Offutt AFB Cancels 2019 Airshow After Devastating Flooding

posted in: Airshows, Jet Teams | 0
Offutt AFB Nebraska Flooding - March 2019 - AirshowStuff
Photo by US Stratcom / Twitter

The 2019 Defenders of Freedom Air & Space Show at Offutt Air Force Base has been canceled. The event was scheduled for June 1-2 and would have been headlined by the US Air Force Thunderbirds.

The base announced the cancellation today, in the midst of absolutely devastating floods that have taken over much of the base’s footprint and the surrounding area. Offutt is located just outside of Omaha, Nebraska, near the Missouri River. It is home to the US Strategic Command and plays a critical role in overseeing the country’s strategic forces, including nuclear forces. As many as 30 buildings on base were reportedly damaged, though thankfully the residential part of the installation is at a higher elevation.

Four people have died due to the floods so far, and thousands have been forced from their homes. The rebuilding effort will be massive, and it makes complete sense that the personnel stationed there will not be up for hosting a large public event in just a few months time. We wish them the best in the long road ahead.

There is no word yet on how this will impact the USAF Thunderbirds’ 2019 airshow schedule or where else the team might perform that weekend instead, but we will update our airshow calendar with that information when it becomes available.

Here is the full statement from the base:

The 2019 Defenders of Freedom Air & Space Show has been cancelled.

While the 55th Wing and our partner units are fully mission-capable, the recent flooding event affecting much of Nebraska has made hosting this year’s annual event untenable.

“The scope of this historic disaster has touched nearly every aspect of Nebraska including Offutt Air Force Base,” Col. Michael Manion, 55th Wing commander, said. “Assessing the impact to the base is ongoing and we will recover, but it is obvious it will be some time before we can return to normal operations or have the capacity to host an event like an air show and open house. We sincerely enjoy opening our gates to the public and appreciate the tremendous support we get from Bellevue, Omaha and the surrounding communities and are committed to continuing the open house and air show at the next available opportunity.”

No dates for future Defenders of Freedom shows have been set at this time. Anyone who has purchased premium “Flight Deck” seating will receive a full refund and no action is required by the purchasers.

For more information, call the 55th Wing Public Affairs office at (402) 294-3663.

Did You Notice The Burning Piano In Captain Marvel? Here’s The Special Meaning Behind It – And Its Connection To A Real Life Hero

posted in: Jet Teams, Popular Posts | 0

Thunderbird #4 - Major Stephen "Cajun" Del Bagno

Millions of people will be heading to theaters to see Marvel’s new Captain Marvel movie over the next few weeks, but most won’t understand one special image in the movie. Near the beginning of the film, a quick flash of a burning piano is shown on the screen. Marvel movies are known for their detailed backstories and easter eggs, but what’s the deal with the piano, and why are we writing about it on an airshow website?

The piano is actually a tribute to Thunderbird #4, Maj. Stephen “Cajun” Del Bagno. Del Bagno was one of two Thunderbird pilots who consulted on the movie. Fellow Thunderbird pilot Maj. Matt Kimmel was also involved.

Tragically, Del Bagno was killed in a crash in April of 2018, just a week after concluding his work on the film. The team was practicing their airshow routine at Creech AFB near Las Vegas when his jet impacted the ground after failing to recover from a high speed dive.

Thunderbird #4 Major Stephen Del Bagno

So why the burning piano? It’s actually a traditional send off for fighter pilots who have “flown west” that, according to fighter pilot lore, dates back to World War II or even earlier. There are variations on the story, but perhaps the most common tale is that a particular RAF pilot was especially good at playing the piano in the squadron clubhouse. When he was killed in battle, his squadron mates realized they would never hear him play again and burned the piano as tribute. It’s not only an appropriate shot to include, it fits perfectly with the lead character’s background; Brie Larson plays Carol Danvers, an Air Force fighter pilot who would know the tradition well.

There are other tributes to Cajun in the film as well. He is mentioned several times in the credit roll, and the filmmakers reportedly snuck his callsign into the background of several scenes. He even has a brief cameo, playing a game of pool with Danvers in a quick flashback. It’s a wonderful gesture to honor him.

Cajun’s legacy lives on through the Cajun’s Aviation Dream charity, which seeks to help “stellar young Americans chase their own dreams to fly and pursue their passion for aviation” through scholarships and other efforts. You can visit their website to donate to the cause, apply for one of the scholarships, or view photos of Cajun and the many tributes to him, including the real life piano burning.

Major Stephen "Cajun" Del Bagno Piano Burning
Photos courtesy of Cajun’s Aviation Dream

For their part, the USAF and Thunderbirds have tried hard to capitalize on the movie’s portrayal of an Air Force fighter pilot. The Air Force organized a major PR campaign around would-be F-16 demonstration pilot Capt. Zoe “SiS” Kotnick, calling her the “real life Captain Marvel” until she was suddenly dismissed from the team. The Thunderbirds visited Los Angeles last week to perform a flyover of the movie’s premiere and other area landmarks, including the home of Cajun’s parents.

