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.

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!

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!

Blue Angels Return To El Centro For 2018 Winter Training Period

posted in: Jet Teams | 7

Blue Angels Return for Winter Training

The Blue Angels have returned to their winter home at Naval Air Facility El Centro in California!

The team flew into the base, located about 87 miles east of San Diego, on January 3rd. They’ll remain at El Centro throughout January, February, and early March, flying several flights a day to perfect the demonstration.

The 10 week, 120 flight period will begin over the desert adjacent to El Centro; once the team feels confident in the demonstration they will begin to fly over the airfield.

This year marks the 51st year the team will use El Centro as their winter training base. The usually calm and warm weather of the Imperial Valley makes southern CA the perfect place for the Blue Angel’s winter training.

The 2018 season will be the Blue Angels’ 72nd show season. We have a copy of their 2018 airshow season schedule here on the blog – see if they’ll be performing near you!

One important member of the team will not be joining the rest of the aircraft though; Fat Albert, the team’s C-130 Hercules transport, has been grounded during an investigation into the crash of a Marine Corps C-130 last summer. A post on Instagram shows her in the maintenance hangar for an inspection. Bert’s Marine pilots typically practice their routine during their own winter training period at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma in Arizona.

2017 Jet Team Seasons Coming To A Close

posted in: Airshows, Jet Teams | 0

Blue Angels 2017 Season About to End

As the temperatures cool, the 2017 airshow season is coming to a close. The Canadian Forces Snowbirds wrapped up their season on October 22nd, in Moose Jaw, SK with their traditional home show for families.

The Blue Angels have a couple shows left before their traditional home closer at NAS Pensacola. The team will perform in Jacksonville, FL on November 4-5th before returning to Pensacola for the November 11-12th end of season show. The 2017 season has been one of ups and downs for the team, with Fat Albert being grounded for an extended amount of time due to a maintenance overhaul and a fleet grounding which ordered after a Marine C-130 crashed in Mississippi in July. On a positive note, the six blue and gold jets performed full displays at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh in late July for the first time ever.

The Thunderbirds will also wrap up their 2017 show season at Nellis AFB on November 11-12th. The team performed in 36 cities, along with many additional flyovers, during the show season. The team performed flyovers of both the Super Bowl and the Daytona 500, and traveled across the Atlantic to fly at the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) and appeared in the French Bastille Day military parade.

All three North American jet teams had the rare opportunity to fly with their Patrouille de France counterparts during their tour of US and Canada in the spring. The PAF visited the Blue Angels in Pensacola, the Thunderbirds at Nellis, and the Snowbirds in Ontario, making for some spectacular and rare photo opportunities.

Didn’t get a chance to see one of the jet teams in 2017? Check out the preliminary 2018 schedules for the Thunderbirds and Blue Angels to see if they’ll be near you next year. Keep in mind that the 2018 schedules for all three teams will be released/updated at the annual ICAS convention during the second week of December. Stay tuned to AirshowStuff for the details as soon as they are available!

Countdown To AirVenture: Best Of Oshkosh 2014

posted in: Airshows, AirshowStuff, Event Recap | 0

USAF Thunderbirds Take Off at Oshkosh

Oshkosh will be here before we know it! Soon, the skies of Wisconsin will be filled with planes and the grounds will be filled with, well, more planes! People too! A lots of them! Check out some of the expected items at this year’s show.

The 2014 airshow marked the first time a US military jet demonstration team performed at Oshkosh. Performing Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the USAF Thunderbirds soared through the skies of Oshkosh in their famous red, white and blue F-16 Fighting Falcons. While this was a popular performance, it also forced the normal Oshkosh crowd line back a bit.

Matt Younkin was kind enough to take our cameras for a ride during his daytime Twin Beech Aerobatic demonstration at the 2014 show. We have two videos from that flight- one in the cockpit and one looking out over the wing. Check out both views below!

AirshowStuff also obtained a unique view of Kyle Franklin’s “Dracula” performance when we put a camera in the cockpit of Kyle’s plane.

One of the best things about Oshkosh is the variety of warbirds that perform each and every afternoon in the airshow. The 2014 show featured jets, radials, and much more!

The weather of Oshkosh can also provide a bit of a tricky landing situation for pilots. Check out several of our “Gusty Crosswind Landings” videos by watching the playlist below.

If you want even more Oshkosh, you can settle in for an hour and a half of action with our mega-compilation!

Here’s a few more of our photos from the 2014 show. You can find many more photos in our gallery!

Thunderbirds Cross

Celebrate The 4th Of July With These Photos Of Fireworks And Airplanes!

posted in: Miscellaneous | 0

B-29 Superfortress "Fifi" Fireworks

Happy 4th of July! Over the years, AirshowStuff’s photographers have had the opportunity to capture many fantastic fireworks displays at airshows and special events around the country.

Here are just a few of our favorite photos!

B-24 Liberator FireworksC-17 Globemaster III Fireworks

Canadian Snowbirds Fireworks

F-4 Phantom FireworksB-29 Superfortress "Fifi" Fireworks

F-22, F-35, and P-38 Fireworks

If you’re interested in a behind the scenes look at how the crew at DTG Pyrotechnics sets up their EAA AirVenture Oshkosh fireworks display, check out our blog post from 2015.

F-22 Raptor Fireworks

P-51 Mustang FireworksF-22 Raptor Fireworks

Of course, at airshows, fireworks aren’t just shot from the ground! They’re shot off of airplanes too!

Fireworks

Gene Soucy FireworksGene Soucy Fireworks

P-51 Mustang Fireworks

Otto the Helicopter Fireworks

V-22 Osprey and B-17 Flying Fortress Fireworks

Haven’t had enough fireworks? Search for fireworks on our photo gallery! There’s plenty more pictures over there!