My Trip to MCAS Kaneohe Bay and Hawaii in 2007

U.S. Marine Corps CH-53Ds arrive during the Kaneohe Bay air show.

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.

Bert begins his JATO takeoff roll, complete with corkscrew vapors.

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.

The Ghost, a rather famous Marine Corps Gulfstream C-20 that was rebuilt after being damaged by a tornado on the mainland.

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.

Marine legacy F/A-18 Hornet of VMFA-142 “Flying Gators”, a Marine Reserve Squadron based in Atlanta, and aboard Kaneohe Bay during the air show. The Squadron would be deactivated the following year!

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.

HI ANG F-15 Eagle lands after its flight demonstration.

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.

A cloud deck began obscuring the nearby mountain tops early in the day.

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.

Aloha B-737 freighter.

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.

U.S. Coast Guard HC-130H low pass during the air show.

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.

The Blue Angels C-130 flight demonstration included a JATO launch in 2007 at the Kaneohe Bay air show.

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.

USAF B-52H arrives at precisely its assigned time over target at the MCAS Kaneohe Bay air show, it took off from Guam almost half a day earlier. Normally, one doesn’t see a BUFF pulling vapor too.

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.

Blue Angels ground crew saluting their teammates as they taxi out for their flight display.

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!

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Ken Kula

Assignment and Content Editor, writer and photographer A New Englander all of my life, I've lived in New Hampshire since 1981. My passion for all things aviation began at a very early age, and I coupled this with my interest of photography during college in the late 1970s. I spent 32 years in the air traffic control industry, and concurrently, enjoyed my aviation photography and writing adventures, which continue today. I've been quite fortunate to have been mentored by some generous and gifted individuals. I enjoy contributing to this great site, and working with some very knowledgeable and equally passionate aviation followers.

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