Also be sure to check out our video playlist from the event!
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!
Our onboard videos have long been highlights, as they take viewers to all sorts of special places. Whether on the wing of a small aerobatic aircraft, or in the cockpit of a supersonic fighter jet, onboard videos put you in the heart of the action. Here are ten of our favorite onboard videos from 2018!
The US Navy Blue Angels Like You’ve Never Seen Them Before
This footage, released by the DOD, comes from a camera attached to the nose of Blue Angel #1. Watch as the rest of the famous formation team holds position through several maneuvers like the diamond roll and vertical break!
PACAF F-16 Demonstration – Arctic Aggressor Style!
The Pacific Air Forces F-16 Demonstration Team is not that well known in the US, as they are based at Misawa AB in Japan and primarily perform at international events. However, in 2018 they visited Elmendorf AFB in Alaska and borrowed a spectacularly-painted arctic aggressor F-16 for their performances.
Flying the Spitfire in Oshkosh
After showing us how to preflight the Mike Potter Collection’s Spitfire Mk. IX, pilot Dave Hadfield was kind enough to share some cockpit footage with us. Watch as he flies this legendary warbird through several passes during the airshow!
A-10 Warthog Aerobatics and Heritage Flight
We were also fortunate enough to work with the USAF A-10 Thunderbolt II Demonstration Team this year at the Battle Creek Airshow. Strap into the cockpit for the full aerobatic performance and a Heritage Flight with a P-51 Mustang. We have more camera angles to share in the near future as well!
Ferrari vs. MiG-17 Race
Greg Howell, pilot of the Red Stripe MiG-17, sent us this footage of him racing the Precision Exotics Ferrari F430 at the 2018 Cannon AFB Air Show, Space and Tech Fest at Cannon AFB, NM. Watch as Greg swoops in down low right next to the speeding car – who will win the race?
Canadian Snowbirds Tank Cam
The Snowbirds were kind enough to share this tank cam footage with us after their performance at the NAS Oceana Airshow. Tank cam is a special camera housing mounted on the belly on Snowbird #1, providing spectacular views of the formation behind him! It’ll give you a new appreciation for the skill required to keep nine aircraft in formation during these loops and rolls.
Gamebird GB1 Aerobatics
Watching Philipp Steinbach fly the GameBird GB1 from the ground is impressive – the way this new aerobatic design snaps through maneuvers looks a lot more like an RC aircraft than any full size airplane should – but it is even more impressive to see it from this camera on the wingtip. Don’t blink or you’ll miss the crisp starts and stops!
Snowbird Pilot For A Day
This one is not strictly an onboard video, but it provides an awesome look into our flight with the Canadian Snowbirds, including radio comms!
F-18 Hornet Low Level Training and Star Wars Canyon Run
This footage, courtesy of Gotyacovered Photography, comes not from an airshow performance, but from real low level training. Join this F-18 pilot as he races over the trees, climbing and diving to follow the hills at high speed. Watch to the end to see a run through the famous Jedi Transition in Star Wars Canyon!
Low and Slow Over Oshkosh
Finally, enjoy some low and slow flying with a few trips around the ultralight runway traffic pattern at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh. This twin-engine AirCam is gigantic compared to some of the other aircraft on display, but it easily drops into the grass strip for some short-field landings. The joy of flying at its most basic!
Remember to subscribe to our Youtube channel for even more onboard videos – we’re adding more all the time!
Last week we got our best glimpse yet as to what the 2019 and 2020 airshow seasons will look like when the jet team and military demonstration schedules were announced at the International Council of Air Shows (ICAS) Convention in Las Vegas. We here at AirshowStuff were the first to post them publicly, and you can review them here on our blog or in our forums.
Although much of the information is pretty standard, there are always some surprises and less obvious revelations tucked away in the list of dates and shows. Here are some of the more interesting tidbits we noticed:
- One of the hottest topics in airshow circles these days is the RAF Red Arrows US/Canada tour in August and September. The Reds did have a couple of representatives at the convention, but they disappointed fans everywhere by not releasing a schedule with the rest of the teams. This wasn’t shocking really, but it does leave some fans stuck in limbo for travel plans. Stay tuned to AirshowStuff – we’ll bring you the schedule as soon as they do announce it!
