Also be sure to check out our video playlist from the event!
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.
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.
The 2018 schedule for the US Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet Demo Teams has been released, but there’s not a whole lot to see. Due to training and other requirements, the demo teams are severely limited in their performances this year. As of the April release, only four shows have been approved with two listed as tentative.
In a statement, Navy TAC Demo said “both VFA-106 and VFA-122 are Fleet Replacement Squadrons (FRS), sometimes referred to by the old Navy term “RAG” or Replacement Air Group. The primary mission of each squadron is to provide the fleet with trained replacement aircrew to support fleet requirements. At this time, each squadron must focus on training newly winged aviators and flight officers on employing the Super Hornet to defend our country. This mission must take priority over flying these remarkable aircraft at air shows.”
While the limited number of shows certainly is disappointing, schedules often change during the year – so for the latest updates please be sure to check our forums! More shows could be added.
2018 Appearance Schedule – US Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet Demonstration Teams
April 14-15: Sun-N-Fun, Lakeland Regional Airport – Lakeland, FL
April 21-22: Thunder Over Louisville – Louisville, KY
May 5-6: Ford Lauderdale Air Show – Fort Lauderdale, FL
May 26-27: Miami Beach Air and Sea Show – Miami Beach, FL
The following shows are approved for TACDEMO participation; however, actual participation will be determined in May.
June 9-10: Thunder of Niagara, Niagara Falls ARS – Niagara Falls, NY
June 30-July 1: Battle Creek Field of Flight Air Show – Battle Creek, MI
The jet team/military demo schedules are the highlight of each annual International Council of Airshows (ICAS) convention, but the military forums and presentations also have some interesting bits of info for fans. This year the Navy forum in particular yielded some very interesting and exciting news items.
First, the F/A-18C Hornet (AKA Baby Hornet or Legacy Hornet) demos appear to be a thing of the past. All F-18 demonstrations in 2018 will be either F/A-18E or F/A-18F Super Hornets. As in the past, they will be flown by a West Coast team out of NAS Lemoore, CA and an East Coast team out of NAS Oceana, VA. The F/A-18E demos will only be flown by Lemoore crews.
Second, and maybe the biggest news of the forum; Legacy Flights might be back! The presentation includes the requirements for a show to host a Legacy Flight, and says the performance will consist of a short profile similar to that flown in the past. Legacy Flights have not been regularly performed for years now, although a Super Hornet and Corsair formation flight was arranged at the Cleveland airshow this past September. No word yet on what warbirds might be among the approved performers.
The third major takeaway from the forum is that there appears to be no limit on Navy static displays in 2018! Each year since sequestration (2013) has seen the military branches place limits on how many of their aircraft could be approved for static display at each airshow. This has gradually been lifted each year and thankfully it appears to be a nonissue in 2018; static display ramps may be a little fuller this summer!
The schedule for the F-18 demonstrations is not expected to be released for a while, but the the teams are approved for 46 airshows total. As noted, we are currently seeking some more information on these topics and will post any updates that we receive!
Oshkosh always has an award winning lineup and many highlights through the week. This year – the show was home to another first.
For the first time ever, the United States Navy Blue Angels flew a full demonstration in the skies over Oshkosh.
The team arrived Wednesday afternoon during the afternoon airshow, announcing their presence with a perfectly-timed (of course) flyby at the end of the national anthem. Only five jets arrived initially, with #3 arriving several hours later and #7 coming in separately after that.
On Thursday, the diamond pilots performed their circle and arrival maneuvers, where they pick out landmarks to use as they fly. They were supposed to do this during the daily airshow, but the aircraft had a small mishap while taxiing out in the interest of safety they canceled. They were able to reschedule for 8pm, after the airport is normally closed. Two jets took off and completed the necessary maneuvers just in time. Fans who stayed noted the rare chance to see the Blues jets with afterburner glow and lights on. The solo pilots performed their circle and arrival flight on Friday morning.
Noticeably absent from the show was the Blue Angels’ famous blue and gold C-130 Hercules, Fat Albert. In the wake of the crash of a USMC C-130T that killed 16 servicemembers, the USMC ordered a safety stand down of all C-130Ts, including Fat Albert. Bert was not only unable to perform, she never even made it to Oshkosh. Instead, the team relied on a Navy C-40 Clipper, the military version of the Boeing 737-700C, to bring in their maintenance crew and some equipment.
