2015 NAS Oceana Air Show – Naval Airpower over Oceana
Article and Photos by Isaac Lebowitz
October 4, 2014
This year’s air show theme was “The Vietnam Veteran – Service • Valor • Sacrifice,” which was in honor of all our nations Vietnam Veterans, and the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. Each day, there was a ceremony to honor a group of Vietnam Veterans, beginning with Skydive Suffolk performing a parachute jump with the POW/MIA Flag. The Patriot Guard escorted Vietnam Veterans for a recognition ceremony, where a presentation was made by Captain Schlager and other officers.
The performer list was an interesting mix of civilian, warbird and military aircraft. Here are some of the details…
Bill Leff returned to Oceana with his North American T-6 trainer and performed a variety of acrobatic maneuvers rarely seen in a warbird trainer. Another civilian acrobatic performance was delivered by experienced air show performer Gary Ward. He brought his brightly painted MX2, the latest in unlimited aerobatic aircraft to the show. He put this aircraft through some extreme maneuvers that an “airplane just isn’t supposed to do!”. The MX2 is constructed of carbon fiber and is designed to withstand over 10Gs positive and negative.
The Geico Skytypers brought their 6 North American SNJ-2 aircraft to the show from Long Island, New York. Their demonstration featured maneuvers and formations utilized during World War II. Their aircraft originally built in 1940 and 1941, have been fully restored and specially equipped with modifications for skytyping missions.
The first warbird performance each day was Greg Shelton in his FM-2 Wildcat. This carrier based aircraft was built by General Motors and is derived from the Grumman F4F Wildcat. The nearby Military Aviation Museum also flew three warbirds at the show: A Grumman TBM-3E Avenger, a Goodyear FG-1D Corsair and in keeping with the Vietnam era theme, a Douglas AD-4 Skyraider. These meticulously restored aircraft performed some formation passes and individual maneuvers as well.
The Warrior Flight Team flew two L-39 jets at the show. One painted in the famous “Vandy-1” colors and the other in a VFA-106 Gladiators theme. Flown by experienced Naval aviators, they performed some tight formation passes and other combat maneuvers. The Warrior Flight Team highlights the needs of our nation’s wounded veterans.
Skydive Suffolk, the premier skydiving center in the Virginia Beach area, performed numerous jumps over the weekend, including bringing the POW/MIA flag for the Vietnam Veteran ceremony as well as the Stars and Stripes for the official start of the show. They performed some aerobatic work as well, with canopy stacking and high speed maneuvers which really thrilled the crowd.
One of the show’s highlights for the kids in attendance was undoubtedly, the Shockwave Jet Truck. This is a semi truck powered by three jet engines and reaches speeds over 350 MPH. The huge clouds of smoke and 30 foot flames are certainly impressive to all and always capture the full attention of the kids.
Another Vietnam era aircraft, the Douglas A4-B Skyhawk was brought to the show by Paul Wood of the Warbird Heritage Foundation out of Waukegan, Illinois. The Skyhawk was a carrier based light bomber, also known as “Heinemann’s Hot-Rod” (after famed aircraft designer Ed Heinemann), the A-4 was small, nimble and fast but packed a big punch, capable of carrying 8,000 pounds of ordnance. Paul Wood performed a fast paced demo featuring some low level high speed passes as well as some aerobatic maneuvers.
At the Oceana air show we are fortunate to see both the Legacy and Super Hornet demos. The Legacy Hornet demo each morning was performed in a VFA-106 Gladiators jet and crew based at NAS Oceana. On Saturday, the pilot was LT Joe “Goat” Krukar and on Sunday Lt Jaime “Eeyore” Moreno. The demonstration routine showcased the capabilities of the F/A-18C from low speed all the way to the high speed pass above Mach 0.9. High G tight turns and other tactical maneuvers were demonstrated and plenty of vapor was visible due to the humid air typical of the area.
The Super Hornet demo was also flown by a VFA-106 crew each afternoon in an F/A-18F jet. On Saturday the demo was flown by Lt. Nate “Fonda” Miller with Lt. Jason “IAD…S” Hoch as the WSO. On Sunday the jet was flown by Lt Ben “Bueller” Kovesci with Lt Wallace “Gump” Miller as the WSO. Each day they executed a high energy, fast paced and high G routine which showcased the incredible power and performance of the Super Hornet, also known as the “Rhino”.
Unique to the Oceana Air Show is the airpower demonstration – Oceana-based Strike Fighter aircraft demonstrate the maneuvers and tactics used to deliver air-to-ground weapons in real-world combat operations. F/A-18C Hornets and F/A-18E/F Super Hornets perform aggressive maneuvers for simulated weapons delivery with pyro, a dogfighting demonstration and aerial refueling. Squadrons participating include the VFA-37 “Raging Bulls”, VFA-106 “Gladiators” and the VFC-12 “Fighting Omars”. This year the HSC-9 “Tridents” from Carrier Air Wing 8 brought their MH-60S Knighthawk helicopters to perform in the demonstration. They dropped off some Navy seals at the beginning and extracted personnel at the end of the demo. The airpower demo concludes with a “fleet flyby” where the jets from the airpower demonstration join up in formation for a pass over the field. Followed closely by a Hornet “sneak pass”.
The US Navy Blue Angels were the headliners as usual and didn’t disappoint. The mission of the United States Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron is to showcase the pride and professionalism of the United States Navy and Marine Corps by inspiring a culture of excellence and service to country through flight demonstrations and community outreach. Firstly, the Blue Angels transport plane, a C-130 known as “Fat Albert” began the performance with some fast and low passes and a short field landing demonstration. Then the six Blue Angel Hornets, led by Captain Tom Frosch, took to the skies and wowed the crowd with their precision and graceful performance.
The static displays were very good this year. One again there was a group of colorful CAG jets representing many of the squadrons based at NAS Oceana. A Lockheed C-5M Galaxy, a Boeing E-6 Mercury, an F-22 Raptor and an F-35C Lightning II were some of the highlights. The F-35C was a brand new jet assigned to the VFA-101 Grim Reapers squadron out of Eglin AFB in Florida. The jet departed for home during the show on Sunday.
Another unique part of the Oceana Air Show weekend is the Beach Blast held on the beachfront around 31st street. After sunset, a Super Hornet made four afterburner passes along the beachfront – the afterburner trails glowing brightly in the night sky. Then the Skydive Suffolk parachute team jumped onto the beach with some high speed approaches which definitely thrilled the crowd.
In summary, another Oceana Air show was successfully executed. The event showcased the skills, talent and dedication of the US Navy personnel. The crowd came away each day excited and inspired by the performances.
Aviation Photography Digest would like to thank LTJG Zachary Keating and the NAS Oceana Public Affairs Office for their assistance.