- The North American jet teams cross paths at least a few times each year, and 2019 is no exception. The real surprise is the show at Joint Base Andrews near Washington, D.C., which features a rare combination of the US Navy Blue Angels and USAF Thunderbirds plus the A-10 Warthog demo team. The Canadian Snowbirds will meet each US team once during the year; the Blue Angels in Ocean City, MD and the Thunderbirds in Abbotsford, BC.
- Numerous shows will feature multiple single-ship demonstrations, but especially noteworthy are Milwaukee and Cleveland. Milwaukee has the benefit of sharing their weekend with EAA AirVenture just up the road in Oshkosh, WI, so it’s not shocking that they will get the Thunderbirds and the newly approved F-35 Lightning II Demo and also borrow the F-22 Raptor and F-16 Fighting Falcon from Oshkosh for a Heritage Flight. Hopefully Oshkosh gets something in return! Cleveland sees the Thunderbirds, but also gets the F-35 and A-10 demo teams in an unusual collection of Air Force teams at a civilian show.
- Not counting a handful of US appearances in Canada, there are two international airshows on the schedules for the US teams. The Thunderbirds will head to Rionegro, Colombia in July, and the A-10 demonstration team will perform at Santa Lucia AB in Mexico in April. Both seem a little random, but at least the teams will not be gone on an extended tour.
- The RCAF CF-18 Hornet Demonstration Team will not be performing at any US shows in 2019. We noticed that their schedule was cut down significantly and hoped that additional shows might be approved later, but it was then reported that the season is intentionally being “condensed” amid personnel shortages and aircraft maintenances woes in the RCAF. This is definitely disappointing because the CF-18 carries a special paint scheme every year, so it’s a bit of a collector’s item among photographers.
- One item that was noticed when the preliminary 2019 schedules were released a year ago is that the NAS Oceana Airshow will not host the Blue Angels for the first time in memory. In a strange twist, the Thunderbirds are scheduled for that one! The Blue Angels will instead be flying at NAS Lemoore in California, the first airshow there in many years. Oceana is also considered a favorite to land the Red Arrows during their US/Canada tour, so there is a real possibility of having two jet teams at Oceana but no Blue Angels.
- The US Marines are bad at releasing schedules. Not only do they only list a few shows, there are always errors and inconsistencies with the more polished lists released by other organizations. This year is no exception. Just three AV-8B Harrier demonstrations were announced, and four MV-22 Osprey demonstrations. For the record, last year four of each were announced but roughly eight shows saw Osprey demos by the time the season was over. The problem is that the Marines do not have dedicated teams or pilots, they simply fly the demonstrations with regular units that have much less availability. Their schedules also don’t mention the Marine Corps Air Station airshows that end up hosting demonstrations.
- Looking ahead to the preliminary 2020 schedules, the very first thing that screams off the page is a shortened Blue Angels season, ending in October. This isn’t an error; the season still ends with the traditional homecoming show in Pensacola, just a month before it usually takes place. This indicates an intentional extension to the off season, and comes just in time (actually a little early in our opinion) for the planned transition to Super Hornets. Nothing has been announced, but it sure looks like 2021 may be the first year in the new jets!
- A more minor entry in the Blue Angels’ 2020 schedule is the airshow at CFB Cold Lake in Alberta. The Blues list the show as August 8-9, but the organizers were quick to start promoting July 18-19 instead. Normally this would be a simple date swap, but the July dates happen to be one of the rest weekends the team is obligated to take; the team cannot perform more than seven weekends in a row. These breaks were instituted following the fatal crash of Blue Angel #6 pilot Capt. Jeff Kuss in 2016. If the organizers are to be believed, this rest weekend will be filled and the schedule will show nine performance weeks between breaks. Expect some more shuffling to occur, but luckily there is plenty of time for all involved to sort it out.
Did you notice anything else interesting in the schedules? Who are you most looking forward to seeing? Let us know in the comments or join the discussion on our forums!
I have always been a fan of the Canadian Snowbirds. When I was just getting into airshows, their spectacular bursts were unlike anything I had seen before. As I became more familiar with the industry, their large formation rolls where they pull over the top while pointing right at the crowd stuck out as even more unique. And when I eventually earned my pilot’s certificate and spent some time at formation clinics, I found myself astonished by the difficulty of their many different nine-plane formations.
