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!

2019 US Navy Legacy Flight Schedule Released

posted in: Military, Schedules, Warbirds | 3

US Navy Legacy Flight - AirshowStuff

The Navy Legacy Flight Foundation has released a schedule of their shows for 2019. However, not every show will include a Hornet or Super Hornet demo team aircraft in the flight. As we have previously discussed, the Legacy Flight program is being expanded this year to include E/A-18G Growlers, T-45 Goshawks, and T-6B Texan IIs aircraft flying with a similarly increased variety of civilian-owned warbirds.

Legacy Flights used to be fairly common, but ended in the sequestration budget cuts of 2013. They returned in a limited capacity in 2018, but only at a few shows since the Super Hornet demonstration teams had to cut their schedule way back. With the 2019 schedule for the Super Hornet demonstrations not looking much better, it’s great news that they Navy decided to expand the Legacy Flight program to other non-demo team units. This also adds a lot of variety for fans to see.

2019 Performance Schedule – US Navy Legacy Flights

March 15-17th: Space Coast Warbird Airshow – Titusville, FL
March 30-31st: NAS Key West Southernmost Air Spectacular – Key West, FL
March 30-31st: Melbourne Air and Space Show – Melbourne, FL

April 2-7th: SUN ‘n FUN Int’l Fly-In Expo – Lakeland, FL
April 6-7th: Heart of Texas Airshow – Waco, TX

May 3-5th: Central Texas Air Show – Temple, TX
May 10-12th: Chennault International Airshow – Lake Charles, LA
May 18-19th: Hangar 24 Air Fest – Redlands, CA
May 25-26th: Miami Beach Air and Sea Show – Miami, FL

June 1-2nd: Defenders of Freedom Air and Space Show – Offutt AFB, Bellevue, NE
June 15-16th: Wings over Northern Michigan – Gaylord, MI
June 22nd-23rd: Dayton Air Show – Dayton, OH
June 29-30th: National Cherry Festival Airshow – Traverse City MI
June 29-30th: Quad City Air Show – Davenport, IA

July 4th: Tacoma Freedom Fair and Air Show – Tacoma, WA
July 6-7th: Gig Harbor Wings and Wheels – Gig Harbor, WA
July 13-14th: Toledo Air Show – Toledo, OH
July 22-28th: EAA AirVenture Oshkosh – Oshkosh, WI

August 9-11th: Abbotsford International Airshow – Abbotsford, Canada
August 17-18th: Sioux Falls Air and Space Expo – Sioux Falls, SD
August 24-25th: Rochester International Airshow – Rochester, NY
August 31st- September 2nd: Cleveland National Airshow – Cleveland, OH

September 7th: National Illinois Airshow – Waukegan, IL
September 12-15th: Reno Air Races, – Reno, NV
September 21-22nd: NAS Oceana Airshow – Virginia Beach, VA

October 4-6th: The Great Pacific Airshow – Huntington Beach, CA
October 12-13th: Atlanta Airshow – Hampton, GA
October 19-20th: CAF Wins over Houston Airshow – Houston, TX

November 1-3rd: Florida International Airshow – Punta Gorda, FL
November 1-3rd: Stuart Airshow – Stuart, FL

2019 US Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet Demonstration Airshow Schedules Released

posted in: Military, Schedules | 1

US Navy F-18 Super Hornet Demonstration Team

The 2019 schedule for the US Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet Demo Teams has been released!

This year’s schedule, while still a lot less than the ACC Demo Teams, includes one more show than the 2018 schedule. Like last year, the schedule is reduced due to busy training schedules, aircraft maintenance struggles, and the phasing out of F/A-18Cs.

While we still haven’t got official word, it does seem like Legacy Flights may become more common in 2019.

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.

2019 Appearance Schedule – US Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet Demonstration Teams

March 30th: NAS Key West, FL
April 13th: Thunder over Louisville, Louisville, KY
May 25th: Jones Beach, NY
July 29th: Traverse City, MI
July 13th: Toledo, OH
August 17th: Sioux Falls, SD
August 31st: Cleveland, OH
September 21st: NAS Oceana, VA

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!

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!

