The US Navy Seems To Be Expanding Legacy Flights In 2019! What About Super Hornet Demos?

posted in: Military | 2

US Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet - AirshowStuff

Last year was a rough one for the Navy’s single-ship demonstration presence at airshows. While F/A-18C Hornet and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet demonstration teams used to visit dozens of shows each year, they performed at just seven events (the six listed and their home show at NAS Oceana) in 2018. This dramatic decrease comes from a number of factors; busy training schedules, aircraft maintenance struggles, and the phasing out of F/A-18Cs.

At the same time, the US Air Force has steadily increased its airshow presence through the re-establishment of the F-16 Fighting Falcon and A-10 Thunderbolt II demonstration teams, and the debut of the F-35 Heritage Flight team which is upgraded to a full demo team this year. The stark contrast is the result of the different approaches that the services take.

While USAF demos are flown by dedicated teams with specific aircraft, the Navy TACDEMOs are flown by a small group of fleet instructor pilots who are certified to perform the routine. They take jets from their Fleet Replacement Squadron (VFA-106 “Gladiators” at NAS Oceana in Virginia and VFA-122 “Flying Eagles” at NAS Lemoore in California), perform over the weekend, then return home for training during the week. Previously, VFA-125 “Rough Raiders” performed the F/A-18C demonstrations out of NAS Lemoore, but the unit was merged into VFA-122 in 2010 before converting to the Fleet Replacement Squadron for the new F-35C Lightning II in 2016.

This structure worked fine some years ago, but started to struggle as several factors came up in a short time span. The F/A-18Cs began to be phased out as the Navy replaced them with more Super Hornets. Budget cuts hindered maintenance efforts and jets spent more time on the ground despite high demand. Training is the absolute primary mission of the units and as aircraft wore down, their limited flight time was rightly directed to that mission. Airshow appearances shrunk and popular Legacy Flight performances, which pair one of the modern demonstration jets with one or more vintage Navy aircraft, became a thing of the past.

In 2018, fans were crushed to learn that only seven airshow appearances by VFA-106 – and none by VFA-122 – were approved. Legacy Flights did return, but were only performed by the demo crews at some of those few events. The Navy scheduling process has always been a bit confusing with schedules posted much later than other teams and many late additions, but this was still a shock and begged the question of what would happen in 2019 and beyond. Whispers at the time painted an extremely bleak picture and warned that demos might not even happen in 2019.

As we sit here in February of 2019, we have no further word on specific plans for TACDEMOs in 2019, but we are seeing signs that the Navy’s philosophy on airshow performances is changing. A couple shows, namely St. Louis and the Tacoma Freedom Fair, are advertising Legacy Flight performances where the modern jet will be an E/A-18G Growler instead of a Super Hornet from one of the traditional TACDEMO teams. Other shows are advertising Legacy Flight performances that include a T-45 Goshawk training jet, which has never had a regular airshow presence.

This represents a big shift which airshow fans should appreciate. By spreading the airshow appearances around to units outside of VFA-106 and VFA-122, it reduces the burden faced by any one unit and particularly the training units. It reduces the need for long transit flights by providing options for shows to pursue relatively local units, and it will likely increase the total number of shows that get a Navy performance. It also means greater variety for photographers to capture!

What does this mean for actual, full-up TACDEMOs though? Unfortunately, we’re still in the dark on that one and we may not find out for some time. It’s entirely possible that no full demonstrations will be flown in 2019, though a limited schedule seems more likely. A particularly observant member of our forums pointed out that there is a temporary flight restriction (TFR) posted for NAS Oceana this week, which usually indicates practice Super Hornet demonstrations. That is far from a confirmation that they will be performed in 2019, but it’s certainly not a bad sign!

Stay tuned to AirshowStuff for all of the latest news on Navy TACDEMOs and Legacy Flights, and be sure share your own thoughts on our forums!

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.

BREAKING: US Navy Blue Angels Pilot Suffers Landing Mishap In El Centro

posted in: Jet Teams | 2

US Navy Blue Angels F-18 Hornet - AirshowStuff

An unnamed pilot of the US Navy Blue Angels was thankfully uninjured after a landing mishap at NAF El Centro today. The pilot was landing at the base when the aircraft’s main landing gear failed to extend properly. The pilot was able to make an emergency landing with the F-18 Hornet without injuring himself or anyone on the ground.

The incident is under investigation.

The Blue Angels are in the middle of their winter training period at El Centro. They use the base for their training flights every year because the remote location and good weather allow for excellent training conditions. Their airshow season is scheduled to start in March.

This incident should not impact the season, although they have struggled with aircraft availability in recent years after several major incidents grounded some of the jets assigned to the team. Depending on how severe the damage to the aircraft is, it may be grounded for some time.

The team will be transitioning to F/A-18E Super Hornets in the coming years, although no firm timetable for the change has been announced yet.

This is a breaking story with few details immediately available. We will bring you more information as it becomes known. You can join the discussion and look for more info in our forums.

