Hey AirshowStuff fans, all of our full photo albums from EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015 have been updated with over 400 amazing photos to browse through! Check out some sample images below, and click the links to view the complete albums!
EAA AirVenture 2015 – Ryan Sundheimer
View full photo album: EAA AirVenture 2015 – Ryan Sundheimer
EAA AirVenture 2015 – Patrick Barron
View full photo album: EAA AirVenture 2015 – Patrick Barron
EAA AirVenture 2015 – Anthony Richards
View full photo album: EAA AirVenture 2015 – Anthony Richards
EAA AirVenture 2015 – David Jacobson
View full photo album: EAA AirVenture 2015 – David Jacobson
Some air shows around the country feature a night show in their lineup. We all go for the afterburners and lit-up aircraft streaking across the dark sky, but what show would be complete without a fireworks closer? Those beautiful works of fiery aerial artistry make for a nightly spectacle worth waiting for (and some awesome photo opportunities too!). For this year’s EAA AirVenture, the cool crew of DTG Pyrotechnics were in charge of the firework shows throughout the event and they invited us out with them for a peek at how they pull off their dazzling displays.
For the Saturday night show, I met up with the team at their staging area on the east side of the airport. Inside the hangar, the team was busy making final preparations for the show ahead. There the leader of this cool outfit, Dion Diehl, huddled everyone together to go over last minute checks and planning. Afterwards, Jason Strazishar gave me a tour of the multiple semis in their convoy, and what an impressive sight it was. Each truck towed a flatbed rigged with dozens of batteries all containing carefully placed and organized mortars, cakes, and other aerials.
Now, there’s a certain way to execute a stellar fireworks display. At the base of it all, each firework consists of a shell, or an aerial item that is fired into the sky. However, not all fireworks are designed the same; certain types produce certain effects. For example, a mortar is a paper or plastic tube containing a shell with a long fuse. The shell has a lift charge on the bottom that helps propel it into the air. Cakes are an item that has a single fuse which is used to light several tubes in sequence. The set piece is a ground item consisting of many colored lances that is used to draw a picture.
Regardless of the type, each item needs a source of ignition for their fuses before they can be launched into the sky. Enter the “squib”, or electric match. The 1-in long, 1/4-in wide device consists of a small nickel-chromium wire with a pyrogen coating. An electrical current causes the nickel-chromium wire to heat up, igniting the pyrogen and starting the fuse. Each squib is hooked up to a very thin and very long wire that runs to a hub that is then connected to the control terminal. It is there that the real magic is worked.
Dion had spent dozens of hours coding the show to flow exactly how he wanted it. From his program, he could set certain shots to launch together and independently with incredible precision. This also allows for each shell to be monitored for connection to the control terminal to ensure all are ready to go and no wires or connections are cut. Each squib carries an ID that can be controlled and organized within DTG’s performance timeline. So imagine, if you will, the amount of shells one can fit to a single battery aboard a large flatbed trailer and multiply that a few times. That’s a lot to setup and organize in coding alone. But when it’s all said and done, and done properly, the display is truly a spectacle to behold.
With a final look-over and check by the team, the convoy was ready to roll out. There was a gap in the AirVenture performance schedule to allow the team to set up for the night show. The team moved out and began setting up their trailers in the grass on either side of taxiway A2 along runway 18-36. They shared the field with the Tora! Tora! Tora! pyro team who were in charge of the wall of fire that would conclude the night show. At show center on A2 was the trailer carrying the set piece. Once everything was in place, the team began to quickly run the thousands of feet of wire between each trailer together, and prepared to run it all across the runway to the control terminal once the flying had concluded.
Once the flying resumed, it was again time to wait. Luckily, it is not hard to wait when you have the best seat in the house for twilight demonstrations of the USMC AV-8B Harrier, F-100 Super Sabre, and USAF F-4 Phantom II along with the various night time aerobatic performances. But after the sun had set and the last aircraft was safely on the ground, it was back to work with only a little time to get it ready.
It was a rush to get everything organized, people in place, the terminal connected, and to start the show. Though, when it kicked off, it kicked off with a bang. Particularly with a series of what are referred to as “pants-fillers,” or explosives that are meant to create a loud, attention-getting bang. And for those not prepared for their detonation, well, the name implies the result. When things started up, I booked it from the trailer on A2 down the taxiway to the semis and caught the show from the other side as best I could. There’s something to be said for the factor of proximity and its affect on the entertainment of the show. Being further back for Wednesday night’s show allowed me to capture nearly the whole arc of the aerial display, while being closer in made photos far more challenging but sent the enjoyment factor through the roof.
