Great State of Maine Air Show, 2017’s Event
Over a late summer weekend, the one just before America’s Labor Day holiday, the Great State of Maine Airshow attracted tens of thousands of vacationers and residents. Held at the expansive Brunswick Executive Airport, the venue offered a varied and exciting event filled with sights and sounds not heard at the facility since it was an active Naval Air Station almost a decade earlier. The airport has no obstructions around it for air show viewing, and MidCoast Maine is a great place for a vacation, so it’s a great weekend treat to attend the show, fill up on lobster and wild blueberry pie, and take in the picturesque coastal scenery too.
A good number of U.S. military aircraft were on hand, both in the air and on the ground. The Navy’s Blue Angels headlined the flying show; the Air Force’s F-16 Viper Demo Team added to the speed and thunder overhead. A Rhode-Island Air National Guard C-130J gave the USSOCOM Parachute Team, the Para-Commandos, a lift to altitude throughout the weekend too.
The military ground display offered a pair of Navy patrol aircraft – a new P-8A Poseidon and a P-3C Orion, both from NAS Jacksonville. Navy P-3s prowled the Atlantic Ocean from Brunswick for many years, and some long-time residents were happy to see and hear the aircraft type return to the ramp. Pairing the older and newer patrol aircraft together was a rare treat for the aviation enthusiast, as both are not displayed together often. The Marine Corps sent a pair of CH-53E Sea Stallion helicopters, and the New Hampshire Air National Guard displayed one of their KC-135R Stratotankers.
A pair of Vermont Air National Guard F-16Cs, based at Burlington, were parked on the static ramp too… the jets will be replaced with F-35A Lightnings in two years’ time.
On the bottom of the air show web site, this disclaimer is printed: “Aircraft appearing are subject to change due to many reasons beyond our control, to include but not limited to, maintenance, weather, or other circumstances. We appreciate your understanding.” There’s a reason why this is advertised, and it became apparent on Friday night, even before the show was open to the public. A Coast Guard MH-60T Jayhawk, based a bit down the coast at CGAS Cape Cod, arrived and stood by as planeguard for the flying display on Friday. It was supposed to remain at the field all weekend. But, later that evening, the helicopter’s crew donned their survival suits, and the re-assigned helicopter departed for Texas, where Hurricane Harvey was still hitting hard. Two days later, photos of “Coast Guard Rescue 6042”, resplendent in its yellow Centennial of Coast Guard Aviation colors, were in the news as it was flying operational missions in Texas. A civilian LifeFlight of Maine Augusta helicopter filled in for the rest of the weekend. Luckily, no other performers were re-tasked during the weekend.
There were a number of State of Maine aircraft displayed on the ground too, including a Forest Sevice Bell Jet Ranger and Huey, as well as a Cessna Skylane operated by the State Police.
A full house of civilian aerial performers were assembled, with Michael Goulian, Michael Wiskus, Kent Pietsch, Dan Marcotte and Larry Labriola present. Locals Mike Goulian and Dan Marcotte, from Massachusetts and Vermont respectively, brought their families to the show to watch their performances too. A pair of P-51 Mustangs took to the air, Scott “Scooter“ Yoak flew his entire aerobatic routine in Quick Silver, and General Tommy Williams flew Andrew McKenna’s Rolls Royce Merlin-powered fighter during the Air Force Heritage Flight display with Major John “Rain” Waters in the F-16.
As much as a Mustang’s Merlin engine attracts attention, a pair of ground-bound automobiles also turned more than just a few heads. The Smoke and Thunder Jet Dragster, complete with afterburner, and Precision Exotics’ Ferrari F430, which has a top speed faster than Kent Pietsch’s Jelly Belly Interstate Cadet, both took to the taxiways during the shows. A pre-show race between Mike Wiskus in his Pitts S-1 “Super Stinker” against Eric Nelson in the Ferrari didn’t seem to have a definite winner, but was really fun to watch. Later, Mike raced against Bill Braack in the Smoke and Thunder jet car during the show… and again, there wasn’t a well-defined winner. Loads of horsepower being used though!!
The weekend’s weather was almost perfect, although Sunday afternoon’s show saw the arrival of some cumulus clouds over the field. The Blue Angels, F-16 Viper and the Para-Commandos – the three performers who would like to use the whole sky over the airport, were able to present their routines with just a little affect from the somewhat ominous looking clouds and occasionally gusty winds.
It seems that the Great State of Maine Air Show occurs every other year, although that’s not set in stone from what we can see here. Keep your eyes open for the next reiteration of this show, as the setting and the performers are both spectacular and the time of the year – just before Labor Day – is a beautiful time to be outdoors in Maine.