The New Orleans Airshow 2022
Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans hosted their first airshow in 5 years on March 19th and 20th, 2022. I have had this show on my list for a few years and finally made the trip down to The Big Easy.
There are two reasons this show has been on my list. First is the resident Louisiana Air National Guard, 122nd Fighter Squadron’s, “Bayou Militia” flying their F-15Cs, my favorite aircraft of all time. The second is the resident Naval Reserve VFA-204, “The River Rattlers”, in smartly painted F/A-18Cs. Everything beyond this was icing on the cake, but the icing featured a lot of jet noise. The Blue Angels were the headliners in addition to the F-16 Viper Demo Team, the F-35A Demo Team, the F-35C Legacy Flight Team, and the Shock Wave jet truck.
NAS JRB New Orleans is truly a joint use base. In addition to the Air National Guard and Naval Reserves, a Marine Helicopter Attack Squadron Detachment, the “Red Dogs”, is based here, as well as a Coast Guard Rescue Station. All of these based tenants performed at the airshow. The ramp is large, typical of most military bases and the runway is use was 04/22. The sun rose behind and to the right of you, reaching your front left in the late afternoon so there was plenty of time with the sun at your back.
Civilian performers included two solo flights from Scott Yoak in his P-51, “Quick Silver”, an FG-1 Corsair flew in the Navy Legacy Flight, Redline in a Vans RV-8 with Adam Baker in an Extra 330. Jessy Panzer performed in a Pitts S2, Kevin Coleman flew an Extra 300SHP and the Shockwave Jet Truck did a few runs. Kevin Coleman also flew a routine in a Beech Bonanza.
I arrived in town on Friday morning and drove straight to the base from the airport which is west of New Orleans. The base is south of New Orleans and travel time was about 40 minutes. I met my Public Affairs contact, Andrew, and then breezed through the gate to my parking area. Although storms were forecasted for the area, only a small shower resulted, and practice day commenced around noon with some high winds. I attended all three days.
Practice day was great. As mentioned, the winds were strong, and I could feel it gusting on my zoom lens. Nevertheless, the sun came out and it was constant jet noise as all of the fast jets practiced their routines in consecutive fashion.
Saturday was a nice and sunny day but cool. I did not take my sweatshirt off until 1pm but the winds had diminished so the Special Operations Command, “Black Daggers” performed the flag jump from a Marine Corps UH-1Y Venom helicopter. Redline Airshows circled the flag bearer and then split into individual performances immediately after the National Anthem.
Scott Yoak performed with his P-51 in the first of two acts with a little wrinkle this season. He remained on air with airshow announcer, Rob Reider, and discussed the details and history of the Mustang while he was flying it.
Kevin Coleman flew aerobatics in an off the shelf Beech Bonanza as a pair of F-15s taxied by. They soon took off with a few passes and then out over the Gulf of Mexico for a sortie.
Adam Baker performed a solo routine in his eye catching red and black Extra.
The Coast Guard demonstrated a Search and Rescue operation with their MH-65C Dauphin helicopter and a para rescueman.
VFA 204 launched five Legacy Hornets each day in a paint scheme I have not seen before. The lead aircraft had a Louisiana/Mardi Gras tapestry painted on the speed brake. They took off in sections and circled back for a nice air combat display of 1V1 and 1V2 engagements then some ground attack. The single jet demonstrated the turning radius, dirty pass and photo pass. Each aircraft did a touch and go and the four of them made a pass in diamond formation that was superior to the Blue Angels on the Saturday edition because of aircraft break downs. Much credit to the maintenance crews that put the same five Legacy Hornets up all three days. The “River Rattlers” will be retiring their Hornets for F-5s later this year.
The F-15s returned from a sortie over the Gulf of Mexico and flew some pattern work before landing. On Sunday, a Lt. Colonel was taking his fini flight. He confirmed that he broke the sound barrier over the water.
The F-16 Viper Demo Team, led by first season Captain, Aimee “Rebel” Fiedler, put the spectacularly painted, “Venom” through its paces. Prior to the completion of the demonstration, the F-35A launched to position for the Heritage Flight. “Rebel” joined Major Kristin “Beo” Wolfe to form the all-woman flight of two front line fighters. “Beo” then proceeded with her demonstration. The F-35A was a late add on after the cancellation of the Luke Air Force Base show.
The Marine Corps Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 773, Detachment A, flies UH-1Y Venom and AH-1Z Viper helicopters. The “Red Dogs” demonstrated an insertion of Marines with fire support using one “Yankee” and two “Zulus”.
Scooter flew his second demonstration in “Quick Silver” and then Kevin Coleman flew his Extra 300SHP in Red Bull colors. “Shock Wave” challenged him to a race down the runway.
The Corsair took off for the Navy Legacy Flight. Then, both F-35Cs launch and one goes into a hold. The main aircraft performs a not full capability demonstration but does make high speed passes, a touch and go, weapons bay pass and a minimum radius turn. It then joins up with the other F-35C and Corsair for a three ship Legacy Flight. The F-35C was also a late addition to the schedule but not because of a show cancellation.
“Fat Albert”, the Blue Angels Support C-130, performed Saturday but not Sunday as they were partially loaded to return home. The Blue Angels only performed with 5 aircraft on Saturday because Number 1 and 4 were broken. Blue Angel 7 was put into service and the slot pilot sat out.
On static display, there was a B-52 from Minot Air Force Base at airshow left. Behind that was a public entrance but it was easy to miss the F-15 parked behind it. At airshow right, a C-130T from VR 54, also based here, shared space with a VFA 204 Hornet in arctic digital camouflage and a P-8 Poseidon from NAS Jacksonville. Back by the hangars, the Marine Corps had their helicopters and a Beech King Air parked. Near the center, A T-38 from Columbus AFB arrived Friday night and looked awesome in the morning sun.
An F/A-18E Cockpit section in Pete, “Maverick” Mitchell’s colors was available for dress up photos. There was also a Navy Mardi Gras Float. Outside of the airfield, there was an A-7 Corsair II and an A-4 Skyhawk worth pulling over for before departing the base and, of course, there is the famous gate signage with a Blue Angel along the main road.
On Sunday, Blue Angels Maintainers were putting the planes back on the line on another sunny day. The show schedule was almost identical with some time slot changes. The F-35C/Heritage Flight flew earlier, then Redline, the Marines, Viper Demo and F-35A Demo before the Blue Angels.
Although I did not take a lot of time to experience New Orleans, I was so glad to make this early season airshow trip and have great weather to photograph so many great performances. This was a great show! I wish to thank Public Affairs Officer, Andrew Thomas who was not only helpful upon my arrival Friday but was available via text throughout the weekend with questions.