The Blue Angels also participated in a popular Theater in the Woods event on Friday, July 28th. During this appearance, they spoke about being on the team and took questions from the audience. A couple of the questions were particularly interesting; when asked about female Blue Angel pilots in the future, Blue Angel #1 revealed that there have been no female F/A-18 applicants for the past two recruitment cycles. The team has never had a female fly as a Hornet demonstration pilot.
The transition to the Super Hornet was also discussed. Currently, the team is in their 30th year of flying the Boeing F/A-18 Legacy Hornet. Despite internet rumors of a switch to the Super Hornet in September of this year or at the beginning of the 2018 season, the team plans to continue flying their Hornets for now. In fact, they are currently inducting three “new” Hornets into the squadron.
The target date for transitioning to the Super Hornet is not until 2019, and it was quickly pointed out that it could slip beyond that. There are several Super Hornets already set aside for the team, but they will need to be modified and tested before the pilots can begin training. One step in the right direction was mentioned; apparently a couple (now previous) Blue Angel pilots have already flown the current flight demonstration profile in the Super Hornet simulator and the results seemed positive. Hang in there Rhino fans!
Didn’t get a chance to see the Blue Angels at Oshkosh in person? No worries! We’ve got you covered with a video of their entire Friday performance!
The Bethpage Airshow at Jones Beach in New York has been forced to cancel the planned F/A-18 Hornet demonstration, the show announced today. Due to runway construction at JFK airport and the subsequent rerouting of air traffic, the show will not have the air space necessary for the Hornet team to perform. Traffic will still be coordinated to allow the US Air Force Thunderbirds to perform, and the other performers do not require the same amount of space so they are unaffected.
The airshow is scheduled for May 27 and 28. The cancellation may give the Hornet team (from VFA-106) the chance to book another show in its place. We will update our 2017 Hornet and Super Hornet Demonstration Schedules with any such info as we get it.
The United States Navy has released the 2017 schedule for the F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornet demonstration teams! Their schedule does not specify which airshows are getting which type of aircraft, but we will update this post with that information when we get it.
2017 Appearance Schedule – US Navy F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornet Demonstration Teams
March 11-13 – Titusville, FL (F/A-18C Hornet)
March 18-19 – Waco, TX
April 22-23 – Louisville, KY
April 29-30 – Lake City, FL
May 6-7 – Fort Lauderdale, FL
May 7-8 – Lincoln, NE
May 20-21 – North Kingstown, RI
May 20-21 – Oklahoma City, OK
May 27-28 – Miami Beach, FL
May 27-28 – Wantagh, NY Canceled on 3/24/17 June 25-26 – Huntsville, AL
July 1-2 – Traverse City, MI (F/A-18F Super Hornet)
July 15-16 – Johnson City, NY
August 12-13 – Scranton, PA
August 12-13 – Barnes ANGB/Westfield, MA
August 19-20 – Selfridge ANGB/Chesterfield Township, MI
August 23 – Atlantic City, NJ
September 2-4 – Cleveland, OH (F/A-18F Super Hornet)
September 9-10 – Sacramento, CA
September 16-17 – Virginia Beach, VA (F/A-18C Hornet and F/A-18F Super Hornet)
September 23-24 – London, ON (F/A-18F Super Hornet)
October 14-15 – Atlanta, GA
November 3-5 – Stuart, FL
VFA-122 “Flying Eagles”:
March 17-18 – Yuma, AZ
March 24-26 – Lancaster, CA
April 1-2 – Melbourne, FL
April 8-9 – Columbus, GA
April 28-30 – Lake Charles, LA
May 6-7 – McEntire ANGB, SC
May 13-14 – Pittsburgh, PA
May 20-21 – Redlands, CA
May 27-28 – Columbia, MO
June 10-11 – Scott AFB, IL
June 17-18 – Gaylord, MI
June 24-25 – Dayton, OH
July 3 – Dubuque, IA
July 8-9 – Gary, IN
July 22-23 – Great Falls, MT
July 29-30 – Fairchild AFB, WA
August 11-13 – Abbotsford, BC
September 9-10 – Wendover, UT
September 16-17 – Midland, TX
September 30-October 1 – Grand Junction, CO
October 7-8 – Minden, NV
October 21-22 – Houston, TX
Big news came from the Abbotsford International Airshow August 5, 2016 with the announcement that a Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II will be on public display at the show, which takes place on August 12th through the 14th in Abbotsford, British Columbia. The F-35 on display will be one from the 34th Fighter Squadron, 388th Fighter Wing out of Hill AFB, Utah. Alongside the Lightning II throughout the weekend will be Lockheed Martin Senior Test Pilot Billie Flynn, a former Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18 Hornet pilot, to talk about the aircraft and its capabilities. This will be the first F-35 appearance in Canada.
