The Inaugural New York Air Show
Last minute changes forced show promoter Brian Lilly Co. to find a new venue for the 2015 New York Air Show. Originally scheduled for Coney Island Brooklyn NY, the promoters had just seventy-one days to manage all of the necessary logistical details of putting on a first class show. Kudos to the Brian Lilly Co, the airport staff and all of the volunteers for pulling it off and making it all work in such a short period of time! Days prior to the show and in commemoration of the 70th Anniversary to the end of World War II, an F-16, F-22, B-25 and P-51 flew in formation for a photo-shoot up New York harbor past the Statute of Liberty. It was a fitting tribute and attention grabbing advertisement for the air show. The Newburgh show opened with remarks by Stewart Air Force Base resident 105thWing Vice Commander who thanked the large crowd for their support while paying tribute to fallen air show performer Andrew Wright. He informed the audience that the show participants were dedicating their weekend performances to Andrew and his family. Additional remarks continued by the airport’s Executive Director, Mr. Ed Harris, who acknowledged and thanked former veterans and current military personnel in attendance. All was followed by an Air Force ceremony that enlisted local youths, which brought an arousing warm send-off from the New York crowd.
Due to an unfortunate accident at the Chicago air show, the U.S. Navy Leap Frogs originally scheduled to perform had to cancel. In their stead, The U.S. Military Academy’s Black Knights, from nearby West Point, provided their jump team. From one of their Lakota helicopters, six jumpers opened the flying portion of the show. As they brought the nation’s colors to show center, Army MSgt. Mary Kay Messinger sung an inspiringly beautiful rendition of the American Nation Anthem concluding with the audience erupting into passionate patriotic cheers. It had been twelve long years since the last air show at Newburgh and one could sense the desire and anticipation. First to take-off were the L-39 and B-25 Mitchell ‘Panchito.’ ‘Panchito’, based at Georgetown, DE travels the country portraying Col. Doolittle’s Raid “Thirty Seconds over Tokyo.” On 18 April 1942, sixteen heavily modified B-25s took off from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet. It was a daring raid with little hope of success as it was the first time a B-25 had ever flown from the deck of a carrier. While not strategically vital, the six hundred mile mission was important in that it provided a much needed moral boost to the American fighting forces and public. The raid also caught the Japanese completely off guard! ‘Panchito,’ with its loaded bomb bay, offers the public for-pay rides. Among those riding onboard have been dozens of B-25 veterans. Eighteen of those have been “Doolittle Raiders”. Three have actually piloted the Mitchell; all have signed the bombs- leaving their lasting mark as an historic tribute. Panchito’s performance was especially memorable as we celebrated the 70th anniversary of V-J Day.
When the props from the WWII bomber stopped spinning, jet turbines started turning when one of the U.S.M.C.’s VMFA-542 AV-8B Harrier jets rocked Orange County with opening maximum high-speed passes before stopping and hovering just five-hundred feet over the runway at show center. All ears were covered when the Harrier belched enormous throws of hot exhaust as the jet made several spins in place before slowly descending to the ground. With engines cooled off, Maj. Matt Martinez rolled the jump-jet to a short take-off and executed several more high-speed passes, much to the delight of the enthusiastic crowd, who dared not remove their ear protection until the jet taxied to its line.
Based on Long Island, NY, the 106th Rescue Squadron demonstrated to the home state audience what it does best- save lives through Search and Rescue. With a downed “victim” in need of immediate assistance, an HH-60 “Jolly” swung into service. The helicopter lowered its Para Jumpers (PJs) into the hostile arena, secured the area and provided medical attention before strapping the “casualty” to a stretcher. In the air, the “Jolly’s” door gunners kept a vigilant watch before the helicopter descended, picking up the survivor and rescuing the PJs. With all safe onboard, The New York crowd swelled with pride and showed their appreciation when the HH-60 made several passes with their passengers returning the favor, enthusiastically waving to the crowd as they displayed an American flag from the right-side door. The GEICO Skytyppers, based at Republic Field Long Island, NY, provided the show with a demonstration flight team. Eyes were glued to the sky when the six SNJs, equipped with powerful radial engines, flew in tight formation and executed precise maneuvers with their smoke on. The crowd loved every moment of their performance which concluded with a missing-man break dedicated to Andrew Wright.
Next up, it was the U.S. Navy’s turn to provide lots of jet noise. VFA-106’s Super Hornet Demonstration Pilot Lt. Wallace “Gump” Miller and WSO Lieutenant Ben “Bueller” Kovesci showed why they are some of the best NAS Oceana, VA has to offer. The F/A-18F Super Hornet pilot and flight officer accurately demonstrated the capabilities of the Navy’s front-line attack/fighter jet. The audience was impressed as they performed multiple high-speed passes, square loops, touch and go’s, and mid-field carrier-breaks. Not be out done by military jets, Mike Wiscus in his Pitts Special wowed the crowd. With smoke on throughout his entire performance, Mike flew back and forth at a furious pace suggestive of a life sized R/C plane.
Receiving top billing and highlighting the show was the anxiously awaited for F-22 Raptor Demo. Parked just beyond the crowd rope-line, the crowd was treated to a rare opportunity of having the Raptor in plain view. The audience witnessed the F-22 maintainers ready the plane for the demo, watched as demo pilot Major John “Taboo” Cummings put on his flight-suit and climbed into the cockpit. Everyone covered their ears when America’s newest and most capable stealth fighter aggressively roared to life. The polished ground crew was crisp and precise as they marched around the jet, making final preparations for flight. Their professional mannerisms were redolent of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds. As Major Cummings pulled out of his parking spot, he saluted his crew as well as the audience who continued to watch as he cycled the computerized flight controls. Throughout his demonstration, the audience’s collective attention was captivated by the jet’s awesome power as the F-22 performed slow and high-speed passes, tail slides, somersaults and a descend from a high altitude like a falling leave. “Taboo” demonstrated how the Raptor flies and performs like no other jet in the world! Following the Raptor’s performance, the jet was joined in tight formation by the P-51 Mustang “Fragile but Agile” for the now traditional Heritage Flight. Both young and old alike appreciated the historic significance of the P-51 flown by General Tommy Williams. Upon recovery, the F-22 maintainers met the jet in the same professional manner as they had done prior to launch. The nearby crowd broke into raucous cheers of appreciation as the canopy opened and “Taboo” emerged, climbed down the ladder and returned salutes to his ground crew. The entire Raptor Team received much deserved accolades. The show, inter-laced with breaks for commercial aircraft taking-off and landing, provided the public with additional excitement not on the show schedule. Careful not to disrupt the flow of normal airport business, Air Boss Wayne Boggs choreographed the show by weaving the acts in-between the normal schedule of passenger airliners. The two day air show was the largest commercial event ever to take place at the Orange County airport, drawing tens of thousands attendees. Next year’s show is already scheduled for August 20-21. On a sad note- during the Friday practice show, tragedy struck when a structural failure (tail) caused Andrew Wright’s Carbon Fiber Air Shows G202 to crash, killing the pilot. Wright; 53, from Austin, TX, flew as a hobby while working full-time as Chief Technology Officer for a small cyber-security company based in Toronto. The following week in Atlantic City, NJ Wright was expected to try and set a world record for the most number of inverted flat spins.