To this day, the Snowbirds are my absolute favorite airshow performance to watch, and one of the very few that I make sure to see at least once a year. One could say I feel a special connection to the team; they feature prominently in my most powerful airshow memories, and just hearing some of the songs they’ve flown to will bring goosebumps to my arms in an instant.
All of this is to say: when Snowbirds Public Affairs Officer Lt. Michèle Tremblay contacted AirshowStuff last month to talk about a media ride, it was more than just a cool opportunity. The catch was that I would have to get from Michigan to the Oregon International Airshow in Hillsboro, Oregon. Thankfully, the logistics were straight forward and less than two weeks later, I was descending past Mt. Hood on my way into Portland.
I actually beat the team to Hillsboro, and watched the #10 and #11 jets – the advance party – arrive in the Thursday afternoon sun. We got my quick medical check out of the way before the main group of nine jets arrived. The team’s support hauler, a specially-outfitted semi-trailer truck, was already in place. The truck brings all sorts of equipment for the team, including tools, spare parts, bicycles, a Gator four wheeler, and space for luggage that doesn’t fit into the relatively small CT-114 Tutor aircraft.
I knew that the team had performed on the East Coast (Virginia Beach, VA) the weekend before, and we heard how the Canadian Army driver had driven the truck all the way from there to the team’s home base in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan for a short three hour stop to reload before finishing the cross country journey. I was thankful for my airline ticket just thinking about it.
The rest of the team arrived with a nine ship flyby, and after a quick debriefing I was told to report the next morning for ejection seat training(!) and other preparations.
The big day arrived, and the four media riders went straight into learning the complex steps required to strap in, and the even more complex steps required to eject or evacuate on the ground. We grabbed flight suits, and were fitted for helmets, oxygen masks, life preservers, and parachutes by the helpful (and patient) technicians.
Once we were all set, we went straight to the briefing room to meet the rest of the team and go over the details of the flight. As a dedicated media opportunity, the team was forgoing their typical Friday practice and instead planned a transit flight just for us. We would take off and head north, then turn west and follow the Columbia River to the Pacific Ocean near Astoria, OR. After a flyby there, we would turn south and fly along the coast before turning inland and returning to Hillsboro. Upon arriving back at the airfield the team would perform a site survey to familiarize themselves with the showline and then land.
Unfortunately, the FAA rep at the show incorrectly but adamantly stated that aerobatics could not be performed with passengers. The team grumbled but accepted it. The rest of the briefing covered the weather (clear skies, unlimited visibility), air traffic control, divert airports, and other such details that well-prepared pilots pay attention to. I would be flying with Snowbird #4, Maj. Stephen “Pup” Melanson in the First Line Astern position, right behind the “Boss”.
Outside, we were introduced to the aircraft technicians who would be helping us strap in. Cameras were readied, and soon it was time to mount up. All of our prepared gear was waiting for us, and my awesome (and again, patient) tech Cpl. Brandon Harvey made sure to catch all of the steps I missed. In my defense, when you’re covered in straps and handles that turn on oxygen or deploy a parachute, you tend to double check what you’re pulling!
Pup joined me in the small side-by-side cockpit, and talked me through the startup procedure once all of the pilots had checked in. The jets lined up on the runway in three groups of three, with #6 and #7 on our wings as the middle group. Pup explained the sequence as we rolled down the runway together and all nine aircraft worked to form up on our northbound leg.
The scenery was breathtaking. In the clear afternoon air, we could easily see Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams, and even Mt. Rainier in the distance while haze filled the valleys below us. The team went through a couple of formation changes as Pup explained the spacing and alignments. Although we didn’t really move around ourselves, the #4 position gave me a great view of the other aircraft moving around on both sides of us. The changes were far more sudden and crisp than other formation flights I’ve been on, but at the same time controlled and smooth. I wouldn’t expect any different from some of the world’s best!