Did you catch any of the hidden tributes to Cajun in the movie? Let us know in the comments below or in our forums!

Set Your Airshow Plans With Our New Airshow/Aviation Event Calendar

posted in: Airshows, Popular Posts, Schedules | 1

Looking to plan your airshow schedule in 2019? AirshowStuff is happy to unveil our new calendar of airshows and aviation events in the US and Canada!

This calendar combines the major military/jet team schedules and other known events into a single list for easy browsing and comparison. You can use the filters to search by date, event name, location, state, country, or featured performer. We have also included links to event discussion threads on our forums, so you can get more information or ask questions about attending. If a thread doesn’t already exist for an event you want to discuss, please create one!

We hope that the new calendar will help both hardcore avgeeks and casual fans to find and connect with events near them. The calendar currently includes over 180 events in 2019 as well as preliminary 2020 airshow dates for the US Navy Blue Angels and US Air Force Thunderbirds. You can get to the calendar at any time through the button on the blue navigation bar at the top of this page.

We will be updating the calendar as schedules inevitably change throughout the year. If you see any incorrect information, or know of an aviation event that we have not included, please let us know through the forums, e-mail, or through our social media channels!

Thunderbirds Add Traverse City To 2019 Airshow Schedule

posted in: Airshows, Jet Teams, Schedules | 2

US Air Force Thunderbirds - AirshowStuff

The US Air Force Thunderbirds have added the National Cherry Festival Airshow in Traverse City, MI to their 2019 performance schedule!

The June 29-30 weekend was previously marked as open after the cancellation of the Rhode Island Airshow in November. Because the following weekend is booked out as a mid-season break before the team travels to Colombia, it was not apparent whether they would fill the weekend or opt for a longer break.

Traverse City will also be hosting the F-22 Raptor demonstration team and an US Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier demonstration.

Easily browse nearby airshows and performer schedules using our Airshow and Aviation Event Calendar!

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.

Interesting Observations From The 2019/2020 Military And Jet Team Schedules

posted in: Airshows, Jet Teams, Military, Schedules | 3

USAF Thunderbirds and Crowd - AirshowStuff

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!

USAF Thunderbirds 2020 Preliminary Airshow Schedule Released

posted in: Airshows, Jet Teams, Schedules | 3

US Air Force Thunderbirds - AirshowStuff

Here is the preliminary 2020 airshow schedule for the US Air Force Thunderbirds! This schedule has been released on a preliminary basis only, and will likely see notable changes. Please make sure to check back with us in December of 2019 when an updated 2020 schedule is released!

Preliminary US Air Force Thunderbirds 2020 Appearance Schedule

March 7-8: Fiesta of Flight – Laughlin AFB, TX
March 14-15: OFF
March 21-22: Luke Days Air and Space Expo – Luke AFB, AZ
March 28-29: March Field Air and Space Expo: Thunder Over the Empire – March AFB, CA

April 4-5: Sun-N-Fun Fly-In and Expo – Lakeland, FL
April 11-12: OFF
April 18-19: Maxwell AFB, AL
April 25-26: Wings Over Columbus – Columbus AFB , MS

May 2-3: Ford Lauderdale Air Show – Fort Lauderdale, FL
May 9-10: Beale AFB, CA
May 16-17: Shaw Air and Space Expo – Shaw AFB, SC
May 23-24: Miami Beach Air & Sea Show – Miami Beach, FL
May 26: USAF Academy Graduation – Colorado Springs, CO
May 30-31: OFF

June 6-7: California International Airshow – Salinas, CA
June 13-14: Ocean City Airshow – Ocean City, MD
June 20-21: Thunder over the Valley – Youngstown ARB, OH
June 27-28: Warriors over Wasatch Air and Space Show – Hill AFB, UT

July 4-5: Battle Creek Field of Flight Air Show and Balloon Festival – Battle Creek, MI
July 11-12: Arctic Thunder Open House – JB Elmendorf, AK
July 18-19: Duluth Air and Aviation Expo – Duluth, MN
July 25-26: Ellsworth Air and Space Show – Ellsworth AFB, SD

August 1-2: Grand Fork AFB Air Show – Grand Forks AFB, ND
August 8-9: OFF
August 15-16: Chicago Air and Water Show – Chicago, IL
August 22-23: Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Armed Forces Airshow – Avoca, PA
August 26: Thunder over the Boardwalk – Atlantic City, NJ
August 29-30: New York Air Show – New Windsor, NY

