First Female F-16 Demo Team Commander Suddenly Removed From Team

posted in: Military | 3

Capt Zoe Kotnik Climbs into F-16

Less than two weeks after being confirmed as the 2019 USAF F-16 demonstration pilot and leader of the demo team – the first female commander of any single ship ACC demo team – Capt. Zoe “SiS” Kotnik has been removed from the position.

Col. Derek O’Malley, the commander of the 20th Fighter Wing which is located at Shaw AFB in Sumter, SC, removed Kotnik after losing confidence in her ability to lead. His statement was posted the on the team’s Facebook page midday Tuesday, shocking many in the airshow community.

Kotnik’s appointment to the Viper Demo Team was quite popular, with many applauding the choice of a female to lead the team. She was labeled a “real-life Captain Marvel” in reference to the upcoming movie that stars a female Air Force fighter pilot who becomes a superhero. The marketing practically wrote itself and the fanfare of her appointment now shines a huge spotlight on this sudden change.

“It was exciting to have the first female demo team pilot here at Shaw, but I’m also just as excited about the many other females that are serving with great distinction across our Air Force. I’m proud to serve with them, and I’m inspired by them. Even as I speak, another female pilot from the 20th Fighter Wing is flying combat missions in the Middle East,” O’Malley said.

O’Malley’s statement reads extremely similarly to the one issued in 2017 when the leader of the USAF Thunderbirds was also relieved of his position. The key phrase in both cases was “loss of confidence” in the ability to lead.

USAF F-16 Viper Demonstration Team - AirshowStuff

As commander of the F-16 Viper Demonstration Team, Kotnik was responsible for leading the 17-member unit whose mission is to inspire the next generation of pilots and maintainers, and to represent the Air Combat Command, United States Air Force, Department of Defense, and the United States of America at more than 20 air shows annually. She also was responsible for overseeing maintenance and conducting the demonstration in the air.

The outgoing demonstration pilot, Maj. John “Rain” Waters, will now stay on to lead the team and fly the demonstrations for at least the 2019 season, which will be his third.

Capt. Kotnik graduated from the Air Force Academy in 2011 and earned her wings in 2013. She has over 1,000 hours in military aircraft.

The team’s first performance in 2019 is scheduled for March 30-31st at Naval Air Station Key West in Florida. At this time, it’s not known how this decision could impact the season.

Here is the full statement from 20th Fighter Wing commander Col. Derek O’Malley:

Viper Demo Team friends and family, please see a message below from the 20th Fighter Wing commander.

I removed Capt. Kotnik from her position as the commander of the Viper Demo team yesterday, because I lost confidence in her ability to lead the team.

I know that loss of confidence is a common response from the Air Force, whenever someone is removed from a command position, and I think it’s important to understand why we take this approach.

We have thousands of Airmen across our Air Force serving our country, and not one of them is perfect. As good people, like Capt. Kotnik make mistakes, I want them to have the opportunity to learn from them without being under public scrutiny, and to continue to be a part of this great service. They’ll be better for the experience, and in turn, we’ll be better as an Air Force.

In these types of situations, I never forget that we’re dealing with real human beings, that I care deeply about, and that we are charged to take care of. This will be a difficult time for Capt. Kotnik, but she’s surrounded by wingmen that will help her every step of the way.

It was exciting to have the first female demo team pilot here at Shaw, but I’m also just as excited about the many other females that are serving with great distinction across our Air Force. I’m proud to serve with them, and I’m inspired by them. Even as I speak, another female pilot from the 20th Fighter Wing is flying combat missions in the Middle East.

Maj. Waters, last season’s Viper Demo pilot has resumed command, so the team is in great hands, and the show will go on. We’re looking forward to another amazing season with this team.

Col. Derek O’Malley
Commander, 20th Fighter Wing

Blue Angels Release 2019 Pensacola Practice Schedule

posted in: Airshows, Jet Teams, Schedules | 1

US Navy Blue Angels - AirshowStuff

The US Navy Blue Angels have released their 2019 Pensacola practice schedule!