With smoke on, we gave a big sweeping flyover to the citizens of Longview, WA as we turned west. Each aircraft dropped into trail as we descended toward the river, which for the Snowbirds means a follow-the-leader line of nine jets, each with the freedom to maneuver as needed. Pup, knowing I fly, handed me the controls and let me slalom behind the pack ahead of us as we wound down the river. The controls were responsive but not touchy. I felt right at home and I can understand why the aging jet is still perfect for formation displays. The coolest part of the entire flight was when I pulled us into a turn and blasted right through the smoke trail of #3, bobbling slightly as we crossed his wake.
Sadly, my part only lasted a few minutes before we were called to rejoin – a maneuver that included a few violent whips and the hardest G of the flight, probably around 4 or 5. That was the tame version, Pup explained to me; the rejoins during the scripted show are even quicker and tighter.
Back in formation, we did two flybys over Astoria, including a low pass down the runway there before proceeding south along the coast. This was another dose of beautiful scenery, with big bluffs and rocky islands as far down the shoreline as the eye could see. Boss put us into a big 360 degree turn right over Tillamook Rock so that the pilots on each side of the formation could take in the view while also staring at his jet.
We continued a little further south, with a couple more formation changes thrown in. The ocean fell behind us as we climbed up over the hills of the Tillamook State Forest – a bad place to eject, Pup pointed out to me. The team dropped back into trail, and descended into Hillsboro as a line of white dots against the evergreens. The site survey was a quick four passes over the airport, then Pup whipped us back into formation again for a final Big Diamond flyby. The team separated into three groups of three again, and set down smoothly on the runway. Our techs marshaled us into position, perfectly spaced and lined up. My Snowbirds flight had come to an end.
I’m forever grateful to the team for the opportunity to join them and I give special thanks again to Lt. Michèle Tremblay, Maj. Stephen Melanson, and Cpl. Brandon Harvey for their help. If you missed it above, make sure you check out the video of my Snowbird flight!
– Ryan Sundheimer
The Snowbirds have wrapped up their 2018 season, but I highly encourage you to make plans for one of their shows once the 2019 schedule is released in early December. You will be able to find that right here on the AirshowStuff blog, or in our forums.
In an historic moment, the US Navy Blue Angels, US Air Force Thunderbirds, and Canadian Forces Snowbirds joined together in a massive formation yesterday near Lake Erie. The three teams have crossed paths and flown jointly before, but this is believed to be the first and only time that all 21(!) display aircraft have shared the skies together.
The flight was only possible because all three teams are performing relatively close to each other this Labor Day weekend. The Snowbirds and Thunderbirds are in Toronto, ON for the Canadian International Air Show while the Blue Angels are in Cleveland, OH for the Cleveland National Air Show.
Photographer Glenn Watson captured the joint flight from the rear of the formation and all three teams shared these same photos on their social media pages. Hopefully more photos come out from another angle!
The Canadian Forces Snowbirds made a visit to NAS Pensacola, home of the US Navy Blue Angels, ahead of their show in Anderson, SC.
The team arrived Sunday night, and joined the Blues in ‘buzzing the beach’, their tradition when returning home from a show. Because the Snowbirds were low on fuel, the teams did not join up but flew along the white sandy beaches of Pensacola at the same time.
Fans in the area also got a special treat during the week from the Canadian team as they practiced over the base. Traditionally, the Blue Angels practice during the week at Pensacola, with performances open to the public. To have two jet teams perform several times in one week was quite the show!
The teams took the opportunity to ride with each other and discuss best practices. Last year, the US Air Force Thunderbirds stopped by Pensacola for a similar visit.
The teams also took some time to sign autographs following their practice performance.
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!
The Canadian Forces Snowbirds will once again soar over London, Ontario this September. Organizers of Airshow London announced today that the team has added the show to their 2018 schedule and will perform on September 7, 8, and 9.
London is one of Canada’s largest airshows and it was quite surprising that it did not appear on the original 2018 schedule for the Snowbirds. The team instead planned to perform in Mont-Joli, Quebec that weekend instead. We have very little information on that event and do not know if it will be held now or not.
We have updated our copy of the 2018 Canadian Forces Snowbirds schedule to reflect the change. Please make sure to follow our forums to stay up to date as it continues to change throughout the year!
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!
