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.

Lethbridge Airshow Postponed To Summer Of 2020

posted in: Airshows | 0

Lethbridge International Airshow - AirshowStuff

The next Lethbridge International Airshow will not take place until 2020. The event, last held in 2017, traditionally takes place every other year, but organizers decided that several factors made a 2019 show unworkable. They announced the change yesterday.

One of the factors is the passing of long-time show volunteer and board member Brent Botfield. Lethbridge also did not appear on any major military performer schedules, including the Snowbirds and CF-18 Hornet demonstration team. By holding the event in August next year, organizers feel they’ll have a better shot at landing major acts.

Lethbridge was generous enough to welcome us to their 2017 show, and we look forward to working with them in 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!

Sequestration All Over Again: Looming 2020 Budget Cuts May Ground Blue Angels, Other Military Demonstrations

posted in: Jet Teams, Military | 0

US Navy Blue Angels - AirshowStuff

Without action from Congress, the Navy could be forced to cancel the Blue Angels’ 2020 airshow season according to a report delivered to lawmakers by Navy Secretary Richard Spencer. The report explores the would-be fallout of potential sequestration budget cuts that are set to go into effect in January of 2020.

Although the Blue Angels are probably the highest profile impact mentioned, the cuts would have strong impact throughout the military. The US Air Force’s contingency report has not been publicized, but it is almost certain that performances by the USAF Thunderbirds and other military demonstration teams would similarly be eliminated or severely reduced should this scenario play out.

While these cuts can be avoided as long as Congress acts prior to the January 2020 deadline, airshow fans know all too well that that can’t be counted on. In 2013, sequestration cuts did go into effect. The military teams were forced to abandon their scheduled plans and many airshows across the country struggled or canceled outright after losing the popular acts. It took years for a number of popular demonstrations to return, and some are still not back to pre-cut levels. It’s safe to say that the airshow industry as a whole is eager to see a second “lost season” prevented as soon as possible.

The timing of the cuts is also interesting, because the Blue Angels are expected to transition to flying the F/A-18 Super Hornet in the next few years. We already noted that their preliminary 2020 schedule ends about a month earlier than usual. The common assumption is that this would provide extra time to practice in the new aircraft before the 2021 season begins. There is no mention in the report of how the transition might be impacted should the cuts come to pass.

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

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

USAF Thunderbirds and Crowd - AirshowStuff

Last week we got our best glimpse yet as to what the 2019 and 2020 airshow seasons will look like when the jet team and military demonstration schedules were announced at the International Council of Air Shows (ICAS) Convention in Las Vegas. We here at AirshowStuff were the first to post them publicly, and you can review them here on our blog or in our forums.

Although much of the information is pretty standard, there are always some surprises and less obvious revelations tucked away in the list of dates and shows. Here are some of the more interesting tidbits we noticed:

  • One of the hottest topics in airshow circles these days is the RAF Red Arrows US/Canada tour in August and September. The Reds did have a couple of representatives at the convention, but they disappointed fans everywhere by not releasing a schedule with the rest of the teams. This wasn’t shocking really, but it does leave some fans stuck in limbo for travel plans. Stay tuned to AirshowStuff – we’ll bring you the schedule as soon as they do announce it!
  • The North American jet teams cross paths at least a few times each year, and 2019 is no exception. The real surprise is the show at Joint Base Andrews near Washington, D.C., which features a rare combination of the US Navy Blue Angels and USAF Thunderbirds plus the A-10 Warthog demo team. The Canadian Snowbirds will meet each US team once during the year; the Blue Angels in Ocean City, MD and the Thunderbirds in Abbotsford, BC.
  • Numerous shows will feature multiple single-ship demonstrations, but especially noteworthy are Milwaukee and Cleveland. Milwaukee has the benefit of sharing their weekend with EAA AirVenture just up the road in Oshkosh, WI, so it’s not shocking that they will get the Thunderbirds and the newly approved F-35 Lightning II Demo and also borrow the F-22 Raptor and F-16 Fighting Falcon from Oshkosh for a Heritage Flight. Hopefully Oshkosh gets something in return! Cleveland sees the Thunderbirds, but also gets the F-35 and A-10 demo teams in an unusual collection of Air Force teams at a civilian show.
  • Not counting a handful of US appearances in Canada, there are two international airshows on the schedules for the US teams. The Thunderbirds will head to Rionegro, Colombia in July, and the A-10 demonstration team will perform at Santa Lucia AB in Mexico in April. Both seem a little random, but at least the teams will not be gone on an extended tour.
  • The RCAF CF-18 Hornet Demonstration Team will not be performing at any US shows in 2019. We noticed that their schedule was cut down significantly and hoped that additional shows might be approved later, but it was then reported that the season is intentionally being “condensed” amid personnel shortages and aircraft maintenances woes in the RCAF. This is definitely disappointing because the CF-18 carries a special paint scheme every year, so it’s a bit of a collector’s item among photographers.
  • One item that was noticed when the preliminary 2019 schedules were released a year ago is that the NAS Oceana Airshow will not host the Blue Angels for the first time in memory. In a strange twist, the Thunderbirds are scheduled for that one! The Blue Angels will instead be flying at NAS Lemoore in California, the first airshow there in many years. Oceana is also considered a favorite to land the Red Arrows during their US/Canada tour, so there is a real possibility of having two jet teams at Oceana but no Blue Angels.
  • The US Marines are bad at releasing schedules. Not only do they only list a few shows, there are always errors and inconsistencies with the more polished lists released by other organizations. This year is no exception. Just three AV-8B Harrier demonstrations were announced, and four MV-22 Osprey demonstrations. For the record, last year four of each were announced but roughly eight shows saw Osprey demos by the time the season was over. The problem is that the Marines do not have dedicated teams or pilots, they simply fly the demonstrations with regular units that have much less availability. Their schedules also don’t mention the Marine Corps Air Station airshows that end up hosting demonstrations.
  • Looking ahead to the preliminary 2020 schedules, the very first thing that screams off the page is a shortened Blue Angels season, ending in October. This isn’t an error; the season still ends with the traditional homecoming show in Pensacola, just a month before it usually takes place. This indicates an intentional extension to the off season, and comes just in time (actually a little early in our opinion) for the planned transition to Super Hornets. Nothing has been announced, but it sure looks like 2021 may be the first year in the new jets!
  • A more minor entry in the Blue Angels’ 2020 schedule is the airshow at CFB Cold Lake in Alberta. The Blues list the show as August 8-9, but the organizers were quick to start promoting July 18-19 instead. Normally this would be a simple date swap, but the July dates happen to be one of the rest weekends the team is obligated to take; the team cannot perform more than seven weekends in a row. These breaks were instituted following the fatal crash of Blue Angel #6 pilot Capt. Jeff Kuss in 2016. If the organizers are to be believed, this rest weekend will be filled and the schedule will show nine performance weeks between breaks. Expect some more shuffling to occur, but luckily there is plenty of time for all involved to sort it out.

Did you notice anything else interesting in the schedules? Who are you most looking forward to seeing? Let us know in the comments or join the discussion on our forums!

USAF Thunderbirds 2020 Preliminary Airshow Schedule Released

posted in: Airshows, Jet Teams, Schedules | 3

US Air Force Thunderbirds - AirshowStuff

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

Preliminary US Air Force Thunderbirds 2020 Appearance Schedule

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

US Navy Blue Angels 2020 Preliminary Airshow Schedule Released

posted in: Airshows, Jet Teams, Schedules | 5

US Navy Blue Angels

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

Preliminary US Navy Blue Angels 2020 Appearance Schedule

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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