Blue Angels Release 2019 Pensacola Practice Schedule

posted in: Airshows, Jet Teams, Schedules | 6

US Navy Blue Angels - AirshowStuff

The US Navy Blue Angels have released their 2019 Pensacola practice schedule!

Although the team travels the country during the year, they return home to NAS Pensacola in Florida most weeks. In order to stay proficient in their demanding routine, they traditionally fly practice performances over the base on Tuesdays and Wednesdays during airshow season (March through November). Look below for their planned practice dates, but keep in mind that these can and do change as the year progresses due to things like weather or other circumstances. We will do our best to keep the list updated here and on our forums, but we can only pass on information as it is released.

Also be sure to check our airshow calendar for an extensive list of airshows and aviation events in the US and Canada, including all of the Blue Angel performances scheduled for 2019!

Practices typically begin at 11:30 am central time and last about 55 minutes. Public viewing is available at the National Naval Aviation Museum at no cost. The outside viewing area for the Blue Angels practice is located on the museum’s flight line north of the museum. Signs are posted to direct visitors to viewing and parking locations, including limited parking for handicapped visitors. Open bleacher seating is available and seats 1,000 people. A limited quantity of chairs are available for a fee of $3 per chair, good for that day’s practice session. Concessions (bottled water, sport drinks, light food, and treats) and merchandise are also available. Chair service, concessions, and merchandise are provided by the National Naval Aviation Museum Foundation and proceeds support the museum and foundation programs.

A valid ID is required for all visitors 16 and over to gain access to the museum flight line. Backpacks, daypacks, and other similar items are not allowed on the flight line.

2019 Blue Angels Pensacola Practice Schedule

MARCH 27 (Orientation flight only; not an actual flight demonstration)
APRIL 2, 3*, 9, 10*, 16, 17*, 18, 19, 23, 24*, 30
MAY 1*, 7, 14, 15*, 28, 29*
JUNE 4, 5*, 11, 12, 18, 19*, 20, 21, 25, 26*
JULY 2, 3, 16
AUGUST 7*, 8, 9, 13, 14, 20
SEPTEMBER 4*, 10, 11*, 12, 13, 17
OCTOBER 16*, 22, 23*, 29, 30*
NOVEMBER 5, 6, 7 (Practices are at 2:30pm for End of Season Week)

*Denotes autograph session following the practice inside the National Naval Aviation Museum.

Again, practices may be canceled due to weather or other circumstances without notice. Please contact the museum for last minute information.

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.

BREAKING: US Navy Blue Angels Pilot Suffers Landing Mishap In El Centro

posted in: Jet Teams | 2

US Navy Blue Angels F-18 Hornet - AirshowStuff

An unnamed pilot of the US Navy Blue Angels was thankfully uninjured after a landing mishap at NAF El Centro today. The pilot was landing at the base when the aircraft’s main landing gear failed to extend properly. The pilot was able to make an emergency landing with the F-18 Hornet without injuring himself or anyone on the ground.

The incident is under investigation.

The Blue Angels are in the middle of their winter training period at El Centro. They use the base for their training flights every year because the remote location and good weather allow for excellent training conditions. Their airshow season is scheduled to start in March.

This incident should not impact the season, although they have struggled with aircraft availability in recent years after several major incidents grounded some of the jets assigned to the team. Depending on how severe the damage to the aircraft is, it may be grounded for some time.

The team will be transitioning to F/A-18E Super Hornets in the coming years, although no firm timetable for the change has been announced yet.

This is a breaking story with few details immediately available. We will bring you more information as it becomes known. You can join the discussion and look for more info 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!

AirshowStuff’s Top Ten Onboard Videos Of 2018

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!

We also have lists of our top ten warbird videos and our top ten military videos!

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!

New Photo Album – Cleveland National Airshow 2018

posted in: Airshows, AirshowStuff, Event Recap | 0

P-51 Mustang and F-16 Fighting Falcon Heritage Flight - AirshowStuff

A new album is now available in our photo gallery! This album from the 2018 Cleveland National Airshow at Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland, OH. Check it out here: Cleveland National Airshow 2018 – Ryan Sundheimer

Also be sure to check out our video playlist from the event!

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