New Photo Album – Airshow London 2018

posted in: Airshows, AirshowStuff, Event Recap | 0

A-10 Warthog at Airshow London 2018 - AirshowStuff

A new album is now available in our photo gallery! This album is from Airshow London 2018 in London, Ontario. Check it out here: Airshow London 2018 – Ryan Sundheimer

Also be sure to check out our video playlist from the event!

US Navy Blue Angels 2019 Airshow Schedule Released

posted in: Airshows, Jet Teams, Schedules | 37

US Navy Blue Angels - AirshowStuff

Here is the 2019 airshow schedule for the US Navy Blue Angels! Will you see them in 2019? Let us know! Post in the AirshowStuff Forums or on the AirshowStuff Facebook page and make sure you share pictures after the show!

Schedules often change during the year – make sure to check out our airshow calendar for an updated list of airshows and aviation events, plus this and other major schedules all listed in one place! You can also check our forums for discussion on the schedule and shows!

2019 US Navy Blue Angels Airshow Appearance Schedule

March 16-17: NAF El Centro Air Show – NAF El Centro, CA
March 23-24: California International Airshow – Salinas, CA
March 30-31: NAS Key West Southernmost Air Show – NAS Key West, FL

April 6-7: Sun-n-Fun Fly-In Expo – Lakeland, FL
April 13-14: Wings Over South Texas – NAS Corpus Christi, TX
April 20-21: OFF WEEK
April 27-28: MCAS Beaufort Air Show – MCAS Beaufort, SC

May 4-5: Ford Lauderdale Air Show – Fort Lauderdale, FL
May 11-12: JB Andrews Air Show – JB Andrews, MD
May 18-19: Cape Girardeau Regional Air Festival – Cape Girardeau, MO
May 22: U.S. Naval Academy Air Show – Annapolis, MD
May 24: U.S. Naval Academy Graduation Flyover – Annapolis, MD
May 25-26: Miami Beach Air & Sea Show – Miami Beach, FL

June 1-2: Star Spangled Salute Air Show – Tinker AFB, OK
June 8-9: Great Tennessee Air Show – Smyrna, TN
June 15-16: Ocean City Airshow – Ocean City, MD
June 22-23: OFF WEEK
June 29-30: Quad City Air Show – Davenport, IA

July 6-7: KC Downtown Air Show – Kansas City, MO
July 13: Pensacola Beach Airshow – Pensacola Beach, FL
July 20-21: Duluth Air Show and Aviation Expo – Duluth, MN
July 27-28: Grand Junction Air Show – Grand Junction, CO

August 3-4: Seafair Boeing Air Show – Seattle, WA
August 17-18: 61st Chicago Air And Water Show – Chicago, IL
August 24-25: New York Air Show – Stewart ANG Base, Newburgh, NY
August 31-September 1: Atlantic Canada International Air Show – Greenwood, NS

September 7-8: Spirit of St. Louis Air Show – Chesterfield, MO
September 14-15: OFF WEEK
September 21-22: NAS Lemoore Central Valley Air Show – NAS Lemoore, CA
September 28-29: MCAS Miramar Air Show – MCAS Miramar, CA

October 5-6: California Capital Airshow – Sacramento, CA
October 12-13: San Francisco Fleet Week – San Francisco, CA
October 19-20: Fort Worth Alliance Air Show – Fort Worth, TX
October 26-27: Jacksonville Sea and Sky Spectacular – Jacksonville Beach, FL

November 2-3: Thunder Over South Georgia – Moody AFB, GA
November 8-9: Blue Angels Homecoming Airshow – NAS Pensacola, FL

Want to look a little further ahead? We also have a copy of the preliminary 2020 US Navy Blue Angels schedule!

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

New Photo Album – Battle Creek Field of Flight Airshow and Balloon Festival 2018

posted in: Airshows, AirshowStuff, Event Recap | 0

F/A-18F Super Hornet - Battle Creek Airshow 2018

A new album is now available in our photo gallery! This album from the 2018 Battle Creek Field of Flight Airshow and Balloon Festival in Battle Creek, MI. This relaxed event is always one of our favorites because they treat the crowd right! Check it out here: Battle Creek Field of Flight Airshow and Balloon Festival 2018 – Ryan Sundheimer

Also be sure to check out our video playlist from the event!

The Blue Angels’ Super Hornet Transition Is Still Years Away

posted in: Jet Teams, Popular Posts | 0

US Navy Blue Angels - F-18 Hornets

Fans of the US Navy Blue Angels expecting to see the team perform in Super Hornets will have to wait several more years at least. The Department of Defense announced today that Boeing has been awarded a contract for the documentation and kits to convert nine single-seat F/A-18Es and two dual-seat F/A-18Fs to Blue Angel configuration. The most notable part of the announcement is that this work is not expected to be completed before December of 2021, which would seemingly prevent the team from transitioning until 2022 or more likely 2023 at the earliest.

