Looking Back at the NAS Oceana Air Show of 2006 – The Tomcat’s Sundown


The 2006 NAS Oceana Air Show was one of the major highlights (or lowlights, depending how you feel) for U. S. Naval aviation in the new Millennium. The show featured the beginning of the Sunset events for the Grumman F-14 Tomcat in American service.

The final operational F-14s were flying with VF-32, an Ocean-based Fighter Squadron, and a quartet of the swing-wing fighters flew each day of the air shows.

Hundreds of aviation photographers from around the world traveled to Virginia Beach, Virginia to witness the final public flights of the handful of remaining Tomcats, which would be fully retired just days after the air show.

The Fleet Flyby was and still is a highly anticipated formation flight with several different types of Naval aircraft joined up… in 2006 a dozen jets – 4 Tomcats, 4 F/A-18 (Legacy) Hornets, and 4 F-18E/F Super Hornets were all together at once… with a trailing “surprise” Hornet surprising everyone with a blistering fast pass soon after the big formation reached the far right of the air show spectator area.

There were more interesting events with historical significance too. Fat Albert – the Marine Corps KC-130T used by the Blue Angels, made a JATO takeoff during the shows… the JATO feature would be phased out three years later, so these departures were some of the final ones NAS Oceana would ever see.

The U.S. Navy Test Pilot School displayed one of the few remaining piston-engined aircraft active with the U.S. Navy too. A U-6 Beaver, utilized at the Test Pilots School, was on static display too.

An exciting group of warbirds made appearances, with a Starfighters F-104 jet ripping up the Navy base. A Navy Legacy flight with a FG-1 Corsair, AD-4 Skyraider and VFA-106 F/A-18C Hornet also graced the Virginia Beach skies.

An Air Force F-117 flew, making multiple photo passes to show off its angular shape. The Air Force F-15 Eagle Demo Team also flew during the show, the Eagle was based at Langley AFB, “just down the road” from NAS Oceana.

This was truly a great aviation event for the public, with a large gathering of static-displayed military and civilian aircraft, in addition to a great flying display. While the Navy’s Grumman F-14 Tomcat had built quite a legacy while in service, the Sunset show was a worthy presentation to showcase the Tomcat’s final flying show surrounded with other memorable scenes.

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 35 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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