My Trip to MCAS Kaneohe Bay and Hawaii in 2007
Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay is located on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. Just prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl harbor, the original aviation facilities were built for Navy PBY Catalina patrol bombers. In fact, construction hadn’t been completed when the attack came. All but three of the three dozen PBYs stationed there were either damaged or destroyed during the attack on December 7th, 1941, and 18 servicemen were killed. It later became a training base during World War II and the Navy left it less than a decade after the war ended. Quickly, the Marine Corps took over the base, and today, it is an important facility in the Pacific Ocean for Marine operations.
When I learned that the Blue Angels were slated to perform at the base in 2007, my mind went into “planning mode”, and my wife and I quickly devised a plan to take a vacation that included an air show in paradise.
Being an East Coast photographer, I was impressed with the Pacific-based units that called the air base home. Marine CH-53D helicopters and C-20 jet transports shared the ramp space with Navy SH-60Bs and P-3Cs.
During the show, visiting Atlantic Coast F/A-18A and F/A-18D Hornets from a pair of squadrons represented the Marines, along with a pair of home-based CH-53Ds. Locally-based Navy SH-60B Seahawks and a P-3C Orion also flew.
For the remaining air show performers, the Hawaiian Air National Guard brought F-15s, a C-130H, and a KC-135R; one the F-15s flew a demonstration during the show.
Typical weather for that part of the island changed from sunshine during the very early morning to overcast and gray skies in the afternoon as the sea-laden air became saturated. The ceilings curtailed some of the high vertical routines planned, but any rain help off during the show. The nearby mountains were shrouded in clouds though.
The Pacific Air Forces staged a B-52H from Anderson AFB on far distant Guam, and it made a mock airfield attack on the base during an almost 24-hour long training sortie.
Civilian performers included local favorites, plus international star Patty Wagstaff. On the ground, airliners on display included a Hawaiian Airlines B-717 and a Aloha B-737-200 series freighter. Both of these jets handled intra-state travel and cargo on a daily basis.
The U.S. Coast Guard is an important asset in Hawaii, performing search and rescue as well as law enforcement duties. The HH-65B helicopter on display would soon be upgraded to the MH-65D standard, as its tasks evolved to include drug enforcement as well as maritime patrol and search and rescue. The HC-130H displayed would later be replaced with the improved HC-130J version, but still be tasked with patrol and SAR duties across a broad area of the Pacific Ocean.
Of course, the Blue Angels were a major attraction, and their KC-130 “Fat Albert” was still performing JATO departures during its routine, to the delight of the spectators.
The warm weather and high humidity allowed for vapor trails from most of the airborne performers, even the Guam-based B-52 pulled a wedge of vapor as it scraped the bottom layer of clouds on its turn towards the runway for a pass over the field.
The natural beauty of Hawaii’s landscape and the variety of the Pacific-based aircraft at the show was very satisfying, so much so that I returned back for another MCAS Kaneohe Bay air show a few years later!