Blue Angels Set To Kick Off 2019 Airshow Season This Weekend

posted in: Airshows, Jet Teams | 0

US Navy Blue Angels - AirshowStuff

The 2019 US airshow season will kick into high gear this weekend when the Blue Angels perform at NAF El Centro in California. The team has been at the base for months, flying the 120 practice flights that make up their winter training syllabus.

We visited El Centro last week to get a look at the team, and you can watch one of their full practices below. Unfortunately the winds prevented us from catching the usual jaw dropping low takeoff, but it’s still a rare treat to watch a performance from the end of the runway, on the 1500-foot show line! Listen to the radio comms in the video to hear the wind callouts at various points during the routine.

We have also heard that the team’s famous C-130 Hercules “Fat Albert” has been spotted flying demonstrations in practice, but there is no official word from the team as to her status during the season. Previously, rumors held that they do not plan to fly demonstrations this year as they work to preserve airframe hours until the planned purchase and acquisition of a C-130J from the Royal Air Force is finalized.

Fat Albert performances have been sporadic and rare since 2016, when corrosion issues were discovered that lead to the aircraft being sidelined for a months-long overhaul period. Less than a month after resuming performances in July of 2017, a Marine Corps KC-130 crashed in Louisiana, killing 16. The crash investigation discovered widespread problems with the propellers, and Fat Albert was again grounded, along with the rest of the C-130T fleet.

Bert resumed transportation duties with the team in mid-2018, but did not really perform. Flying the demonstration profile requires a significant investment in training time, so if the crew is flying practice demonstrations now, it seems all but certain that at least a few will be performed in 2019. Of course, they may be extremely limited, rare treats for the home town crowds in El Centro and Pensacola.

For their part, the US Air Force Thunderbirds have been busy with their own winter training as well as several high profile flyovers of the Super Bowl, Daytona 500, and the premiere of the new Captain Marvel movie. The movie is special because it includes a number of tributes to fallen Thunderbird pilot Major Stephen Del Bagno. They open their show season next weekend at Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, AZ.

Of course, there are many airshows without jet teams and those are kicking into high gear as well. We attended the MCAS Yuma Airshow last weekend, and the Space Coast Warbird Airshow in Titusville, FL will be taking place this weekend.

Want to know where you can see the Blue Angels, Thunderbirds, and other major performers in 2019? Head over to our airshow calendar and search for events near you!

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.

Sequestration All Over Again: Looming 2020 Budget Cuts May Ground Blue Angels, Other Military Demonstrations

posted in: Jet Teams, Military | 0

US Navy Blue Angels - AirshowStuff

Without action from Congress, the Navy could be forced to cancel the Blue Angels’ 2020 airshow season according to a report delivered to lawmakers by Navy Secretary Richard Spencer. The report explores the would-be fallout of potential sequestration budget cuts that are set to go into effect in January of 2020.

Although the Blue Angels are probably the highest profile impact mentioned, the cuts would have strong impact throughout the military. The US Air Force’s contingency report has not been publicized, but it is almost certain that performances by the USAF Thunderbirds and other military demonstration teams would similarly be eliminated or severely reduced should this scenario play out.

While these cuts can be avoided as long as Congress acts prior to the January 2020 deadline, airshow fans know all too well that that can’t be counted on. In 2013, sequestration cuts did go into effect. The military teams were forced to abandon their scheduled plans and many airshows across the country struggled or canceled outright after losing the popular acts. It took years for a number of popular demonstrations to return, and some are still not back to pre-cut levels. It’s safe to say that the airshow industry as a whole is eager to see a second “lost season” prevented as soon as possible.

The timing of the cuts is also interesting, because the Blue Angels are expected to transition to flying the F/A-18 Super Hornet in the next few years. We already noted that their preliminary 2020 schedule ends about a month earlier than usual. The common assumption is that this would provide extra time to practice in the new aircraft before the 2021 season begins. There is no mention in the report of how the transition might be impacted should the cuts come to pass.

Canadian CF-18 Hornet Demo Team Announces Theme And Pilot For Limited 2019 Season

posted in: Military | 0

2019 CF-18 Hornet Demonstration Pilot Capt. Brian "Humza" Kilroy. Photo Credit: DND

The Royal Canadian Air Force has announced that the theme of the 2019 CF-18 Hornet Demonstration Team will be celebrating the history of the RCAF and highlighting Canada’s role in the NATO alliance. They also announced that the demonstration pilot for the 2019 airshow season will be Captain Brian “Humza” Kilroy from Alberta.