Although the team travels the country during the year, they return home to NAS Pensacola in Florida most weeks. In order to stay proficient in their demanding routine, they traditionally fly practice performances over the base on Tuesdays and Wednesdays during airshow season (March through November). Look below for their planned practice dates, but keep in mind that these can and do change as the year progresses due to things like weather or other circumstances. We will do our best to keep the list updated here and on our forums, but we can only pass on information as it is released.

Also be sure to check our airshow calendar for an extensive list of airshows and aviation events in the US and Canada, including all of the Blue Angel performances scheduled for 2019!

Practices typically begin at 11:30 am central time and last about 55 minutes. Public viewing is available at the National Naval Aviation Museum at no cost. The outside viewing area for the Blue Angels practice is located on the museum’s flight line north of the museum. Signs are posted to direct visitors to viewing and parking locations, including limited parking for handicapped visitors. Open bleacher seating is available and seats 1,000 people. A limited quantity of chairs are available for a fee of $3 per chair, good for that day’s practice session. Concessions (bottled water, sport drinks, light food, and treats) and merchandise are also available. Chair service, concessions, and merchandise are provided by the National Naval Aviation Museum Foundation and proceeds support the museum and foundation programs.

A valid ID is required for all visitors 16 and over to gain access to the museum flight line. Backpacks, daypacks, and other similar items are not allowed on the flight line.

2019 Blue Angels Pensacola Practice Schedule

MARCH 27 (Orientation flight only; not an actual flight demonstration)
APRIL 2, 3*, 9, 10*, 16, 17*, 18, 19, 23, 24*, 30
MAY 1*, 7, 14, 15*, 28, 29*
JUNE 4, 5*, 11, 12, 18, 19*, 20, 21, 25, 26*
JULY 2, 3, 16
AUGUST 7*, 8, 9, 13, 14, 20
SEPTEMBER 4*, 10, 11*, 12, 13, 17
OCTOBER 16*, 22, 23*, 29, 30*
NOVEMBER 5, 6, 7 (Practices are at 2:30pm for End of Season Week)

*Denotes autograph session following the practice inside the National Naval Aviation Museum.

Again, practices may be canceled due to weather or other circumstances without notice. Please contact the museum for last minute information.

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.

New Photo Album – EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2018

posted in: Airshows, AirshowStuff, Event Recap | 0

Ghostwriter Airshows at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2018 - AirshowStuff

A new album is now available in our photo gallery! This album is from EAA AirVenture 2018 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Check it out here: EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2018 – Ryan Sundheimer

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

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!

AirshowStuff’s Top Ten Military Videos Of 2018

As our 13th year of airshow coverage comes to a close, we’re taking a look back at another awesome season of aviation and airshows!

Military aircraft are usually the stars of the show, and for good reasons. The speed, power, and sheer noise are captivating, and seeing some of these cutting edge machines is a rare treat for many. Here are ten of our favorite military videos from 2018!

We also have lists of our top ten onboard videos and our top ten warbird videos!

B-1B Afterburner Spiral

If we have one memory from this airshow season, it’s this ridiculous takeoff and climb. An approaching thunderstorm canceled the Wednesday night airshow at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, but this B-1 still had to get home. As the flight line cleared and lightning flashed in the distance, we waited for the Bone’s departure and were not disappointed. Four engines roared in full afterburner for several minutes as the strategic bomber spiraled up from the runway, disappearing into the clouds but continuing to make its presence known by the rumble.

Up Close and Personal with an F-22 Raptor

The most advanced air superiority fighter of the day is a serious piece of hardware, and still sensitive enough to be roped off and guarded everywhere it goes. Luckily, our friends at the Terre Haute Airshow and Tora Tora Tora worked with us to get a very special vantage point on the F-22 Raptor demo – inside the aerobatic box, directly underneath some of its incredible maneuvers!