The biennial Lethbridge International Air Show returned in 2017 as a highlight worth catching in Southern Alberta and Western Canada. With a full list of performers of all types and a static display that was impressive to say the least, the July 15-16 weekend was well spent in Lethbridge.
Friday – Night Show
Friday’s schedule started late to allow for a twilight show, something which is thankfully becoming more common. The show began with the United States Army Golden Knights jumping in at the start of golden hour. Shortly after they landed, the Canadian Forces Snowbirds took to the skies for yet another excellent performance, even with one ship missing. With light fading, the Canadian Air Force CC-177 Globemaster III powered down the runway and bolted into the sky. Geoff Latter in his Nanchang CJ-6 “Nancy” followed, then the United States Air Force’s A-10 Thunderbolt II “Warthog” mini-demo with some up-close and impressive pyro. Canada’s own Pete McLeod of Red Bull Air Racing fame tumbled through the sky just before Mark Peterson in his Dornier AlphaJet demonstrated how high-performance a non-afterburning jet can be. Greg “Wired” Colyer in his T-33 Shooting Star “Ace Maker II” kept it low and fast ahead of Jerry Conley in his beautiful de Havilland DH-115 Vampire “Vampy ‘Too’.” Just before the sun began to set, the Golden Knights fit in their full routine.
The highlight of the show was certainly the last demo, and one the crowds were waiting for: the CF-18 Hornet. The Hornet, with afterburners lighting up the runway, burnt a trail across the then night sky. Before finishing his routine, Bill Braack in the Smoke-N-Thunder Jetcar took to the runway and challenged the Hornet to a race, of which the outcome was undetermined by most spectators due to the enormous and impressive wall of fire that lit the grounds and sky as they crossed the finished line.
While the flying had finished and most were filing out of the show, a smaller, less-appreciated setting had been set on the static display. Folks on their way off of the airport were treated to the numerous aircraft on the static line lit up by large, portable lights, providing a unique and often unseen view as the last bit of light faded from the day into the dark.
Saturday – Full Show
This was the first and only day to show the full line-up of performers in the light of day. Attendance was noticeably high, despite the winds and approaching weather that persisted throughout the day. Nearly all performers were able to fit in their routines without issue. The Golden Knights were able to complete their first jump (which we were graciously allowed to observe from the aircraft), but unable to finish their second due to the winds. This prompted Transport Canada to monitor the approaching storm, and once it closed within 1 km, the show was postponed for a mandatory evacuation of the grounds. Shortly after, lightning struck the end of the runway. By then, the NOTAM set to secure the airspace for the performers was too near its end to continue the show, and the decision was made to cancel the remainder of the acts (CF-18 and Snowbirds).
Sunday – Mini-Show
With the same hours as the full show, but with select performances, the mini-show was intended to give first-time attendees a taste of what an air show is like. The winds were still high throughout the day, resulting in the Golden Knights cancelling their demo that afternoon. The acts that did still take the sky included the CC-177, T-33, AlphaJet, Vampire, A-10, CAF Snowbirds, CJ-6, and CF-18.
Certainly the aerial performers were worth the admission, but just as equally the static displays that attended proved worthwhile. All of the aircraft on the website’s listing of confirmed attendees showed up except the Transport Canada National Aerial Surveillance Dash 8. In a surprise filling of the Dash 8’s vacancy, a US Navy E-6B Mercury airborne command post and communications relay aircraft from Tinker AFB, Oklahoma came to the show. Additionally, a Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18 from 410 Tactical Fighter Operational Training Squadron, nicknamed the “Cougars,” with a special 75th anniversary painted tail joined the many heavies on the line. The show had a total of three C-17s on display, with one from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, Altus AFB, Oklahoma, and a CC-177 from CFB Trenton, Ontario.
With a few hiccups throughout the weekend due to weather and other elements out of the show’s control, the 2017 Lethbridge International Air Show was able to impress with a stellar line-up of performers and a static display most shows would envy. We at AirshowStuff would like the thank the Lethbridge International Air Show Association and its volunteers for putting on this year’s show. We’d also like to thank Kim and Trina Tymko of Prime Rentals Ltd. for their sponsorship of the air show and help in coordinating our visit. We look forward to seeing you all again in 2019!