When the wall of fire finale went off, I packed up my equipment and went back out onto the taxiway. There were small fires where pyrotechnics and once been that were being tended to, debris of every kind littered along the whole length of the taxiway, and plenty of smiles after another successful show. While my work had ended for the night, the crew of DTG still had plenty left to do as far as cleaning and packing up.
With a nice farewell, a lonely stroll across the runway back to the crowd line, and a moment of silent sentiment shared with a solitary F-4, I concluded my AirVenture experience and my time with DTG Pyrotechnics. The DTG team are a proficient and professional team with plenty of skill and chum to share. I look forward to crossing paths with them again and hope to see their dazzling displays again at future AirVentures.
Thank you to Jason Strazishar for contacting us with this grand opportunity, and to Dion and the rest of the DTG crew allowing me to come experience how a professional pyrotechnic show is done. You can connect with the DTG team by liking their Facebook page.
Another year, another EAA AirVenture in the books! The week-long event at Wittman Regional Airport annually draws in over 10,000 aircraft, from general aviation to warbirds and modern military aircraft. Many people will camp the entire week, either in the nearby campgrounds or even in a tent right under their plane, because there is simply too much to see and do for just a weekend. For aviation enthusiasts young and old, AirVenture is the biggest event of the year.
This year’s event stuck out to many as one of the best in recent years, thanks to the number and magnitude of highlights. The statistics certainly back up this notion; total attendance was approximately 550,000, up two percent from last year. Even more than that, there was a noticeable increase in both aircraft attendance and activity. At one point, only one parking spot was left in the Fightertown section!
With so much going on, let’s dive into some of this year’s highlights!
Airbus’s New A350 XWB
On Monday, a flight-test version of the Airbus A350 XWB (Extra-Wide-Body) gave an impressive display of the aircraft’s flight capabilities. Its tight turns, steep banks, and high rate of climb had spectators on their feet. After its performance, the aircraft was towed to Boeing Plaza for tours of the interior. On Wednesday, it was towed out of the plaza and down to the end of the runway where it gave a second demonstration before returning home. The A350 XWB can carry over 300 passengers nearly 8,000 nautical miles, and is already in service by Qatar Airways and Vietnam Airlines.
B-52 in Boeing Plaza
On the Friday before the show, many of the runway lights were taken down to accommodate one of the largest aircraft ever to land at Wittman Regional Airport: the B-52 Stratofortress. While it did not fly in the show, this massive bomber took up a big chunk of space in Boeing Plaza throughout the week, where the pilots and crew gave talks, answered questions, and sold some squadron merchandise. Fun fact: the B-52 is part of the 343rd Bomber Squadron out of Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana. This is, coincidentally, the same location as EAA Chapter 343. As a result of this coincidence, special 343 patches commemorating both the base and the chapter were sold in limited supply.
The crew even got into the AirVenture spirit by registering the aircraft as a home-built with over 14,000 flight hours and asking for it to be judged. As a result, the B-52 won a special award!
Unfortunately the aircraft did not fly during the event because of the logistics of getting it back to the runway. However, we were there on the following Monday and got the best seat in the house for its departure.
Honoring the Legacy of Burt Rutan
This year, Burt Rutan returned to AirVenture to commemorate the 40th anniversary of his VariEze aircraft design (which first flew in May of 1975). Rutan is famous for his innovative aircraft concepts, such as the use of canards on various general aviation aircraft and also for perhaps his most famous milestone: SpaceShipOne. On Monday, a rare Beechcraft Starship made a special airshow arrival and the next day it joined with various other Rutan designs for a tribute during the show. Tuesday night, the Theater in the Woods featured ‘Garage-to-Garage’, a special presentation that highlighted Rutan’s legacy; 46 different aircraft designs with over 1,000 aircraft in service.
Arrival of the F-35 Lightning II
While the USMC version of the F-35 has been giving mini-demonstrations throughout the year at military airshows, AirVenture 2015 marked the first appearance of an F-35 Lightning II at a civilian show. Early Wednesday afternoon, two USAF F-35s from Eglin Air Force Base performed some low approaches before landing, unfortunately without afterburner. One of the pair was soon towed over to Boeing Plaza; setting up a rare opportunity to see it next to not only an F-22 Raptor, but a P-38 Lightning as well! Both stealth jets were kept under tight security with armed guards who kept an eye on the swarms of people surrounding them and taking pictures.