Each year’s theme is reflected in a special paint job applied to the primary demonstration aircraft; for 2019, the 70th anniversary of NATO and the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion were popular suggestions for the theme. In recent years, themes have honored the 60th anniversary of NORAD, 150 years of Canadian confederation, the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, and the Battle of Britain.

There have been indications that the 2019 demo paint scheme will be limited to the aircraft’s tail fins. Recent designs have covered the entire aircraft but tail-only designs have been done before as well. Regardless of the limitations, we look forward to seeing what the talented paint techs can come up with!

Unfortunately, according to the schedule they released at ICAS the CF-18 team will not be performing anywhere outside of Canada in 2019. In fact, their schedule has been reduced by 40% compared to last year. A later report by the Toronto Star indicates that the reduced schedule is a conscious decision in light of significant personnel shortages in the RCAF, although the wisdom of reducing recruitment efforts during a shortage is questionable. The aircraft are also in poor shape; the team had many high-profile struggles to keep the primary aircraft flying during the 2018 show season and had to skip at least one entire weekend due to mechanical troubles. Less time on the road should reduce wear and tear on both man and machine.

Make sure you check the CF-18 Hornet Demonstration Team’s 2019 schedule to see if they’ll be anywhere near you!

Here is the full press release from the RCAF:

The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) is pleased to announce the appointment of Captain Brian Kilroy as the pilot for the 2019 CF-18 Demonstration Team.

Captain Kilroy will wow audiences around Canada during the 2019 air show season, flying his specially-painted CF-18 Hornet commemorating the RCAF’s pathway to the stars and the 70th anniversary of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

“The 2019 CF-18 Demonstration Team theme is an opportunity for the Royal Canadian Air Force to reflect on the innovations and people that have contributed to our success while challenging ourselves and the next generation to help us shape the future of our organization for the better,” said Major-General Christian Drouin, Commander of 1 Canadian Air Division/Canadian NORAD Region. “I am very proud of what the RCAF has accomplished in the last 95 years and I can’t wait to see where the next few decades take us.”

Captain Brian Kilroy

Born in Grande Prairie, Alberta Captain Kilroy spent his childhood in Stony Plain, Alberta, and graduated from the University of Alberta with a degree in chemical engineering.

The son of an RCMP officer, he was strongly supported to pursue his aviation dreams by his mother, who also shared his love for aviation. He attended numerous airshows throughout his childhood where he even had the chance to see the CF-18 Demonstration Team perform, which further inspired him to follow his dream of becoming a fighter pilot.

Captain Kilroy was a member the Royal Canadian Air Cadets in Stony Plain before deciding to pursue his dream of flying and joining the RCAF in 2006. He was later given the opportunity to attend the Euro NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training program in Witchita Falls, Texas, where he went on to fulfill his lifelong dream of receiving his RCAF pilot’s wings.

Following flight training, he was posted to 409 Tactical Fighter Squadron at 4 Wing Cold Lake, Alberta, as an operational fighter pilot in 2013. Captain Kilroy has actively served throughout Canada on the Hornet in support of NORAD and has deployed numerous times on international NATO and Canadian Armed Forces missions.

Today, Captain Kilroy is a four-ship lead and qualified Electronic Warfare Instructor with 410 Tactical Fighter (Operational Training) Squadron, using his combat and operational experience to train the next generation of CF-18 pilots.

“Being chosen to represent the Royal Canadian Air Force as the 2019 CF-18 Demonstration Pilot is a true honour and I can’t wait to meet the rest of my team and start the season,” said Captain Kilroy. “To me this year’s theme really is a call to action and an amazing opportunity to inspire the next generation. We’re challenging ourselves and Canadians to keep pushing the limits of what is possible and to keep innovating. I hope that this summer our team will inspire Canadians to think and dream big while also demonstrating the impressive capabilities of their Air Force.”

2019 Theme

Based on the RCAF’s motto Sic Itur Ad Astra (Latin for “such is the pathway to the stars”), the 2019 CF-18 Demonstration Team will celebrate the history of the RCAF, recognize the innovative and driven Canadians who have led the charge for change and stand ready to inspire a new generation to take up the flame of innovation and help shape the RCAF’s pathway to the stars.

The 2019 season also provides an opportunity to highlight the RCAF’s operational role within NATO, a cornerstone of Canada’s international security policy, as it celebrates its 70th anniversary.

2019 Schedule

The 2019 schedule will see the team visit 15 different show sites across Canada, as well as take part in the Parliament Hill flypast in Ottawa on Canada Day. The 2019 CF-18 Demonstration Team is looking forward to thrilling audiences across Canada this summer and demonstrating the RCAF’s capabilities to Canadians.