September 5-6: OFF
September 12-13: Airshow London – London, Ontario
September 19-20: The Great Pacific Airshow – Huntington Beach, CA
September 26-27: Kansas City Air Show – Gardner, KS

October 3-4:Aviation Roundup Airshow – Minden, NV
October 10-11: Aerospace Valley Air & Space Show – Edwards AFB, CA
October 17-18: Bell Fort Worth Alliance Air Show – Fort Worth, TX
October 24-25: Wings over North Georgia – Rome, GA
October 31-November 1: Orlando Sanford Air Show – Sanford, FL

November 7-8: NASJRB New Orleans Airshow – New Orleans, LA

Again, this schedule is for 2020. If you’re looking for 2018 airshow appearances, check out USAF Thunderbirds 2019 Airshow Schedule Released

USAF Thunderbirds 2019 Airshow Schedule Released

posted in: Airshows, Jet Teams, Schedules | 25

US Air Force Thunderbirds - AirshowStuff

Here is the 2019 airshow schedule for the US Air Force Thunderbirds! Will you see them in 2019? Let us know! Post in the AirshowStuff Forums or on the AirshowStuff Facebook page and make sure you share pictures after the show!

Schedules often change during the year – make sure to check out our airshow calendar for an updated list of airshows and aviation events, plus this and other major schedules all listed in one place! You can also check our forums for discussion on the schedule and shows!

2019 US Air Force Thunderbirds Airshow Appearance Schedule

February 17: Daytona 500, Daytona Beach, FL (Flyover)

March 3: Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Las Vegas, NV (Flyover)
March 14: Creech Appreciation Day, Indian Springs, NV
March 23-24: Thunder and Lightning Over Arizona – Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ
March 30-31: Travis AFB Open House – Travis AFB, CA

April 6-7: Heart of Texas Air Show – Waco, TX
April 13-14: OPEN
April 27-28: Wings over Wayne Open House – Seymour Johnson AFB, NC

May 4-5: Keelser AFB, MS
May 11-12: JB Andrews Air Show – JB Andrews, MD
May 18: Kirtland AFB Air Show – Kirtland AFB, NM
May 25-26: Jones Beach Air Show – Jones Beach, NY
May 30: USAF Academy – Colorado Springs, CO

June 1-2: Defenders of Freedom Air Show – Offutt AFB, NE
June 8-9: Fort Wayne Air Show – Fort Wayne, IN
June 15-16: Minnesota Air Spectacular – Mankato, MN
June 22-23: Dayton Air Show – Dayton, OH
June 29-30: National Cherry Festival Airshow – Traverse City, MI

July 6-7: Mid-summer Break
July 13-14: Rionegro (Medellin), Colombia
July 20-21: Fargo Air Show – Fargo, ND
July 24: Cheyenne Frontier Days – Cheyenne, WY
July 27-28: Milwaukee Air and Water Show – Milwaukee, WI

August 10-11: Abbotsford International Air Show – Abbotsford, BC
August 17-18: Sioux Falls Air Show – Sioux Falls, SD
August 21: Atlantic City Air Show – Atlantic City, NJ
August 24-25: Rochester International Airshow – Rochester, NY
August 31-September 2: Cleveland National Air Show – Cleveland, OH

September 7-8: Grissom Air Reserve Base Air Show – Grissom ARB, IN
September 14-15: National Championship Air Races – Reno, NV
September 21-22: Naval Air Station Oceana Air Show – NAS Oceana, VA
September 28-29: Robins AFB Air Show – Robins AFB, GA

October 5-6: Puerto Rico International Air Show – San Juan, PR
October 12-13: Atlanta Air Show – Hampton, GA
October 19-20: Wings Over Houston Air Show – Houston, TX
October 26-27: Sheppard AFB Air Show – Sheppard AFB, TX

November 2-3: Florida International Air Show – Punta Gorda, FL
November 15-17: Aviation Nation – Nellis AFB, NV

Want to look a little further ahead? We also have a copy of the preliminary 2020 US Air Force Thunderbirds schedule!

Rhode Island Airshow Canceled In 2019

posted in: Airshows, Schedules | 3

US Air Force Thunderbirds

The Rhode Island National Guard announced today that they are canceling their 2019 Open House and Airshow. Organizers determined that the planned deployment of troops in the coming months casts doubt on their ability to safely and effectively hold the event. The airshow is expected to return in 2020.

“Since the 1991 inception of the RING Open House Air Show, opening our doors to the public has been an annual highlight for our organization and its members,” Major Gen. Christopher Callahan said in a statement. “With this anticipated federal mobilization commitment in 2019, we have been presented with a difficult decision regarding our ability to safely and effectively conduct this public event.”