F-100 Super Sabre and F-4 Phantom
These two Vietnam-era jets created their own thunder in the later half of the week. The F-100, currently the only one of its kind flying, makes precious few airshow appearances and had never graced the Oshkosh skies before. Pilot and owner Dean “Cutter” Cutshall flew it in from Fort Wayne, IN and performed twice during the show. The first time was during the Friday warbird show when it flew with the Warbird Heritage Foundation’s A-4 Skyhawk and Jeff Kaney’s MiG-17 Fresco in the “Vietnam jets” segment. The real show, however, was the twilight performance just before sunset on Saturday night. The F-100 is known for its primitive one-stage afterburner that POPS very loudly when first engaged, and Cutter knows just how to show it off for the crowd. In the dim evening sky, the flame trailing the aircraft was even more visible than usual and had aviation fans drooling.
The USAF F-4 Phantom II had a similar showing at AirVenture, performing a couple times as well as flying during the Saturday twilight show. This particular F-4 has been modified to fly as an unmanned target drone, making its proper designation QF-4. Several of these QF-4s were given special commemorative paint schemes in recent years and taken to airshows to perform in Heritage Flights alongside current fighters. Sadly many of even the specially painted F-4s have been shot down now as the QF-4 program comes to an end and the similar QF-16 program begins. This, combined with the recent budget cuts, meant that the pilots were not Heritage Flight qualified this year, and so they were only able to perform a solo mini-demonstration. Still, an F-4 twilight demo would be a highlight of any show. Oshkosh may very well prove to be the final public appearance of a military Phantom; if so, it went out in grand style.
Salute to Veterans
Each year, EAA AirVenture hosts an Old Glory Honor Flight, which flies veterans to Washington DC to visit the memorials built in their honor. This year, the flight honored veterans from the Vietnam War. As the American Airlines MD-80 carrying them returned to show center at the conclusion of their special day, it was greeted with a water cannon salute from a pair of firetrucks. A large crowd on onlookers cheered the arrival, and the crowd shifted to the main stage in Boeing Plaza for a ceremony followed by a performance by the Lt. Dan Band (featuring Gary Sinise, best known for his role as Lt. Dan in the movie Forrest Gump). Several Vietnam-era aircraft, including the F-4 Phantom, F-100 Super Sabre, A-4 Skyhawk, OV-10 Mohawk, and A-1 Skyraider were arranged to ring the concert, making the moment even more special.
Record-Breaking Sky-Dive Attempt
The Golden Knights will often reference a “traffic jam in the sky” when several of their jumpers are coming in to land, but even their routine is nothing compared to the massive sky-diving attempts that were performed Wednesday and Friday during AirVenture. In an attempt to set the sequential mega-formation world record, 108 skydivers from around the world were divided among 5 jump aircraft. After jumping from 20,000 feet, the group had only 60 seconds to join up and form five different formations before splitting apart. As the jumpers opened their parachutes simultaneously, the sky exploded with canopies; so many that it was clearly audible on the ground thousands of feet below! Although the group made 3 different attempts at the record, they were not successful in the eyes of the judges. However, they did end up setting a Wisconsin state record for largest skydiving formation!
Rare Bombers: B-29 Superfortress and PB4Y-2 Privateer
This year’s show featured the world’s only flying B-29 Superfortress and PB4Y-2 Privateer. Although the B-29 “Fifi” has been in Oshkosh several times in the last few years, it was the first visit for the all silver Privateer. Both flew during the week, making simulated bombing runs with the help of the Tora Bomb Squad pyrotechnics team on the ground. “Fifi” also operated out of Appleton for part of the week, selling rides to passengers alongside EAA’s B-17 Flying Fortress “Aluminum Overcast”.
Roar of the Merlins
Thursday was the day of the legendary Merlin engine. The warbird portion of the show marked the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain by having the Avro Lancaster and de Havilland Mosquito, both powered by Merlins, fly together along with a replica Spitfire. The Lancaster and Mosquito are both one of only two of their type left flying in the world. A second Mosquito was on static display, however it is part of the EAA Museum located on the airport and does not fly. Still, the opportunity to see two side by side was incredible!
A short time later, no less than 14 P-51 Mustangs taxied out. As they approached the runway, they stopped to perform simultaneous run-ups right in front of the crowd. Talk about goosebumps. They soon launched, mostly in pairs, and the formation-rated pilots in the group joined in three elements of four aircraft to provide high cover before diving in for individual high speed passes. Add it up and that’s twenty Merlins singing together in the skies over Oshkosh!
Same Old AirVenture
Each year EAA AirVenture offers something new; something even fans who have been going for the last 35 years haven’t seen before. But at the same time, EAA AirVenture remains fundamentally the same; a massive gathering of aviation enthusiasts and fans with an unmatched feeling of camaraderie that draws people back every year. From the 10,000+ aircraft that fly in to the 1,000+ forums/workshops and the 800+ exhibitors, AirVenture will always be the world’s biggest aviation destination and that is a worthy highlight in its own right.
