New York International Air Show 2021


Flying off their successful 2020 drive-in air show, the New York International Air Show returned to Orange County Airport, NY for 2021.

Surrounded by a bucolic scene of green rolling hills and the Walkill river, the 2021 show resembled a more traditional air show with a country fair atmosphere. No drive-in boxes like last year but rather; the crowd parked, then walked in to set-up their chairs or spread their blankets on the grass before walking around to visit the vendors.


With Air Boss George Cline orchestrating the flying and Larry Strain calling the action, the show opened at noon with an invocation followed by the playing of the American National Anthem. From 2,500 feet above; six jumpers from the West Point Parachute Team exited their “EPIC” UH-72A Lakota, bringing the colors to show center.


The parachute team is an elective activity-club that the cadets can join as underclass students. During their time on the team, the members will travel to Fort Bragg, GA to train with the US Army Golden Knights as well as the US Air Force Academy Wings of Blue in Colorado. By the time they are seniors, the cadets will have accumulated more than 500 jumps.


Circling the jump team was Iowa native and Lucas Oil airshow pilot Mike Wiskus in his S-1-11B Pitts. Mike has owned the Super Stinker Pitts since 2000 after purchasing it on Ebay as a wreck. With the help of Tom Kerns, Mike has rebuilt and extremely modified the S-1-11B from it’s original design. Following the flag jump, Mike raced two NY State Motorcycle Troopers down the runway before executing an inverted ribbon cutting. Civilian show acts continued with B-25 Bomber “Panchito” from Georgetown, DE, Kent Pietsch performing his seriously funny “Chuck Dramamine” act in his “Jelly Belly” Piper Cub and Scott “Scooter” Yoak “Quick Sliver” P-51D Mustang.


But what the audience was really looking forward to were the high-speed performers! That expectancy rose to anxious anticipation with a two-hour weather delay on Sunday. With low dark clouds and fog covering the airfield, the ceilings finally lifted to a 1,500 foot minimum. And then it was time to “make some jet noise and the need for speed!”


First to fly was the F/A-18F Super Hornet Rhino Demo, piloted by Lt. Amanda“Stalin” Lee. All East Coast F/A-18 Demo Pilots are VFA-106 instructors at NAS Oceana, VA. To get to the instructor pilot level, prospects go through a vigorous and competitive selection process. Only those with the highest rating will then be considered as an applicant for demo pilot, where the competition among candidates is even more intense. Once selected, demo pilots must still maintain their obligations as instructors as well as their new responsibilities of regularly practicing their demo routine along with a busy air show travel schedule.


“Stalin” has been flying F/A-18s since 2016, first with VFA-81 and then as an instructor pilot with the VFA-106 “Gladiators” since 2020. Amanda was selected as demo pilot in 2021. She is the second only female VFA-106 instructor pilot and the first female East Coast F/A-18 Demo Pilot. She will remain as demo pilot until early 2023.


Amanda made multiple afterburner flat, knife-edge and inverted passes along with minimum radius turns. With lots of humidity in the air, Lt. Lee executed a 650 knot high-speed pass that cast voluminous clouds of vapor and set off car alarms in the parking lot! Following the Rhino’s high-alpha and simulated carrier-break landing, Jim Tobul in his F4U Corsair joined the Super Hornet for the Navy Legacy Flight.


The next high-performance jet to demonstrate was the F-22 Raptor. With dark clouds still abound, Joshua “Cabo” Gunderson thrilled the crowd by lighting the sky with his afterburner while demonstrating the stealth fighter’s awesome capabilities. Reading aloud the names of the thirteen military service members recently killed in the evacuation of Afghanistan, announcer Larry Strain asked the crowd for a moment-of-silence. The still-quiet from the respectful crowd concluded with the F-22 Dedication Pass.


The show concluded with the USAF Thunderbirds Air Demonstration Squadron, debuting their newly redesigned show for 2021. The most noticeable changes to their performance was the reordering and implementation of complex maneuvers. Two new maneuvers for this year include the Low Bomb Burst with Hit, which is flown at every show, and the Stinger Cross Break, which is only performed during flat shows.


Flying just eighteen inches apart; the team’s red, white and blue F-16C’s flew a flat show with precise lines that were low and close to the crowd. As their flying concluded to the playing of “New York, New York,” the jets passed low overhead. One could feel the roar from the jet engines and the heat coming off the afterburners. The “new” USAF Thunderbirds are truly exciting!


While show officials won’t release attendance numbers, the Saturday show was sold out and nearly so for Sunday. The date, show site and performers line-up have yet to be determined for 2022. Monitor their web site for any updates.

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