The news comes just days before the annual International Council of Airshows (ICAS) convention takes place in Las Vegas. The US Air Force Thunderbirds had been scheduled to appear at the show on June 29-30. The team has been planning to take a mid-summer break after that weekend before traveling to Colombia for an airshow in mid-July. Time will tell what airshow fills that spot, or if the mid-summer break gets extended or moved.

Air Force Concludes Investigation Into Fatal Crash Of Thunderbird #4, Releases Report

posted in: Jet Teams | 0

US Air Force Thunderbirds - F-16 Fighting Falcon

The US Air Force has released the crash investigation report for April’s fatal crash of Thunderbird #4, Maj. Stephen “Cajun” Del Bagno. Cajun was flying a practice routine with the team near Creech AFB in Nevada when his aircraft impacted the ground.

Very little information about the crash has been made public until now, and the remote location ensured there were few if any civilian witnesses. The report does not hold back, however, and describes in great detail how Del Bagno tragically succumbed to G-induced loss of consciousness, or G-LOC, during a high speed dive and failed to recover from it.

Specifically, the dive was part of the rejoin maneuver following the High Bomb Burst and four-ship crossover. Following the cross, the #4 pilot pulls up into a half loop, then flies down the show line inverted before pulling downward into a Split-S to drop into formation behind the lead aircraft. You can watch a video of the typical #4 rejoin sequence on our Youtube channel.

The report explains that on this particular occasion, Del Bagno flew at a maximum of -2.06 Gs while inverted, before immediately pulling to a peak of 8.56 Gs. It is believed that this quick transition from strong negative to intense positive Gs was too much for even the seasoned fighter pilot to handle. He lost consciousness for an estimated 5 seconds as the aircraft rocketed towards the ground. No attempt at ejection was registered by the aircraft systems and the aircraft impacted at nearly 60 degrees nose down and 90 degrees of bank with a descent rate of near 40,000 feet per minute.

Thunderbird #4 Major Stephen Del Bagno

Blue Angel #6, Capt. Jeff “Kooch” Kuss, was also killed while performing a Split-S about two years before Cajun’s accident. In that case, it was determined that he mistakenly initiated the maneuver lower than required. Following his crash, the Blue Angels removed the Split-S from their takeoff routine, although they do perform the maneuver later in the show.

As for the Thunderbirds, they resumed flying a few weeks after the crash, eventually bringing back former #4 pilot Major Nick “Khan” Krajicek to assume the slot position again. Based on observations at shows following the crash, they do not appear to have significantly changed the rejoin maneuver.

Here is the executive summary of the full 37 page report:

On 4 April 2018, the mishap pilot (MP), flying a F-16CM, tail number (T/N) 91-0413, assigned to the United States Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, the “Thunderbirds,” 57th Wing, Nellis Air Force Base (AFB), Nevada (NV), engaged in a routine aerial demonstration training flight at the Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR) near Creech AFB, NV. During the training flight, at approximately 1029 local time, the mishap aircraft (MA) impacted the ground and fatally injured the MP, without an ejection attempt.

The mishap mission was planned and authorized as a practice of a Thunderbirds aerial demonstration in the south part of the NTTR. The mishap flight was a formation of six F-16CMs (Thunderbirds #1-6), the standard Thunderbirds aerial demonstration flight. Thunderbird #4 was the MA/MP. During the High Bomb Burst Rejoin, an aerial maneuver near the scheduled end of the aerial demonstration training flight, the MP flew the MA for approximately 22 seconds in inverted flight between 5,500 and 5,700 feet above ground level. During this time, the MP experienced a change in force due to acceleration measured in multiples of the acceleration of gravity felt at the earth’s surface (G), between -0.5 to -2.06 G’s. While experiencing -2.06 G’s in inverted flight, the MP initiated a descending half-loop maneuver (Split-S). After five seconds in the Split-S, the MP attained a maximum +8.56 G’s. The MP experienced G-induced loss of consciousness (G-LOC) and absolute incapacitation at the end of that five-second period.

For approximately the next five seconds, the MP remained in a state of absolute incapacitation and made no deliberate flight control inputs as the MA accelerated toward the ground. Approximately one second prior to ground impact, the MP began deliberate flight control inputs as he transitioned from absolute to relative incapacitation. The MA impacted the ground at 57 degrees nose low with 89 degrees of left bank and the MP was fatally injured on impact, without an ejection attempt.

The Accident Investigation Board (AIB) President found by a preponderance of evidence the cause of the mishap was the MP’s G-LOC during the Split-S portion of the High Bomb Burst Rejoin maneuver. Additionally, the AIB President found by a preponderance of evidence two factors substantially contributed to the mishap: (a) the MP’s diminished tolerance to +G’s induced by the physiology of the MP’s exposure to –G’s (“Push-Pull Effect”) and (b) an associated decrease in the effectiveness of the MP’s Anti-G straining maneuver under those conditions.

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