Historic “Memphis Belle” B-17 Moved Into US Air Force Museum Hangar

posted in: Museums, Warbirds | 0

B-17 Flying Fortress "Memphis Belle" and "Shoo Shoo Shoo Baby" - National Museum of the United States Air Force

On March 14th, the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force marked completion of the B-17F “Memphis Belle” restoration project. In view of invited media and 300 Air Force Museum Foundation members, the “Memphis Belle” was towed from the Museum’s restoration hangar to the WWII Gallery where it replaced “Shoo Shoo Shoo Baby”, a B-17G which had been on display there since 1988. The B-17G was removed from the hangar and placed into storage, where it awaits transfer to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum at a later date.

B-17 Flying Fortress "Memphis Belle" - National Museum of the United States Air Force

The “Memphis Belle” bears a paint scheme representative of the aircraft’s appearance on May 17, 1943, when the aircraft’s crew completed their 25th combat mission; the first Air Force bomber crew to reach that milestone and complete a tour of duty. This achievement earned the aircraft and crew national recognition, a war bond tour, and historical significance.

B-17 Flying Fortress "Memphis Belle" - National Museum of the United States Air ForceB-17 Flying Fortress "Shoo Shoo Shoo Baby" - National Museum of the United States Air Force

The Museum’s “Memphis Belle” exhibit officially opens on May 17th, the 75th anniversary of the aircraft’s historic combat mission. Until then, the aircraft remains obscured from view by a large partition. Plans for the exhibit debut include a static display of B-17 bombers, a gathering of WWII reenactors, and a big band concert, among other events.

– Article and photos by Ryan Grantonic

B-17 Flying Fortress "Memphis Belle" - National Museum of the United States Air ForceB-17 Flying Fortress "Memphis Belle" - National Museum of the United States Air Force

USAF Report: Wet Runway Contributed To Thunderbird F-16 Crash In Dayton

posted in: Jet Teams | 0
USAF Thunderbird #8 Crash in Dayton, OH
Photo via AP: Dayton Daily News

US Air Force officials stated that “excess speed and insufficient stopping distance” on a soaked runway resulted in the crash of a two seat F-16 Fighting Falcon assigned to the USAF Thunderbirds in Dayton, Ohio this past June.

Capt. Erik “Speedy” Gonsalves, Thunderbird #8, was in command of the jet at the time of the incident. Sgt. Kenneth Cordova, a maintenance crew member, was also on board at the time. The two were on a “familiarization flight” over Dayton while the team was in town to perform at the 2017 Vectren Dayton Airshow.

Upon landing, the jet slid off the runway and into the grass, causing the aircraft to flip.

The report mentions that Gonsalves missed his first landing approach and that water had restricted the view of his head-up display or HUD. This forced him to rely solely on cockpit instruments. On the second approach, the report claims that Gonsalves focused more on the runway than his airspeed, contributing to the crash. The Thunderbird F-16 touched down with only 6,130 feet of runway left. Seven to eight thousand feet of runway is required to land safely on wet pavement. The aircraft exited the runway and came to rest upside down in the grass nearby. It was destroyed in the incident.

An audio recording between Air Traffic Control and Thunderbird 8, obtained by the Dayton Daily News last month, revealed that the pilot was warned of “extreme precipitation” in the area and that ATC told him he was “flying at your own risk.”

In a statement, Air Combat Command spokeswoman Maj. Malinda Singleton said “Capt. Gonsalves is traveling with the team and narrating shows, but he is not medically cleared to fly at this time.”

Thunderbirds Return To Flying, Airshows After Dayton Landing Incident

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Cleveland National Airshow - USAF Thunderbirds

The US Air Force Thunderbirds announced today that they are returning to flying operations this week, and it sounds like they have every intention of performing as scheduled this weekend in Traverse City, MI. The remaining aircraft departed Dayton today to return to their home base of Nellis AFB, and they will fly a practice show there tomorrow. After Traverse City, the team has a weekend off followed by a trip to the UK where they will perform at the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford.

The team canceled their scheduled performances at the 2017 Vectren Dayton Airshow this past weekend after one of their two-seat F-16Ds flipped over onto its back next to the runway on Friday. The pilot, Thunderbird #8 Capt. Erik Gonsalves and passenger Technical Sgt. Kenneth Cordova were trapped in the overturned cockpit for more than an hour as emergency crews carefully attempted to extract them without triggering the powerful ejection seats.