MV-22 Osprey Sunset Demonstration

The V-22 Osprey is the only production tilt-rotor aircraft in the world, currently in use by the US Air Force and US Marine Corps. This Marine Corps crew showed off the unique capabilities of the aircraft just before sunset at the 2018 America’s Freedom Fest airshow in Goshen, IN.

CF-18 Hornet and T-33 Heritage Flight

The Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18 Hornet demonstration never disappoints (except when they are forced to run a lighter airshow schedule) and this video captures not only the beautifully painted 2018 demo jet in action, it also includes a special RCAF Heritage Flight with a T-33 painted up as the “Red Knight”.

Aerial Refueling Tankers On Parade

One of the themes for EAA AirVenture 2018 was a celebration of aerial refueling tankers, the often unsung heroes of modern air power. Although multiple tankers flew by during the week, it culminated in this tanker parade during the Saturday airshow.

US Navy Blue Angels With Comms

The US Navy Blue Angels are essentially the face of the military to many Americans, and we were fortunate to film their entire performance at the Terre Haute Airshow with almost no music or narration – just radio calls, jet noise, and awesome flying!

Ukrainian Military Muscle

Our friends at This Is Flight allowed us to share this video of the Ukrainian SU-27 Flanker performing at the 2018 Royal International Air Tattoo, or RIAT. Did you know that two civilian-owned Flankers were brought to the US and test flown before being purchased and taken away by a mysterious buyer?

F-22s Put on a Show

These Raptor drivers knew exactly what the EAA AirVenture crowd wanted; fast flybys, hard pulls, and lots of afterburner! Even when they were asked to hold, they made a point to “play” in sight of the crowd and showcased the incredible maneuverability of the aircraft.

“Dark Falcon” F-16 Demonstration

Another video that comes from our friends at This Is Flight; this one showcases the spectacular “Dark Falcon” paint scheme on the Belgian Air Force F-16 Display Team. This is maybe one of the most beautiful F-16s to ever exist!

C-17: The Massive Yet Nimble Airlifter

We have to show a little love to a bigger military aircraft, the C-17 Globemaster III. This nimble airlifter can maneuver in ways you wouldn’t think possible, and stop in incredibly short distances. It showcased these abilities at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh.

Remember to subscribe to our Youtube channel for even more military videos – we’re adding more all the time!

AirshowStuff’s Top Ten Warbird Videos Of 2018

As our 13th year of airshow coverage comes to a close, we’re taking a look back at another awesome season of aviation and airshows!

Warbirds – aircraft that are no longer in military service – are one of the most popular searches across all of our channels, and it’s easy to see why. Many people have strong emotional connections to these aircraft, maybe due to a relative who flew one or just as a touchstone to history. Warbirds are almost by definition quite rare, and we are glad to share the sights and sounds of these vintage beasts! Here are ten of our favorite warbird videos from 2018!

We also have lists of our top ten onboard videos and our top ten military videos!

Two F7F Tigercats Flying Together

Listen to this exceptionally rare pair get the props going on their high speed pass in Oshkosh! A unique – and chilling – sound! One of the aircraft lost a wheel on landing, but was otherwise undamaged.

MiG-17 Afterburner at Sunset

Randy Ball flies what may be the perfect warbird routine – a mix of aerobatics, high speed passes, and photo passes. He knows what the crowd likes, and it’s even more beautiful at dusk!

Air to Air With an A-26 Invader and Four TBM Avengers

One of the coolest air to air flights we did all year was this rare opportunity to hang out the open door of a Beech 18 with five rare warbirds flying off the wing!

Warbirds Roaring Directly Overhead on the Hot Ramp

We work hard to film from spots with no music or narrators blasting over the PA, and this year our friends at the Terre Haute Airshow helped us out with amazing access to the hot ramp. Enjoy this compilation of warbirds, including a B-17 Flying Fortress, B-25 Mitchell, P-51 Mustang, and more – watch for them to blast right overhead on their photo passes!

