AutoMatters & More: Action-Packed 2015 MCAS Miramar Air Show


The 2015 Miramar Air Show, featuring the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels, thrilled fans once again at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. This was also the first opportunity for many in the public — and myself — to see the new F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter in action, demonstrating its short takeoff and vertical landing capabilities.

The theme of this year’s air show was “A Salute to Veterans and Their Families” — many of whom live in or near San Diego, or are stationed at MCAS Miramar. Their mission, which they fulfill with honorable service and unparalleled dedication, and through many sacrifices, is to protect us, our values and our way of life. We owe them a great debt of thanks and our sincere appreciation.

As always, there were many static displays of past and present military aircraft, ground vehicles and equipment. Throughout the show, Marines, sailors, airmen and Coast Guardsmen explained what we were seeing, tirelessly supported the show and assisted their many guests. There were also many vendor tents to check out and activities to enjoy.

Before the aerial portion of the show, the Third Marine Aircraft Wing Band performed. Established during WWII, the band has been at MCAS Miramar since 1999.

Joining the Blue Angels this year with tight-formation flying and thrilling aerobatic maneuvers were the Patriots L-39 Jet Team and, on their very first U.S. tour which followed their 2014 European tour, the Breitling L-39 Albatross Jet Team from France.

Breitling’s long ties to aviation began with its development of onboard chronographs for airplane cockpits, including World War II propeller-driven fighters. Flying within 10 feet of each other and at speeds approaching 435 mph, their ace pilots performed unique precision maneuvers, set to a soundtrack of music that sounded appropriately French. They were especially easy to see against the light blue sky, thanks to their paint scheme, which included a black fuselage and gray on the underside of the wings.

The U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute team performed daring feats that included passing a baton at 120 mph.

A Boeing AV-8B Harrier demonstrated its vertical takeoff and landing capabilities. It was amazing to observe it slowly rotate in midair and face the large audience. It can be armed with 500- and 1000-pound bombs, Maverick missiles, cluster munitions and Sidewinders.

Speaking of powerful, destructive munitions, once again there was a Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) demo, which simulated bombing runs and a coordinated simulated military assault by troops who were lowered on ropes from helicopters. Loud, large, fiery explosions punctuated the demonstration.

Adventurer Sean Tucker, in his familiar red custom-built 400 hp, up-to-300 mph Oracle Challenger III aerobatic stunt biplane, amazed the crowd. He has flown more than 1,200 performances, entertaining more than 105 million fans in an air show career that began in the mid-’70s. His stunts included maintaining stationary, straight-up flight in the “Harrier Pass”; falling backwards towards the ground, turning to point downwards and resuming normal flight in the “Double Hammerhead”; nose-over-tail tumbles through the air, seemingly out of control, in the “Forward Flip” and “The Centrifuge”; and his signature “Triple Ribbon Cut,” during which he used the wings of his biplane to slice, one after the other, three ribbons stretched between three poles on the ground.

The Shockwave Jet Truck could not be missed as its powerful, flame-throwing jet engine left a huge trail of white smoke, propelling the truck in high-speed drag racing runs that included a race with a plane flying low overhead.

Of course, the highlight of the show was the performance by the U.S. Navy Blue Angels. It began with an aerobatic flight demonstration by “Fat Albert” — the Blue Angels’ C-130 support plane, in its distinctive Navy blue and gold paint scheme, and commanded by Capt. Katie Higgins, its first female pilot. Earlier this year, I enjoyed the extreme privilege of flying on a Fat Albert air show rehearsal flight, which was commanded by Capt. Higgins at the NAF El Centro Air Show (see AM #376).

In the finale, the Blue Angels, in their F/A-18 Hornets, flew in spectacular formations high above, with smoke on; crossed paths in daring head-on maneuvers; and surprised the crowd by flying at high speed from behind and over the grandstands — giving us plenty to remember and to come back to see again next year.

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Copyright © 2015 by Jan Wagner – AutoMatters & More #406