The jet was returning from a familiarization flight nearby when the weather deteriorated. Reportedly, a gust of wind caught the aircraft after it was on the ground and flipped it onto its back in the muddy grass. The incident is still under investigation.

Once freed, both of the crew were taken to a nearby hospital in good condition. Cordova was released but Gonsalves remains in the hospital with reported cuts to his legs. He is expected to fully recover.

We are glad to hear that both of the Thunderbird team members are safe, and that the team will not observe a lengthy stand down. They must feel that the incident was a freak occurrence and that it is safe to continue performing.

USAF Thunderbird F-16 Involved In Mishap At 2017 Dayton Air Show

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USAF Thunderbirds 7 and 8 at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2010

AirshowStuff has learned that an F-16 belonging to the USAF Thunderbirds has been involved in an incident at the Dayton Air Show in Dayton, OH.

According to eyewitnesses, the incident occurred after the F-16 landed and was taxiing. The plane went off the runway and is currently in the grass. Law enforcement in the Dayton area are confirming than a Thunderbird jet is “on its top.”

This picture, posted by Dayton Daily News shows emergency crews responding to the incident scene.

The pilot of the jet at the time was Thunderbird #8, Capt. Erik “Speedy” Gonsalves. Tech Sargent Kenneth Cordova was the backseater. The mission was on a familiarization flight for Tech Sargent Cordova.

Both occupants of the plane were transported to the hospital. Thunderbird #1 says that injuries are non-life threatening. Tech Sargent Cordova had no visible injuries and is doing “just fine.” Thunderbird #8 had lacerations and injuries to his leg but is in stable to good condition and doing well.

There was heavy rain and wind in the area at the time of the incident. We’ll post more details on our forums as they become available.

The plane took off around 10:30 am this morning. Weather at the time met the criteria for the flight. He flew an instrument procedure approach to recover to the base. Mishap happened after landing on Runway 6L.

An accident safety board will investigate and the results will be made public at a later time. The Thunderbirds will NOT perform on Saturday at the Dayton Airshow. Sunday’s performance is to be determined.


Doolittle Raiders Honored With B-25, B-1 Flybys In Dayton 75 Years After Famous Mission

posted in: Flyovers, Warbirds | 0

B-25 Mitchells - Doolittle Raid 75th Anniversary - Dayton, OH

Eleven B-25 Mitchells roared over the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, OH on Tuesday in an incredible tribute to the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders. The flyover came 75 years to the day after the 16 B-25s and 80 airmen took off from the USS Hornet to bomb Japan. Although it inflicted little damage, the psychological effects of the raid forced a change in Japanese strategy that altered the course of the war.

B-25 Mitchells - Doolittle Raid 75th Anniversary - Dayton, OHB-25 Mitchells - Doolittle Raid 75th Anniversary - Dayton, OH

The rare warbirds are all privately owned and operated, and had gathered in nearby Urbana, OH before landing at the museum for public display. They performed a mass formation and missing man flyovers during a memorial service for the Raiders this afternoon. The only surviving member of the Raiders, Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” Cole, was in attendance.

Doolittle Raid MemorialB-1B Lancer - Doolittle Raid 75th Anniversary - Dayton, OH

Later in the ceremony, two B-1B Lancer bombers also performed a flyover. Both aircraft are from squadrons that participated in the original raid in 1942, and one of them was recently rechristened “Ruptured Duck” in tribute to one of the raid aircraft.

The NMUSAF has hosted several of the annual Doolittle Raider reunions in the past, including in 2010 and 2012.

Thank you to forum user DanODell for the photos! For more photos and videos from the event, be sure to check out the Doolittle Raider 75th Anniversary thread on our forums!

Thunderbirds and Blue Angels Announce Show Cancellations

posted in: Airshows, Jet Teams, Schedules | 2

US Navy Blue Angels

Following crashes at the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, CO and in Smyrna, TN, the Thunderbirds and Blue Angels have officially announced cancellations of their performances in the coming weeks as both teams undergo a safety stand down.

We have already reported on the Syracuse International Air Show, which was scheduled to host the Blue Angels this weekend. They moved to secure the Sea Harrier, and also announced that all profits from the show will go to the family of fallen Blue Angel Capt Jeff Kuss. The show has also been granted a Super Hornet demonstration in lieu of the Blue Angels.

