USAF Thunderbirds Cancel Appearance At Wings Over Columbus 2018

posted in: Airshows, Jet Teams, Schedules | 1

USAF Thunderbirds F-16 Fighting Falcon

The USAF Thunderbirds have canceled their planned appearance at the 2018 Wings Over Columbus airshow at Columbus AFB in Mississippi. The move was announced in a video update by Thunderbird #1 following the death of Thunderbird #4, Maj. Stephen Del Bagno, in a crash during practice last week. The team had previously announced they were skipping their performances at the March ARB airshow this past weekend as well as Sun ‘n Fun in Lakeland, FL next weekend.

It is important to note that while the Thunderbird performances have been canceled, the airshows themselves will be held as originally scheduled. The Air Force’s Air Combat Command has been working to add single-ship demonstrations to affected shows; Sun ‘n Fun recently announced that the F-16 Fighting Falcon demonstration team (Viper Demo) will perform there to fill in for the Thunderbirds.

We have updated our 2018 USAF Thunderbirds schedule to reflect the confirmed cancellations, but we expect more appearances to be canceled as part of a safety stand down after the accident. Stay tuned to AirshowStuff for future updates.

Luke Days 2018 Airshow Changes Dates; Secures New Jet Team

posted in: Airshows, Jet Teams, Schedules | 8

US Navy Blue Angels

Luke Air Force Base confirmed today that their 2018 airshow will be getting not only new dates, but a new headliner as well. The Luke Days 2018 event will now be held on March 17-18 instead of March 10-11.

The new dates were necessary in order to secure the US Navy Blue Angels as the main attraction. It will be their first time appearing at Luke since 1992, and fills a previously open weekend on their schedule. Base Public Affairs has told us that the rest of the lineup will remain the same.

The US Air Force Thunderbirds display team was scheduled to perform on the original dates, but they are currently scheduled to be in Melbourne, FL on the 17th and 18th and will not be able to perform at Luke. However, this news only adds to rumors that the team will be extending their winter training period in order to train up the new #1 pilot.

Lt. Col. Kevin Walsh took over as Thunderbird #1 in December following the surprise dismissal of the previous squadron commander, Lt. Col. Jason Heard. Although Walsh served as Thunderbird #7 for two years before being placed in charge of the squadron, he came into the role with no experience flying the demonstration. At the time, we speculated that the sudden change in lead pilot could mandate additional training time.

The move by Luke to cancel on the Thunderbirds is an extremely unusual one, and the simplest explanation is that the Thunderbirds notified Luke that their planned appearance was either in question or written off altogether. This makes even more sense since the Wings Over Atlanta airshow at Dobbins AFB in Georgia, another March show that expected to host the Thunderbirds, announced their cancelation earlier this month. The uncertainty of a jet team appearance could certainly lead to the financial concerns that they cited as the cause.

Ultimately this is all speculation at this point, as there has been no official announcement made regarding the Thunderbirds changing their schedule; everything has come from the shows themselves. The Melbourne Air and Space Show is now the only remaining March appearance for the Thunderbirds, so it will be telling whether they make any announcements regarding the team.

As always, we welcome your own thoughts and comments on this topic in our forums, where you can also see the remainder of the USAF Thunderbirds 2018 schedule as well as the 2018 airshow schedule for the US Navy Blue Angels!

New USAF Exercise “Mobility Guardian” Exceeds Expectations

posted in: Event Recap, Military | 0

C-17 Globemaster IIIs Joint Base Lewis-McChord Exercise Mobility Guardian 2017

Air Mobility Command has restructured their biennial exercise, formerly known as Air Mobility Rodeo (which last took place in 2011), into a new mission-focused exercise called Mobility Guardian. Originally a competitive event that challenged the best of United States Air Force and international teams in various mission-based competitions, Mobility Guardian has shifted to focus on training up new aircrews to be as versatile as other veteran forces. The event took place from July 31 to August 12, 2017 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, WA.

Fuerza Aérea Colombiana CASA 295 Mobility Guardian 2017Royal Australian Air Force RAAF KC-30 Voyager Tanker Mobility Guardian 2017

Mobility Guardian’s events are setup to be some of the most realistic, real-world, scenario-driven events AMC has undertaken yet. The exercise is designed to allow forces to develop and improve techniques and procedures that enhance air mobility operations and interoperability between US and allied forces. These include training for airlift, air refueling, aeromedical evacuation, and mobility support missions. This becomes especially important given that whether the nation is at war or in peacetime, the mobility units are constantly at work helping either the war effort or humanitarian missions, if not both simultaneously.

Lockheed C-130 Hercules Mobility Guardian 2017

In an article by the 62nd Airlift Wing, Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s Mobility Guardian Director Lt. Col. Daniel DeYoung said “Mobility Guardian provides us an opportunity to ‘train like we fight’ alongside our joint and international partners.” “It is a completely new exercise meant to enhance mobility partnerships and test the full spectrum of capabilities Air Mobility Command provides the nation.”

“Whereas Rodeo incentivized units to take their best performers from across the Air Force Specialty Code spectrum—operators, maintainers, medical and support Airmen—and give them extra ‘top-off’ training to prepare for the competition, Mobility Guardian participants will by design be the ‘average’ Airman, who will be tested to employ his or her skills to accomplish the mission laid out in the exercise scenario.”