Every year, EAA AirVenture is the place to be to see new and old aircraft from all over come together. This year, thousands aircraft flew in and only a few of the best went home with an award in their luggage. This year’s winners of AirVenture’s Aircraft Awards are as follows:[showhide type=”post” more_text=”See the winners…” less_text=”Hide winners…”]
Classic Home Built Special Award – Large Plaque
307th Bomb Wing – 93rd Bomb Squadron
Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana
1961 B-52H, 61-0029
Kit Outstanding Workmanship – Plaques
Philip J. Conway
2013 Glasair IIS, N11HC
David Schmitz & Derek James
2014 Van’s RV-8, N8782D
New Bern, North Carolina
2011 Van’s RV-10, N919AR
2014 Van’s RV-10, N104AZ
2015 Sportsman GS-2, N767KV
Fleming Island, Florida
2014 Glasair III, N97KD
Plans Outstanding Workmanship – Plaques
1981 Hill Raymond J Hatz CB-1, N8032Y
2014 Zenith 701, N742SE
2011 Zenith CH 701SP, N742DE
2010 Pietenpol Air Camper, N929DH
Grand Champion Plans Built – Gold Lindy
2015 Marquart MA-5, N171MC
Grand Champion Kit Built – Gold Lindy
2014 Velocity XL-FG, N722XL
Reserve Grand Champion Plans Built – Silver Lindy
Combined Locks, Wisconsin
2015 Falco F.8L, N453YR
Reserve Grand Champion Kit Built – Silver Lindy
CC Aircraft Sales LLC
2015 Lancair Evolution, N469KS
Paul Poberezny Founder’s Award for Best Classic Homebuilt
Faith Drewry/Winston Wright
1982 Pitts, N33HS
Plans Champion – Bronze Lindy
2014 Falco F.8l, N457TC
2003 Full-Scale Replica, N1940K
Fox Lake, Illinois
1998 Hatz CB-1, N560V
Colorado Springs, Colorado
2010 Long-EZ SP, N400EZ
Kit Champion – Bronze Lindy
2013 Van’s RV-8, N988DB
2014 Van’s RV-8, N951WT
2014 AC Evo Partners LLC Lancair Evolution, N38SP
2015 Van’s RV-10, N282PD
Simi Valley, California
2015 Van’s RV-8, N618RV
2015 Van’s RV-8, N184CS
Mike J. Patey
2015 Lancair Legacy, N707MM
Locust Grove, Georgia
2015 Van’s RV-10, N10GT
2013 Van’s RV-8, N489KT
Antique (through August 1945)
Antique Continuously Maintained Aircraft
Barrington, New Hampshire
1934 Waco S3HD, N14048
Replica Aircraft Champion – Bronze Lindy
1983 Pietenpol, N498K
World War II Military Trainer/Liaison Aircraft Champion – Bronze Lindy
1939 Spartan 7W, N17634
Customized Aircraft Champion – Bronze Lindy
St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada
1941 Waco UPF‑7, N39752
Bronze Age (1937‑1941) Champion – Bronze Lindy
1940 Waco SRE, N20961
Silver Age (1928‑1936) Champion – Bronze Lindy
1928 Travel Air 4000, NC6464
Antique Reserve Grand Champion – Silver Lindy
Wroxeter, Ontario, Canada
1944 Fleet M62A‑3 Cornell, CFCVE
Antique Grand Champion – Gold Lindy
Grenville, South Dakota
1942 Howard Aircraft DGA‑15P, N67478
Classic (September 1945-1955)
Outstanding Cessna 120/140 – Small Plaque
1947 Cessna 120, N2339N
Outstanding Cessna 170/180 – Small Plaque
Santa Paula, California
1955 Cessna 180, N3261D
Outstanding Ercoupe – Small Plaque
Valley Center, Kansas
1946 Ercoupe 415C, N93394
Outstanding Piper J-3 – Small Plaque
1946 Piper J-3C 65, N92012
Outstanding Piper Other – Small Plaque
1950 Piper PA-20, CFGAG
Outstanding Stinson – Small Plaque