The Blue Angels were then scheduled to appear at the Vectren Dayton Airshow in Dayton, OH on June 18th and 19th. That show was notified Tuesday that the Blue Angels would not be attending. However, performers still scheduled for the Vectren Dayton Airshow include the USAF’s F-22 Raptor, F-35 Lightning II and Heritage Flight, Tora Tora Tora Pearl Harbor re-enactment, the US Navy Leap Frogs and several other civilian performers. The show announced they will host the US Navy F-18 Hornet demonstration team as well.

Dayton released this statement following the Blue Angels announcement:
“We are saddened by the tragic loss of Marine Captain Jeff Kuss, Blue Angel # 6 in Tennessee last week,” stated Michael Emoff, United States Air and Trade Show Board of Trustees Chairman. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Captain Kuss’s family and the Blue Angel team members,” he added.

USAF Thunderbirds

The United States Air Force Thunderbirds also announced on Tuesday that the team would not be attending the 2016 Rhode Island International Airshow this upcoming June 11-12 weekend. A decision on the team’s performance at the Ocean City, MD airshow on June 17-18 has not been made at this time, according to the team. The Thunderbirds’ performance at the Kirtland Air Force Base Air Show was canceled last weekend immediately following the incident.

In a promising sign, the Thunderbirds returned to the skies on Tuesday for their first practice since the crash last Thursday. Hopefully they will be back to normal soon. The Blue Angels will obviously take more time to regroup and potentially retrain with a replacement solo pilot before resuming performances.

Photo Albums Uploaded: Vectren Dayton Airshow 2015 and US Army Golden Knights Media Flight

posted in: Airshows, AirshowStuff, Event Recap | 0

Three new photo albums have gone up in our photo gallery! Check out a preview of each below and then be sure to follow the links to view the full albums.

Vectren Dayton Airshow 2015 – Patrick Barron

View full photo album: Vectren Dayton Airshow 2015 – Patrick Barron
Vectren Dayton Airshow 2015 - Patrick Barron

Vectren Dayton Airshow 2015 – Ryan Sundheimer

View full photo album: Vectren Dayton Airshow 2015 – Ryan Sundheimer
Vectren Dayton Airshow 2015 - Ryan Sundheimer

Golden Knights Media Flight – Vectren Dayton Airshow 2015 – Patrick Barron

View full photo album: Golden Knights Media Flight – Vectren Dayton Airshow 2015 – Patrick Barron
US Army Golden Knights

The US Army Golden Knights Drop In To Dayton

posted in: Airshows, Event Recap, Military | 0

US Army Golden Knights - Vectren Dayton Airshow 2015

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.

US Army Golden Knights - Vectren Dayton Airshow 2015US Army Golden Knights - Vectren Dayton Airshow 2015

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.

US Army Golden Knights - Vectren Dayton Airshow 2015US Army Golden Knights - Vectren Dayton Airshow 2015

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.

US Army Golden Knights - Vectren Dayton Airshow 2015

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.

US Army Golden Knights - Vectren Dayton Airshow 2015

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.

US Army Golden Knights - Vectren Dayton Airshow 2015US Army Golden Knights - Vectren Dayton Airshow 2015

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.

US Army Golden Knights - Vectren Dayton Airshow 2015

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!

2015 Vectren Dayton Air Show Entertains Despite Rain

posted in: Airshows, Event Recap | 0

Vectren Dayton Airshow 2015

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!

USAF Thunderbirds - Vectren Dayton Airshow 2015US Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet Demonstration Team - Vectren Dayton Airshow 2015

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.

Vectren Dayton Airshow 2015 From AboveDraken International A-4 Skyhawk - Vectren Dayton Airshow 2015

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!

Jack Link's Screamin' Sasquatch Jet Waco Biplane - Vectren Dayton Air Show 2015US Army Golden Knights - Vectren Dayton Air Show 2015

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.

USAF Thunderbirds, Breitling Jet Team, and US Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet Demonstration Team - Vectren Dayton Airshow 2015B-25 Mitchell "Panchito" - Vectren Dayton Airshow 2015

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!

Breitling Jet Team - Vectren Dayton Airshow 2015