Fuerza Aérea Colombiana CASA 295 Mobility Guardian 2017Fuerza Aérea Colombiana CASA 295 Medical Litter Mobility Guardian 2017

Numerous nations came to observe and participate in the launch of this new exercise, with a handful bringing their own aircraft. The Royal Canadian Air Force dedicated a pair of their CC-130J Super Hercules’, while the Pāk Fizāʾiyah (Pakistan Air Force/PAF), Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF), Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF), and Luchtcomponent (Belgian Air Component) flew in their C-130 Hercules aircraft, and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) brought their C-17 Globemaster IIIs and an Airbus KC-30A Voyager. The Royal Air Force (RAF) and Armée de l’air (French Air Force) both brought their latest aircraft, the Airbus A400M Atlas. Participating AMC units flew their C-130s, C-130J-30s, C-17s, KC-10 Extenders, and KC-135 Stratotankers from JBLM.

Pakistan Air Force Lockheed C-130 Hercules Mobility Guardian 2017Royal Air Force Airbus A400M Atlas Mobility Guardian 2017

Other US military units participated in the aerial refueling training. Those include A-10 Thunderbolt IIs of the 124th Fighter Wing, Gowen Field Air National Guard Base, Idaho; US Navy E/A-18G Growlers of VA-129, Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Washington.; F-15C Eagles of the 142nd FW, Portland Air National Guard Base, Oregon; F-16C Fighting Falcons and F-35 Lightning IIs assigned to Hill AFB, Utah; F-15E Strike Eagles of Mountain Home AFB, Idaho; and Air Force Global Strike Command B-2 Spirit and B-52 Stratofortress bombers.

According to Team McChord’s summary article, aircrews flew roughly 1,200 hours in eight days, finishing nearly 650 sorties. Tanker aircraft offloaded roughly 1.2 million pounds of fuel, aerial port personnel processed 3,676 passengers and 4,911 tons of equipment; and crews airdropped 356 paratroopers, 33 heavy platforms and nearly 300 Container Delivery System bundles.

We’d like to thank Air Mobility Command, the 62nd Airlift Wing, and Capt. Jacob Bailey for allowing us to come and tour the exercise at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Heads Up Display (HUD) in the cockpit of Royal Air Force Airbus A400M Atlas Mobility Guardian 2017

Just FIVE Public Appearances Remain For USAF F-4 Phantoms, Including Final Flight Event In December

posted in: Airshows, Military, Popular Posts | 60
USAF F-4 Phantom Departure
USAF F-4 Phantoms departed EAA AirVenture Oshkosh for the last time this July.

Update: 9/20/16 – Although the Fort Worth Alliance Airshow asked to be removed from this post last week, we have reconfirmed that two Phantoms plan to attend the show and have re-added it to the schedule.

We have already reported that 2016 is the final year for USAF-operated F-4 Phantoms, but we are happy to report that they will go out with a public celebration of their service. As announced by F-4 pilot Ron ‘Elvis’ King at EAA AirVenture, there are plans to fly the last remaining F-4s in Holloman Air Force Base on December 20th this year. He estimates that four Phantoms will take part in the event. There will be multiple flybys and some supersonic flying, as well as a Phinal Phantom formation of four F-4s.

The aircraft will also be making several other public appearances this year before this final send off. The most recent plans include just four stops; three of them airshows and one a NASCAR race flyover. As always, and especially with these old jets, the appearances are subject to change at any time due to weather, mechanical issues, or operational scheduling.

16-19 Sep – Reno, NV
23-26 Sep – MCAS Miramar, CA
14-17 Oct – Ft. Worth Alliance, TX
6 Nov – NASCAR Sprint Cup Flyby at Texas Motor Speedway
10-14 Nov – Nellis AFB, NV

Holloman Air Force Base is located near Alamogordo, New Mexico and is home to multiple flight groups such as F-16s of the 54th Fighter Group and the German Air Force Flying Training Center of the German Luftwaffe.

The Phantoms at Holloman Air Force Base are QF-4 Phantom target drones. As of EAA AirVenture 2016, 20 QF-4s remained in inventory. Not all of them will be completely destroyed, but members of the QF-4 program were told that they will need to get rid of the Phantoms one way or another. Once they are gone, the only remaining F-4 Phantom that will be airworthy in the United States is the one owned by the Collings Foundation, which has had mechanical issues for several years.

USAF F-4 PhantomUSAF F-4 Phantom

The date is currently tentative and is subject to change, but the pilots want to get the word out. So mark your calendars; USAF F-4 Phantoms will have one last hurrah in New Mexico before signing off for good this December.

For those who can’t make it, rest assured that AirshowStuff will have plenty of F-4 footage coming, including more exclusive cockpit footage!

USAF F-4 Phantom II To Appear At Wings Over Wayne Airshow?

posted in: Airshows, Military | 3

F-4 Phantom II

Might airshow fans get a few more glimpses of F-4 Phantom IIs before they are gone for good? An interesting line in the Wings Over Wayne Airshow at Seymour-Johnson AFB in North Carolina (which hosted F-4s until 1988) certainly begs the question. The airshow’s schedule mentions an F-4 flyby, and the static list also includes an F-4 in the ‘warbirds’ section. The Goldsboro Daily News also lists a QF-4 Phantom as both an aerial performer and static display at the show. However, the official Wings Over Wayne Twitter account makes no mention of a Phantom, which would presumably be a highlight worthy of mentioning.

The USAF painted several of its QF-4 Phantoms, modified to fly without a pilot to serve as targets in missile tests, in special commemorative paint schemes years ago and allowed them to perform mini demonstrations and Heritage Flights at airshows. However, the program was known to be temporary and each year brought promises that it would be the last. Now that nearly all of the QF-4s have been shot down, the USAF has begun transitioning to QF-16s for the same role. Any QF-4s left will have extremely limited support and likely life spans to match. The Collings Foundation does operate an F-4 Phantom as a private aircraft, but it is a rare sight at airshows due to engine problems and its immense cost.