The team currently flies aging F/A-18B/C/D “Legacy” Hornets. The old and worn down jets create many maintenance issues for the squadron and it has become more and more common to see performances limited by the number of available aircraft, even though a spare travels with the team.

Several major incidents, including the crash of Blue Angel #6 Capt. Jeff Kuss in 2016, left the team with even fewer spares than usual. Even with the coming transition, the team has continued to receive additional Hornets as the Navy retires them from frontline units in favor of Super Hornets and F-35 Lightning IIs.

The Super Hornet transition has been public knowledge for a while now, a firm timeline has never been announced to the public; likely because even the Navy didn’t have firm plans. Certain details have emerged from interviews and previous contract announcements, but many fans have drawn false conclusions from these tidbits that the transition was/is imminent; one airshow vendor went as far as to create ‘Hornet Farewell Tour’ t-shirts during the 2017 season. Today’s announcement gives some clarity to the situation, and serves as a needed reality check on rumors and speculation.

Want to see the Blue Angels perform in person? Check out their 2018 airshow schedule and preliminary 2019 airshow schedule!

Here is the full text of the announcement:
The Boeing Co., St. Louis, Missouri, is being awarded $17,002,107 for firm-fixed-price delivery order N0001918F2654 against a previously issued basic ordering agreement (N00019-16-G-0001). This order is for the retrofit documentation and kits to convert nine F/A-18E and two F/A-18F aircraft into a Blue Angel configuration in accordance with engineering change proposal 6480. Work will be performed in St. Louis, Missouri, and is expected to be completed in December 2021. Fiscal 2018 aircraft procurement (Navy) funds in the amount of $17,002,107 will be obligated at time of award, none of which will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Maryland, is the contracting activity.

Memorial To Honor Blue Angel Pilot Nears Completion, Public Dedication

posted in: Miscellaneous | 0

Blue Angels Memorial in Smyrna

The finishing touches are being put on a memorial to honor Marine Capt. Jeff Kuss, who was killed when his F/A-18 Hornet crashed during a practice flight demonstration in Smyrna, Tennessee in June 2016.

Kuss, who was in his second year on the team, was loved by many. He also was popular in the media, since his position as the team’s 2015 narrator also enabled him to give rides to media, VIPs, and local influencers at each show site the Blue Angels attended.

Following the crash, the town of Smyrna wanted to honor Kuss in a special way. In May of 2017, plans were announced to build a permanent memorial for the fallen Blue Angels pilot outside the airport and adjacent to Lee Victory Recreation Park, where the town came together the night of the crash to honor Kuss. Plans for the memorial included pavers, which could be bought for a small donation, and a retired F/A-18 Hornet in Blue Angel colors.

Kuss Memorial Groundbreaking

On October 18th, 2017, groundbreaking for the memorial was held.

On Friday, the most prominent part of the memorial was installed. A retired Blue Angel jet, BuNo 163498, was lifted by crane from a flatbed trailer and into position on an elevated platform in the memorial. The aircraft is on permanent loan from the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida.

Kuss Memorial F-18 Hornet - Smyrna, TNKuss Memorial F-18 Hornet - Smyrna, TN

In a video posted by the Town of Smyrna, some F/A-18 hornets are seen flying over the Blue Angel jet. The flyover was performed by members of Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 101 (VMFAT-101), based out of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, CA. They flew in from California on Thursday, and waited until the plane was placed to do the flyover, then departed on their way to NAS Oceana, VA.

The memorial dedication will be held on June 9 at 10:00 a.m. at Lee Victory Recreation Park in Smyrna and is open the public. For those who can’t attend, the ceremony will be streamed live. Stay tuned to our social media channels for more info.

Canadian Forces Snowbirds To Visit Blue Angels, Perform For Pensacola

posted in: Airshows, Jet Teams, Schedules | 1

Canadian Forces Snowbirds

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds will be making a rare and surprise appearance at NAS Pensacola next week! The team will be performing demonstrations over the base on May 15 and 16. The Blue Angels also have practice demonstrations those days, but their May 15th (and May 18th) performances are shown as not open to the public. The demonstrations can be viewed from the National Naval Aviation Museum on base.

According to the Pensacola News Journal, this is the plan for public viewing:
– The flight line will open at 1 p.m. Tuesday, May 15, for the Snowbirds performance at 2 p.m.
– Access to the base will begin at 8 a.m., and the flight line will open at 8:30 a.m. before the Blue Angels fly at 9 a.m. Wednesday, May 16. There will be an autograph session after the performance in the museum atrium. The flight line will reopen at 1 p.m. to allow for viewing of the Snowbirds demonstration that begins at 2 p.m.
– The flight line will open at 10:30 a.m. for the Blue Angels practice demonstration at 11:30 a.m. Thursday, May 17.

The Snowbirds are Canada’s national demonstration team. They perform with nine CT-114 Tutor trainer aircraft flying in close formation. You can see their 2018 airshow schedule here on our blog!

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