While the F-35 is still a prospective replacement for the aging CF-18 Hornet fleet in Royal Canadian Air Force service, political support for the jet is falling. Lockheed Martin’s competitor Boeing is going to be showing off their F/A-18F Super Hornet at this year’s show as well with a company demonstration in addition to the already scheduled US Navy Super Hornet demontration. The corporate demo differs from the Navy’s routine in that the aircraft will perform to the edge of its limits while carrying a payload. The F-35 is sure to be the highlight of the ground portion while the F/A-18F will be the star of the aerial portion.
The Breitling Jet Team will be returning to perform at this year’s show along with the annual appearances by the Canadian Forces Snowbirds and CF-18 Hornet demo teams as well as the CFB Comox CH-149 Cormorant Search and Rescue demo. The show will also be welcoming the Jack Link’s Screamin’ Sasquatch Jet Waco biplane and Gary Rower in his Stearman biplane to their first appearances at Abbotsford.
The aircraft, two in total, will arrive at the Abbotsford International Airport on Thursday Aug 11. For more information on the upcoming Abbotsford International Airshow, please visit www.abbotsfordairshow.com.
When the US Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet demonstration teams perform in place of the Blue Angels over the next two weekends, their performances will be dedicated to the memory of Capt. Jeff Kuss, the Blue Angel pilot who was killed in a crash last week.
The teams from VFA-106 and VFA-122 were tasked to fill in for the Blues when the team officially canceled its performances in Syracuse, NY and Dayton, OH over the next two weekends. The VFA-106 team will perform in Syracuse on June 11-12, and the VFA-122 team will perform in Dayton on June 18-19. The VFA-106 Super Hornet and Legacy Hornet aircraft, which was already scheduled to perform in Rhode Island this weekend, will even sport special ‘6’ decals to honor Capt Kuss, who flew as Blue Angel 6. Photos from the US Navy Tac Demo Facebook Page.
The addition of the Super Hornet demonstrations will help bolster the lineups of the shows and maintain the Navy’s presence at them. Each show has added other acts to their lineup since the cancellation as well. No announcements have been made as to future Blue Angel shows that may be impacted by their stand down, or possible appearances by the Hornet and Super Hornets to fill in for them.
Following crashes at the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, CO and in Smyrna, TN, the Thunderbirds and Blue Angels have officially announced cancellations of their performances in the coming weeks as both teams undergo a safety stand down.
We have already reported on the Syracuse International Air Show, which was scheduled to host the Blue Angels this weekend. They moved to secure the Sea Harrier, and also announced that all profits from the show will go to the family of fallen Blue Angel Capt Jeff Kuss. The show has also been granted a Super Hornet demonstration in lieu of the Blue Angels.
The Blue Angels were then scheduled to appear at the Vectren Dayton Airshow in Dayton, OH on June 18th and 19th. That show was notified Tuesday that the Blue Angels would not be attending. However, performers still scheduled for the Vectren Dayton Airshow include the USAF’s F-22 Raptor, F-35 Lightning II and Heritage Flight, Tora Tora Tora Pearl Harbor re-enactment, the US Navy Leap Frogs and several other civilian performers. The show announced they will host the US Navy F-18 Hornet demonstration team as well.
Dayton released this statement following the Blue Angels announcement:
“We are saddened by the tragic loss of Marine Captain Jeff Kuss, Blue Angel # 6 in Tennessee last week,” stated Michael Emoff, United States Air and Trade Show Board of Trustees Chairman. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Captain Kuss’s family and the Blue Angel team members,” he added.
The United States Air Force Thunderbirds also announced on Tuesday that the team would not be attending the 2016 Rhode Island International Airshow this upcoming June 11-12 weekend. A decision on the team’s performance at the Ocean City, MD airshow on June 17-18 has not been made at this time, according to the team. The Thunderbirds’ performance at the Kirtland Air Force Base Air Show was canceled last weekend immediately following the incident.
In a promising sign, the Thunderbirds returned to the skies on Tuesday for their first practice since the crash last Thursday. Hopefully they will be back to normal soon. The Blue Angels will obviously take more time to regroup and potentially retrain with a replacement solo pilot before resuming performances.