Miramar Air Show 2012

Every year for 3 days in October, an estimated crowd of over 700,000 make the journey to MCAS Miramar near San Diego, CA. It was no different this year, and the 2012 Miramar Air Show continued to bring smiles and a lot of noise to the San Diego community. This year marked the 57th year of the air show, the 100th year of Marine Corps Aviation, and 50 years in space exploration.

 Miramar started its long military history in 1917, during World War I; the U.S. Army purchased the 2,130-acre Miramar Ranch for an infantry training center. It named the facility Camp Kearny in honor of Brigadier General S. W. Kearny, who was Commander of the Army of the West during the Mexican War and a former military governor of California. Army aircraft occasionally landed on the camp’s parade ground, but an official airfield was not established.

World War II began in Europe, and the U.S. military began a precautionary buildup. In December, 1940, the Navy began to improve and expand the airfield. On December 21, the First Marine Air Wing arrived and set up a tent city, remaining until August, 1942, when it moved to Guadalcanal. Meanwhile, the Navy began the construction of an air station at the camp and commissioned NAAS Camp Kearny on February 20, 1943, as an auxiliary of San Diego. The station was also known as Kearny Mesa. The primary Navy mission at Camp Kearny was training in Consolidated PB4Y Liberators, supervised by the Transition Liberator Unit. The asphalt runways began to deteriorate under the PB4Y’s weight, and two concrete runways were added in 1943. Camp Kearny now had one 3,000 x 500-ft. asphalt runway, used mainly for aircraft parking, and two 6,000 x 200-ft. concrete runways. In mid-1944, station personnel numbered 611 officers and 4076 enlisted men. After VJ-Day, the Navy used the station as a separation center, returning 25,000 men to civilian life.

On May 1, 1946, the Navy departed Camp Kearny, and the station became MCAS Miramar. A year later, the Marines closed the base and moved all units to El Toro.

On June 30, 1947, the Navy commissioned NAAS Miramar. In July 1949, the Navy began a project to improve the runways and establish a Master Jet Base. The station upgraded to an NAS on April 1, 1952. Following the Korean War, the Navy embarked on a cutback and offered the Miramar airfield to the City of San Diego for $1. The city turned down the offer.

The Navy decided to keep Miramar open and built the station into one of the Navy’s biggest bases. In 1961, Miramar was designated for fighter squadrons only and became known as “Fightertown USA.” During the Vietnam War, Miramar trained fighter jet crews in air combat maneuvering and fleet air defense through the creation of Top Gun, a graduated-level training school. Camp Elliot and other government properties were eventually added to Miramar, and the station grew to almost 24,000 acres.

The 1993 Base Realignment and Closure Commission caused major changes. The first Marine squadrons, support units, and their F/A-18 Hornets began making the move from MCAS El Toro in August 1994. The Navy F-14 Tomcat and E-2 Hawkeye squadrons moved to Oceana, Virginia, and Top Gun was transferred to Fallon, Nevada, in 1996. On October 1, 1997. Miramar once again became a Marine Corps Air Station. The Marine Air Museum also moved to Miramar. On July 2, 1999, the closing ceremony for MCAS El Toro and MCAF Tustin marked an end to a 52-year Marine presence in Orange County.

With the move complete, all of Miramar’s fixed-wing F/A-18 and KC-130 Hercules squadrons, as well as its CH-46E Sea Knight and CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters, are in place. Additionally, the support commands Marine Wing Support Group 37 and Marine Air Control Group 38 have been established. The station averages 250 aircraft aboard on any given day, with up to 200,000 flight operations per year. With near completion of approximately $400 million in construction, MCAS Miramar has become the home of the Marine Corps’ West Coast air power.

The show started early on Friday morning, when two German Air Force Tornados landed surprising many of the photographers, and there were huge billowy clouds in the sky, due to rain,  the previous evening, giving a dramatic effect for the day. The actual show began with several civilian acts including Sean Tucker with his “Oracle Challenger”, John Colliver with “War Dog”, The LUCAS OIL AIR SHOW team including Pilot Michael Wiskus, the Red Bull Helo piloted by Charles “Chuck” P. Aaron, and the Red Bull’s Sky diving team, The Patriots Jet Team, flying this year with a 6 plane formation, and may more civilian acts.

We were honored by the Opening Ceremony on Saturday by having Major General (Ret), former Marine Astronaut, and now Administrator of NASA, Charles F. Bolden Jr. who gave a short speech, about the Marine Corps history into Space.

This air show is billed as the largest Military Air Show in the U.S.A., and it’s show on Friday was a little Friday lite for the first time in this author’s memory, when it came to the MARINE AIR-GROUND TASK FORCE (MAGTF) DEMO, with fewer planes, armored vehicles, and troops, but on Saturday, the complete show returned with maximum firepower, explosions, and noise.

Then we had the Demonstration pilots of the US Navy’s F/A-18 Hornet, providing wonderful photographic opportunities, as he broke the water vapor barrier around his plane, as he did his high speed passes by the grandstands/ The USMC’s AV-8B Harrier showed it’s hovering skills, and then there was the U.S. Air Forces’ F-22 Raptor. This plane will make you drop your jaw and just stare as it pulled off several acrobatic maneuvers, that most modern day fighters planes can not pull off.

Then it’s time for the Main Act, the United States Navy’s Blue Angels! While they have done the same performance for so many years, it never gets old. Such perfection, and such grace, this group of pilots and all of their predecessors has always put me into a state of awe, and brings out the patriotism in all of us. To see the children’s faces in the crowd while watching the Angels fly, I can only just imagine, that there will be a future Blue Angel in one of them.

Douglas Aguillard

Douglas (Doug) Aguillard is a Freelance Photojournalist who specializes in the Military & Aviation fields. Based in San Diego, CA, he is a Marine veteran., He currently is a photojournalist for the Military Press Newspaper, the Historical / Archival Dept. photographer for the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum at MCAS Miramar, and a very proud member of Photo Recon, and has been published in various magazines and books such as "Combat Aircraft Monthly" magazine, "Vertical " magazine, "Wings of Gold" magazine, Sikorsky Frontlines newsletter, and the San Diego Air & Space Museum's Book: "Celebrating the San Diego Air & Space Museum: A History of the Museum and it's collections".

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