1947 Stinson 108-2, N9418K
Outstanding Swift – Small Plaque
Floyds Knobs, Indiana
1946 Globe Swift, N90394
Outstanding Limited Production – Small Plaque
Siloam Springs, Arkansas
1951 Callair A-2, N2916V
Preservation – Small Plaque
Queen City, Missouri
1947 Stinson 108-1, NC8841K
Custom Class B (81-150 hp) – Small Plaque
1946 Ercoupe 415C, N2877H
Custom Class C (151-235 hp) – Small Plaque
Horseheads, New York
1954 Beech E35, N10RR
Custom Class D (236-plus hp) – Small Plaque
1947 North American Navion, N4101K
Best Customized Runner-Up – Large Plaque
1955 Cessna 170B, N170KW
Class I (0-80 hp) – Bronze Lindy
1946 AERONCA 11AC, N3175E
Class II (81-150 hp) – Bronze Lindy
1948 Luscombe 8F, N1902B
Class III (151-235 hp) – Bronze Lindy
1955 Cessna 180, N180TP
Class IV (236-plus hp) – Bronze Lindy
1950 Cessna 195A, N1001D
Champion Customized Classic – Bronze Lindy
1951 de Havilland DHC-1 Chipmunk, N7DW
Reserve Grand Champion – Silver Lindy
1947 Piper PA-11, N4846M
Grand Champion – Gold Lindy
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
1946 Piper J-3C-65, N92455
Outstanding Beech Single-Engine – Outstanding In Type
Gig Harbor, Washington
1959 Beech K35, N828R
Outstanding Cessna 150 – Outstanding In Type
Poplar Grove, Illinois
1960 Cessna 150, N6469T
Outstanding Cessna 170/172/175/177 – Outstanding In Type
Nora Springs, Iowa
1968 Cessna 177, N2867X
Outstanding Cessna 180/182/210 – Outstanding In Type
1964 Cessna 180G, N751S
Outstanding Cessna Multiengine – Outstanding In Type
1968 Cessna 421, N4AF
Outstanding Piper PA-22 Tri-Pacer – Outstanding In Type
Rogue River, Oregon
1956 Piper PA-22-150, N4770A
Outstanding Piper P- 24 Comanche – Outstanding In Type
J. Bruce Camino
Santa Ana, California
1965 Piper PA-24-260, N8871P
Outstanding Piper PA-28 Cherokee – Outstanding In Type
1964 Piper PA-28-235, N8933W
Outstanding Piper PA-30 Twin Comanche – Outstanding In Type
1965 Comanche PA-30, N204WT
Preservation Award – Outstanding In Type
1957 Cessna 180A, N5224D
Class II Single-Engine (161-230 hp) – Bronze Lindy
Sioux Falls, South Dakota
1956 Piper PA-18A-150, N8790D
Class III Single-Engine (231-plus hp) – Bronze Lindy
1963 Meyers 200B, N229RS
Dean Richardson Memorial Award – Bronze Lindy
1958 Beech J35, N8370D
Outstanding Customized – Bronze Lindy
1966 Piper PA-28-140, N7404R
Outstanding Multi Engine – Bronze Lindy
1961 Beech D50E, N434T
Reserve Grand Champion Customized – Silver Lindy
1967 Cessna 172, N8376B
Reserve Grand Champion – Silver Lindy
Lake in the Hills, Illinois
1957 Piper PA-22-150, N7437D
Grand Champion Customized – Gold Lindy
1958 Beech J35, N76J
Grand Champion – Gold Lindy
1970 Champion 7GCBC, N9060L
Boeing Stearman N2S-4 Kaydet, N59901
Cessna TL-19A Bird Dog, N96071
Fairchild PT-26A Cornell, N9279H
Beechcraft T-34 Mentor, N245Z
Stinson-Vultee AT-19, N60058
East Liverpool, Ohio
Boeing Stearman PT-17 Kaydet, N59293
Judges’ Choice: CJ-6
Nanchang CJ-6A, N202ME
Judges’ Choice: L- Bird
Cessna L-19/O-1E Bird Dog, N354X
Judges’ Choice: Jet Fighter
Fort Wayne, Indiana
North American F-100F Super Sabre, N2011V
Judges’ Choice: L-17
Thomas Gordon Jr.
