NAS Oceana, VA Air Show 2016
The September 10th and 11th open house recognized the fifteenth anniversary of 9/11 and honored those who lost their lives in the attack on our nation by radical Islamic terrorists. With especially tight security, show-goers were required to pass through TSA style entry points with searches being conducted by Navy security personnel. Once inside, sweltering temperatures reached into the 90’s for the 2016 annual NAS Oceana weekend air show. But the really hot action was in the air and on the ground.
Each day the show opened with the playing and singing of our nation’s National Anthem by a local high school senior, as the colors were brought to show center by the U.S. Army Black Daggers and Skydive Suffolk parachute teams. The Black Daggers are comprised of U.S. Army Special Operations volunteers. Skydive Suffolk, located in the Virginia Beach area, is owned and operated by retired Navy EODC Mike Manthey. In addition to civilian skydiving activities, the facilities at Suffolk also support skydiving training operations for multiple branches of the United States Armed Forces. Later in the show, the two jump teams paid tribute with a POW/MIA Flag Jump.
First to fly were the L-39 Warrior Tandem Jet Team and then Bob Carlton in his Salto Jet Powered Glider who fired up the skies for the first military act of the day- VFA-106’s Lt. Scott “MacGruber” Lindahl, F/A-18C Hornet Demo. “MacGruber” skillfully demonstrated the capabilities of one of the many F/A-18Cs seen flying around Virginia Beach on a daily basis. Lindahl’s Hornet Demo then warmed up the show-goers for the famous and much anticipated U.S. Navy Air Power Demonstration with pyrotechnics provided by Firewalkers International. This year’s F/A-18C and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet squadron participants were the VF-211 Checkmates “Nickel”, VF-81 Sunliners “Inferno” and VFC-12 Omars “Viper.” The Air Power demo began with a one-on-one Basic Fighter Maneuvering and In-Flight Refueling followed by two HSC-5 SH-60s from nearby NS Norfolk hovering in and landing at show center.
The SH-60s inserted Special Operations Forces who demonstrated to the spectators what they do in their daily fight against radical Islam. With the forces in place, the F/A-18s bombed and strafed the field, igniting scorching hot air-to-ground explosives and setting off a wall-of-fire. With command of the sky and all secure on the ground, the SH-60s extracted their Special Operators before the participating jets formed up for a Fleet-Flyby and Sneak Pass. Upon completion of the Air Power Demo, the spectators swarmed the rope line to wave to their local pilot heroes. The exuberant fans got close enough to feel the heat from the jets’ hot exhaust as the hornets, with canopies opened, taxied back to their nests.
The day’s first flight-demonstration team to excite the crowd was the GEICO Skytypers in their SNJ-2 WWII trainer aircraft. It was a homecoming of sorts for several Skytyper pilots who are former naval aviators once stationed at Oceana and now living in the Virginia Beach area. The assembled witnessed further history when Bill Leff’s T-6 Texan and Scott “Scooter” Yoak’s P-51 Mustang “Quicksilver” flew.
With the warbirds safely on the ground, the skies over Oceana radiated when the U.S.A.F. F-22 came rushing in from nearby Langley AFB. Proudly representing the ACC, Maj Daniel “Rock” Dickinson worked up a sweat putting the RAPTOR through its paces. The full-afterburner piping-hot tactical demonstration kept the assemblage illuminated as Maj Daniel revealed the stealth fighters awesome capabilities. Following “Rock’s” demo, he was joined by Jim Beasly in his “Bald Eagle” P-51 for the Heritage Flight.
The Navy continued the show with the red hot F/A-18F Tactical Demo, flown by Oceana’s own VFA-106 pilot Lt. Danielle “Purple” Thiriot and WSO Lt. Ben “Bueller” Kovesci. With lots of humidity in the air, vapor poured off the steaming Super Hornet, making it a photographers’ enchantment! Upon completing their demo, the crew walked the long flight line greeting and accepting accolades from an appreciative crowd.
Activity on Oceana’s extensive ramp was sizzling as well. Oceana’s base commander had selected this year’s show theme as STEM: “Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.” On Friday, bus loads of local school children strolled the ramp learning about the Navy’s environmental efforts to be good “Stewards of the Sea” and viewing NAS Patuxent River, Maryland’s Naval Research P-3 aircraft. Other Navy aircraft on the ramp included an E-2 Hawkeye, C-1 COD, MH-53E Sea Dragon, SH-60 Seahawk from nearby NS Norfolk and a Navy H-57H from Whiting Field, FL. Oceana is home to eighteen East Coast Navy F/A-18 squadrons. Those squadrons in-port were represented by a line-up of CAG Birds: VFA-11, VFA-106, VFA-13, VFA-211 VFA-87, VFA-213, VFA-83 and VFC-12. After reviewing the colorfully adorned jets, show attendees were enticed to purchase swag from an extensive line of fully stocked vendor tents staffed by every squadron from NAS Oceana and NS Norfolk. VP-30 from Jacksonville, FL exhibited one of their last P-3 ORIONs. The VP-30 training squadron and their instructors will soon move on to either the new P-8 Poseidon or fly aircraft with a new navy squadron. Some may move on to VQ-4 based at Tinker AFB, OK and fly the Navy’s TACAMO E-6 Mercury (call signs “Shadow”, “Rough”, “Iron”). The big all-white Boeing707 TACAMO was parked on the ramp next to the huge U.S.A.F. C-17 from Dover AFB, DE. Additionally, the U.S.C.G. from Elizabeth, NC glowed with pride, displaying their brightly painted yellow 100th Anniversary Centennial helicopter. The Army was also excited to show off their brand new Fort Bragg Boeing C-47F Chinook with only forty hours flight time. The C-47F still had that “new helicopter” smell!
Meanwhile back in the air, Rob Holland, whose remarkable aerobatics skills has earned him a reputation as the hottest act on the air show circuit, wowed the viewers by pushing the limits and taking his MXS-RH to the next level. Following Rob’s breath-taking performance, the young and young-at-heart pushed their way to the front when the Shockwave Jet Truck roared up the taxiway belching an inferno of fire and hot vapors. In a blaze of flames and clouds of smoke pouring from the truck’s huge exhaust, Rob and the Shockwave raced down the runway warming up the audience for the headlining U.S. Navy Blue Angels.
For Blue Angels #3, #4 and #7- all former members of Oceana squadrons- the weekend was a “welcome back home.” On take-off, there was a noticeable modification to the Blue’s routine. Absent was #6 jet’s Split S maneuver following his High Performance Climb. The rest of the team’s performance was unchanged and the Blues once again showed their Navy community pride.
On Saturday evening, it was a bit cooler ocean-side at the 31st street Virginia Beach Blast party that kicked off with a free concert by the United States Fleet Forces Band. As the sun set, a U.S. Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet performed multiple afterburner passes up and down the beach promenade. When darkness fell and with the moon showing bright on the surface of the ocean, the two parachute teams jumped onto the beach in front of a large cheering onlookers. With the night show concluded, the Blue Angel pilots and support staff were available to meet and greet the public as musical entertainment continued into the evening.
Next year’s show is scheduled for September 9-10. No matter the temperature, Oceana has consistently proven to be the hottest military air show in the mid-Atlantic region.
Story by: Daniel O. Myers