely had to feel angry at seeing a bunch of uniformed butts where aircraft should have been. Hopefully the show can look at this and come up with an alternate method of creating a crowd line. Dragging some stands out and running rope between them would not be difficult. On a positive note, the cadets were relatively relaxed and the power trips that have become all too familiar to airshow fans were not a problem. And when the only complaint about the show is a bunch of well behaved cadets, you know there isn’t much to complain about at all!

– Ryan Sundheimer

Five Things About: Cleveland National Airshow 2014

posted in: Airshows, Event Recap | 0

Skip Stewart and Melissa Pemberton in Tinstix - Cleveland Airshow 2014

Five Things is our regular feature to review the airshows that we attend. You already know that the performers were great, so instead of recapping who flew what, we want to jump straight to the most notable moments or stories; things that would remain in your head on the drive home and for a long time afterward.

Airshow: Cleveland National Airshow
Location: Cleveland, OH
Date: 8/30/14-9/1/14

US Navy Blue Angels - Cleveland Airshow 2014B-17 "Yankee Lady" and Crowd - Cleveland Airshow 2014

1) Good to be Back
If there is one story about the Cleveland National Airshow, it is certainly the simple fact that it happened. When the sequestration budget cuts took effect last year, the show made the difficult decision to cancel. Many other shows have simply disappeared after ‘one time’ cancellations, so fans were rightfully worried that the airshow might never return. The 2013 show season never felt complete without the long weekend party in Cleveland to act as the big finale.

The situation was complicated further by the fact that the original 2014 Blue Angels schedule listed Cleveland as being the weekend after Labor Day, with the holiday weekend instead being occupied by the Selfridge ANGB Airshow near Detroit. Cleveland has always been a Labor Day weekend event, and having three full show days is a big part of the atmosphere. The prospect of holding it on a two day weekend was less than thrilling, especially since Selfridge would not have held a show on Monday, effectively wasting the long weekend. Luckily, Selfridge and Cleveland swapped dates and all was back to normal. After so much doubt about the future of the show, the Blue Angels roaring over downtown was an immensely pleasing sign that the “last hurrah” of summer would be a great one.

2) Static Display Disappointment
Unfortunately not everything was back to normal. With the previous Cleveland show taking place in 2012, memories of military statics and demos were still fresh in the minds of many. Cleveland has typically gotten numerous training and fighter aircraft as well as multiple military cargo aircraft to fill the large portion of tarmac near the show’s main gate. This year no such aircraft were on display, as has become the norm, and the casual airshow attendees had a hard time accepting it. Even seasoned fans who knew what to expect were a bit taken aback by the suddenly empty space that used to be filled. The show did their best to fill it, trotting out many general aviation aircraft and dedicating a bit of the formerly static display ramp space to Blue Angel parking, bringing the jets closer to the crowd than ever. They even secured a CT-156 Harvard II and a CT-155 Hawk from the Canadian Forces. United Airlines, which has historically brought a 737 in for static display, also filled a bit more ramp space this year by bringing an ERJ-145 as well. Overall it was a good effort by the organizers to make up for the bad situation so many shows have found themselves in.

3) Drone Debut
If drones are the future of airshows, then the future is here. For the first time, Cleveland featured a drone demonstration put on by the Northern Ohio Unmanned Aircraft Systems Association. Contrary to the stale “Thunderbirds flying Predators” joke, these were civilian UAVs that are currently on the market. The demonstration itself was extremely similar to the RC model aircraft demonstration that traditionally opens the show each day. Several groups of pilots stood near the runway, operating various types of drones to display their immense potential in many roles. Several large fixed wing drones flew preprogrammed search patterns to simulate a search and rescue mission. At the same time, some quad- and octocopters hovered in place as the announcers explained the benefits of such airborne video platforms. Yet another set of drones simulated delivery missions, including dropping a first aid kit under parachute. The goal of the demonstration was a noble one; to introduce the public to real drones in order to provide a counter point to the demonization of them in the media. The announcers were careful to point out that they have no desire to invade anyone’s privacy, and that the safe and responsible use of drones could herald the start of the next boom industry. If it does, this year’s airshow may indeed be one for the history books.

Skip Stewart and Shockwave Jet Truck - Cleveland Airshow 2014B-25 "Yankee Warrior" - Cleveland Airshow 2014

4) A Poor Man’s Mustang Demo
This year’s show also featured some regular visitors in a new way. Four different Titan T-51 Mustangs were on display at the show, with two on static and two flying in the show. The T-51 is a 3/4 scale, kit-built P-51 replica that is manufactured in Austinberg, OH, not far from Cleveland. These aircraft have participated in the show before, but this year saw the debut of a two-ship dogfight routine, which saw both aircraft twisting and turning quite nimbly. Unlike some dogfight routines that require long turnarounds, the aircraft were agile enough to stay in front of the crowd the entire time – a big plus when watching an act of this type. The coolest part was the dogfight’s conclusion; as the vanquished aircraft trailed smoke, it made a dramatic dive to the ground. By cleverly hiding behind the slightly raised ground across the runway from the crowd, the aircraft was able to skim the Lake Erie water and disappear from view completely. Just after it slipped out of view, a pyro blast was set off to simulate a crash. As many in the crowd started to worry, the aircraft climbed back into view and demonstrated its aerobatic capabilities before landing. Some may argue that it’s too morbid to simulate a crash at a show, but it’s not really much different than aerobatic performers diving behind tree lines or hills to disappear from sight.

Both T-51s also returned later in the show as part of the warbird flight. Although some will surely protest that these homebuilt replicas are not worthy of sharing the sky with the B-17, B-25, and TBM, they did a good job illustrating the role of bomber escorts during the war as they formed up on the B-17 “Yankee Lady”. While it surely would have been nicer to have a pair of real P-51s doing the flying, you have to appreciate the ingenuity displayed by having the replicas participate when real Mustangs were probably not an option on the show’s budget.

US Navy Blue Angels - Cleveland Airshow 2014USCG MH-65 Dolphin Helicopter - Cleveland Airshow 2014

5) Annoying, Unnecessary, Just Plain Stupid Flags
If you’ve ever been to the Cleveland Airshow, you knew this one was coming. Year after year, the show insists on lining the show line with large flags, a mind-boggling decision that ruins so much of a good thing. The runway at Cleveland is as close as anywhere, and the lighting is near perfect for photos, particularly earlier in the day. Yet instead of allowing spectators to see, let alone photograph, things on or near the runway, the show obscures almost the entire view. It really is inexcusable and it really needs to stop. Unfortunately the show seems completely unaware of the complaints and frustration the flags cause amongst the crowd. It really is infuriating, but hopefully the show finally does away with the flags next year. This amazing event deserves to be flag free!

– Ryan Sundheimer

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