Ryan L-17, N4238A
Port Lavaca, Texas
Aero Vodochody L-139 Albatros, N1390A
Code 1 Aviation
Cessna O-1A Bird Dog, N5308G
Richard Curtis, Howard Botts & Wayne Borman
Valley Center, Kansas
Fairchild PT-19B, N464BC
Curtis, Botts & Borman
Valley Center, Kansas
Eden Prairie, Minnesota
Boeing Stearman N2S-1 Kaydet, N50061
Air Corps Aviation
Keep ’em Flying Award
Aero Vodochody L-39C Albatros, N976BH
Code 1 Aviation
Beechcraft T-34 Mentor, N343ZM
Belle Vernon, Pennsylvania
Most Authentic Restoration
Max Chapman & John Muszala
Idaho Falls, Idaho
North American P-51B Mustang, N515ZB
Idaho Falls, Idaho
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Douglas C-47 Skytrain, N74589
Reserve Grand Champion – World War II
Eden Prairie, Minnesota
North American P-51D Mustang, N1751D
Air Corps Aviation
Grand Champion – Post World War II
Goodyear FG-1D Corsair, NX72NW
Airpower Unlimited LLC
Grand Champion – World War II
Virginia Beach, Virginia
de Havilland Canada FB26 Mosquito, N114KA
Auckland, New Zealand
Helicopter – Bronze Lindy
Safari 400, N615RK
Helicopter – Silver Lindy
Safari 400, N8875
Helicopter – Gold Lindy
Gyrocopter – Silver Lindy
Magni M-16, N747RD
Gyrocopter – Gold Lindy
Ultralight & LSA
Light Plane – Honorable Mention
Quad Cities Challenger 2
Reserve Grand Champion – Light Plane
Russell Morgan Ragwing Special
Grand Champion – Ultralight
Hummel Ultra Cruiser
Best Metal – Plaque
Tina & Kevin Anderson
Paw Paw, Michigan
1959 Cessna 182, N8438T
Samaritan Aviation, Byron Yergue
1981 Cessna 206G, N52337
Granville, New York
1947 Republic Seabee, N398CM
Fargo, North Dakota
Molt Taylor Coot, N202YB
1976 Cessna 182P, N13943
1958 Cessna 175 Skyhawk, N7223M
1955 de Havilland DHC2 Beaver, N2MD
Congratulations to all who won and were recognized at this year’s AirVenture![/showhide]
After circling over Dayton, Ohio for 20 minutes, a jumper yells “HOT TARGET!” Having carefully watched streamers show them the intensity of the winds and having also monitored the movements of the first jumper who carried the American flag, all of their checks were complete and one by one they jumped from 12,500 feet. In the blink of an eye, they’re hundreds of feet from the plane in free-fall. These are the US Army Golden Knights, the best of the best at parachute jumping.
Formed in 1959 by nineteen airborne soldiers, the team was originally known as the Strategic Army Corps Sport Parachute Team. It later became the Army’s official aerial demonstration team in 1961, and picked up the nickname Golden Knights in 1962. Over the last 53 years, the team has performed over 16,000 times in all 50 United States and 48 different countries. The airshow portion of the Golden Knights is comprised of two 12-member teams: the Gold and the Black teams, representing the colors of the US Army. Each team flies in a Fokker C-31A Friendship jump aircraft, the only two in the country. This year, it was the Black team that performed in Dayton.
Before the flight, each team member remained calm and relaxed. Some drank Gatorade and socialized with other team members, while others took quick naps in the back of the plane. As show-time drew near, they began their usual routine. One team member read off the briefing on a piece of laminated paper. When this was complete, they split off and began practicing their routine by walking through it on the grass. For the formation jumpers this involved locking arms and twirling in the grass just like they would in free-fall. For the solo jumpers: a short walk. Just before boarding the plane they grouped in a circle for some motivational words, like a sports team just before the big game. We took our seats in the plane, strapped in, and were ready to go.
They warned us that at the altitudes we would be flying at, hypoxia could become an issue due to the air becoming thinner. Ironically the worst air we inhaled was on the ground while the engines were started up and the pilots performed their checks. The doors stayed open for the entire operation, from pre-flight to landing. This meant the lovely smell of engine exhaust for a few solid minutes. Fresh air flowed into the fuselage as we taxied out and made our way to the runway where we took off without hesitation.
It didn’t take long into the flight for team members to start looking out the plane to analyze their jump. While members of the media were strapped in and instructed not to touch their lap belt until the plane had landed and the engines had stopped, the Golden Knights walked freely throughout the cabin. Some gazed out the door as the aircraft circled over the air-field. Some went near the cockpit to talk among themselves. Some used the bathroom tucked away in a small door in the aft end of the plane: a small cabinet-sized room smaller than a port-o-potty. How they managed that with a parachute backpack on is beyond me.
The team uses streamers to determine how the winds are behaving. They are lightweight paper attached to an aluminum rod, designed to fall at the same rate as the parachutes worn by the jumpers. Each jumper’s goal is to land on a small target about a foot in diameter for a “tip-toe” landing from as high as 12,500 feet. A team member throws the streamers out the door exactly over the target, and watches as they drift on their way down. If they drift one mile to the east, the team will aim to deploy their parachutes one mile to the west of the target so that the winds will naturally carry them right to it. Once they’re released, the aircraft banks into a continuous turn so that the streamers remain in sight. Even in banked turns, the jumpers crouch near the open door, carefully watching for the effects of the winds.