An Inside Look at Tora Tora Tora – Right Next to the Bombs

They’re warbirds in two different senses – T-6 Texans and BT-13 Valiants masquerading as Japanese Zeros, Vals, and Kates – and we had a great time getting attacked by them while sitting in the pyro field during this performance by the Tora Tora Tora group!

Preflighting a Supermarine Spitfire in Oshkosh

This video has less action than most, but it’s also one of the most informative. Dave Hadfield, who flies a number of warbirds, was nice enough to show us around the Mike Potter Collection’s Supermarine Spitfire Mk. IX on the ground at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh. Learn everything you’ve ever wanted to know about preflighting a Spitfire! Dave also shared some cockpit footage with us – check back for that when we list our 2018 on-board videos!

Spitfire Flybys for RAF 100

Here’s the end result of the Spitfire preflight – some spectacular flybys lit up by the late afternoon sun. Oshkosh helped mark the 100th anniversary of the Royal Air Force with the Spitfire, a de Havilland Chipmunk, and a BAC Jet Provost.

Twilight Flybys From an F-5 Freedom Fighter

This nimble F-5 Freedom Fighter showed off just after sunset at the America’s Freedom Fest airshow in Goshen, IN. We’ll also have cockpit footage from this jet coming up with other on-board videos!

Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Trenchard Formation

Thanks to our friends at This Is Flight, we were able to share a look of this excellent and rare formation flown by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight over in the UK which includes one of only two flying Avro Lancasters in the world!

Jet Warbird Day at EAA AirVenture

Jet Warbird Day at EAA AirVenture means a sky full of jets. This video is part 2 of our footage – you can see part 1 here – and includes F-86 Sabres, the F-5 Freedom Fighter mentioned above, and the only flyby all week from the Gloster Meteor that just came to the United States this year. The Meteor and missing man formation before it were flown as a tribute to Marty Tibbitts, who was killed in a crash while practicing for the show.

Remember to subscribe to our Youtube channel for even more warbird videos – we’re adding more all the time!

Pilot Killed, Two Others Injured When Rare de Havilland Venom Crashes On Takeoff In Wisconsin

posted in: Warbirds | 11

Marty Tibbitts Killed In DH-112 Venom Crash - Sheboygan WI

Pilot Marty Tibbitts was killed on Friday when his de Havilland DH-112 Venom aircraft crashed shortly after takeoff. Marty was on a formation training flight when the accident occurred. The aircraft crashed into a barn near the airport, killing dozens of livestock and injuring two people on the ground.

The Venom, along with a de Havilland Vampire and rare Gloster Meteor, was to be a featured performer at EAA AirVenture 2018 in Oshkosh, WI. All three are owned by the World Heritage Air Museum, based out of Detroit, Michigan. The formation training flight was in preparation for the show.

The Venom is a Cold War-era British jet which served with the Royal Air Force as a single-seat bomber and a two-seat night fighter. According to the World Heritage Air Museum, there are only 4-6 flying Venoms in the world, including the one they had. The aircraft was the only one of its type flying in the US.

Sadly, we filmed Marty flying the Venom just one week before the crash. We present this video in his memory. May he rest in peace.

Rare British Jet Warbirds Expected At EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2018

posted in: Airshows, Warbirds | 0

de Havilland Vampire

Some rare British jet aircraft will be on the flightline in Oshkosh this July! EAA recently announced that the World Heritage Air Museum in Detroit, MI is planning to bring both a de Havilland Venom and Vampire, as well as a Gloster Meteor that is currently the oldest flying jet in the world. The aircraft mark just part of the growing collection at WHAM, which has displayed other aircraft at EAA AirVenture in the past.

These new attendees will join other vintage jets like the L-39 Albatros, T-33 Shooting Star, F-86 Sabre, and MiG-17 Fresco. The jet warbirds are typically featured during “Jet Day”, but often fly other days of the week too. Organizers are encouraging other jet owners to come to the attend in the hopes of sparking a larger gathering. Even as it stands, AirVenture 2018 will surely be a rare treat for jet lovers!

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