After the streamer drop, the aircraft climbed a few thousand more feet and soon the first jumper of the day was ready to go. As quick as a blink, the jumper saluted, hopped sideways, and was immediately pulled away by the wind. He activated the smoke canister attached to his boot almost immediately to help the spectators on the ground below follow his fall. With that, the show was officially kicked off! We continued to climb and eventually lost sight of the jumper, but a circle of smoke was clearly visible over the airfield: it was Matt Younkin’s Beech-18 circling him during the National Anthem. Once he landed he took the microphone and began narrating the rest of the team’s performance.
The temperature drops approximately 3-4 degrees Fahrenheit for every 1,000 feet of altitude gained, meaning it was cold at 12,500 feet. On this particular June day in the mid-70’s, temperatures in the aircraft reached near or below freezing temperatures. The air is also noticeably thinner; I could feel myself taking deeper breaths than usual. Even with gloves on I began to breathe warm air onto my fingertips (although this was still nothing compared to the Michigan/Wisconsin winters I’ve grown used to). None of this seemed to phase any of the jumpers who would soon also face a 120 mph wind chill during free fall.
Above each door is a pair of lights: one red that reads “CAUTION” and one green that reads “DROP – JUMP”. Most of the flight featured a red light, but it changed to green as we neared the target on a hot run. The jumpers who weren’t sticking their heads out the door sat patiently in their seats just like us passengers. One Knight smiled at me and showed me his altimeter which read 12.5 (measured in thousands). Just like the first jumper, the remaining team members stood next to the door, gave a salute, jumped sideways, and were gone in the blink of an eye. We turned away to get ready for our descent and as I looked down at the airfield I saw four tiny dots with pink smoke trailing from them. I’ve watched many Golden Knights performances in the past but I’ve never looked down at them!
As we descended it got warm. Fast. We reached a point where the humidity hit us hard and fogged up all of our camera equipment. The warm and humid air was refreshing for a good five minutes, and then the winter coats we were wearing became quite uncomfortable. The jumpers obviously landed well before us and by the time we finished taxiing back the next airshow act was already in the air.
This year the Golden Knights will be performing at 26 shows/events. I hope you will be able to witness at least one performance! I would like to thank the team and the Dayton Airshow for allowing me the opportunity to fly with them and witness their performance up close. And, as they announce at the conclusion of each performance; May your days be prosperous, and your nights Golden!
Two jet teams soared over Dayton, OH this month (June 20-21) as the 2015 Vectren Dayton Air Show hosted both the USAF Thunderbirds and the Breitling Jet Team. The real story, however, was the weather. The week leading up to the show was soured by the remnants of Tropical Storm Bill, which brought low clouds and soaking rains to the area. Saturday looked to be a total washout, and Sunday also was far from guaranteed. Luckily the performers and show officials were able to work around the weather to put on an entertaining event!
Saturday started out with a lot of low clouds and a constant rain. The morning was a great chance to visit the nearby National Museum of the United States Air Force. The rain let up in the early afternoon and Sean D. Tucker started off the weekend’s flying after a ground run by Shockwave. Only a few acts were skipped; The US Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet demonstration team, the USCG HH-65 Dolphin, Breitling Jet Team, and the Thunderbirds were all able to perform after the airspace flight restrictions were extended later into the afternoon. The crowd was understandably small, but the grounds were still turned to mud by the foot traffic. The grass parking lots were also a muddy disaster, and many cars got stuck. Show officials moved quickly overnight to make alternative arrangements. Paved parking lots nearby were put into use, and shuttle buses were brought in to service them. The show even worked with a local towing company and car wash to make sure that any stuck cars were removed and washed for free. That’s fantastic customer service!
Sunday started off hot and humid. Scattered showers and thunderstorms were in the forecast, but neither ended up anywhere nearby. The clouds stayed lower though, and forced low shows by the Super Hornet and Thunderbirds. The crowd filled in very slowly, surely due to the confusion over the parking and the choke point of the shuttle buses. The show has been forced in recent years to face the harsh reality of static display availability, and the ramp that historically has overflowed with aircraft was rather sparse due to the budget situation. They did spring for some warbirds at least, like the C-46 Commando “Tinker Belle”, and even brought in a pair of A-4 Skyhawks owned by Draken International. In order to give the fans something extra to look at in recent years, the show has set up the Performer Pit Row, an area for the flying performers to park near the spectators.
The flying portion was noticeably shorter than usual, but it was actually a welcome change. Instead of endless repeat performances and repetitive acts, it was a sort of highlight reel with a very good variety of performances. Matt Younkin, the Screamin’ Sasquatch Jet Waco, and the Golden Knights (get an inside look at their performance here) were able to perform on Sunday after sitting out Saturday’s show. The DAV’s B-25 “Panchito” even got added to the lineup as a surprise act, and was given over 10 minutes to do flybys in front of the crowd. The shorter lineup also meant less time in the hot and humid air!
This was our first look at the Breitling Jet Team, and they were thoroughly enjoyable. The team is based in France, but is touring around North America for the summer to advertise for their sponsor. The team flies their seven L-39s as hard anyone else, and the routine is a nice mix of large formation grace and solo aircraft high speed maneuvers. For their final maneuver, six of the team split formation and fire flares from their aircraft. This is a rarity at US shows and was well received by the crowd. The entire routine lasted about 25 minutes, although the team cut it down to 15 minutes on Saturday to make way for the Thunderbirds. It is a shame that Breitling has canceled several of their remaining Midwest appearances this year, including AirVenture in Oshkosh.
Overall the show was very good, and only the weather could have made it better. Major credit is due to the organizers for solving the parking lot issue when many other shows may have canceled. Hopefully next year they will be able to expand the static and flying lineup a bit, but that is partially out of the shows control. The Vectren Dayton Air Show will return on June 18-19, 2016 and feature the US Navy Blue Angels!
We all have that one show that will be the highlight of our season for it’s terrific lineup and appreciative atmosphere. For me, that show is the Abbotsford International Airshow in Abbotsford, British Columbia (BC), and this year is no different.
Recently the Snowbirds have announced four additions to their 2015 schedule. We already reported on the cancellation of the show in Waterloo, ON and subsequent announcement that the Snowbirds will be performing in Evansville, IN that weekend instead. In addition to that change, the team has added performances in Winston-Salem, NC on May 13th, Saint-Isidore, QC on June 16th, and Medicine Hat, AB on July 26th. We have also updated our 2015 Canadian Forces Snowbirds Schedule post with this info, so you can head there to see their entire schedule for the year.
The USAF’s Air Combat Command has released the 2015 Fighting Falcon Demo Team (aka Viper East) schedule! Will you see the team this year? They will perform 15 shows in both the United States and Canada!
Mar 21-22 – Melbourne, FL
Apr 11-12 – MCAS Beaufort, SC
May 30-31 – North Kingstown, RI
June 20 – Denton, TX
June 27-28 – Evansville, IN
July 3 – Dubuque, IA
July 4-5 – Eau Claire, WI
July 17-19 – Hillsboro, OR
July 25-26 – Kennewick, WA
Aug 15-16 – Broomfield, CO
Aug 29-30 – Ypsilanti, MI
Sept 5-7 – Toronto, Canada
Sept 17-20 – Reno, NV
Sept 26-27 – Santa Rosa, CA
Oct 24-25 – Santa Teresa, NM
Oct 31-Nov 1 – Stuart, FL
The United States Marine Corps (USMC) has released the AV-8B Harrier II and MV-22 Osprey schedules for this year’s airshow season. If you’re a fan of VTOL hardware, get excited because here are the dates and places where you catch them in action!
Mar 21 – Melbourne Air and Space Show- Melbourne, FL
Mar 28 – Tuscaloosa Regional Airshow – Tuscaloosa, AL
Apr 18 – NAS Corpus Christi South Texas Shoot-Out – Corpus Christi, TX
May 23 – Memorial Day Weekend Salute to Veterans Celebration – Columbia, MO
Jul 3 – Radio Dubuque/Dubuque Jaycees Air Show and Fireworks – Dubuque, IA
Aug 22 – Wings Over Camarillo – Camarillo, CA
Oct 3 – Wings Over Northern America – Rome, GA
Mar 21 – Los Angeles County Air Show – Lancaster, CA
Apr 18 – Thunder Over Louisville – Louisville, KY
May 2 – Dyess Big Country Airfest – Abilene, TX
Jul 18 – Thunder of Niagara Military Airshow – Niagara Falls, NY
Jul 25 – Fargo Air Show – Fargo, ND
Jul 31 – Seafair – Boeing Air Show – Seattle, WA
Aug 29 – New York City Airshow Coney Island – Brooklyn, NY
Sep 5 – Cleveland National Airshow – Cleveland, OH
Jul 17 – Oregon International Airshow – Hillsboro, OR
Sept 19 – Owensboro Airshow – Owensboro, KY