Air Show Report : MCAS Miramar Air Show 2014
MCAS Miramar Air Show 2014
Report and photos by Danny Hale
October 3rd through the 5th, 2014 witnessed the return of air show action to the skies above Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. Despite last year’s last-minute cancellation of its 2013 show, the Miramar air show rocks San Diego County once again. Named by publisher Edward Scripps and loosely translated from Spanish as “A view of the sea”, Miramar became a Marine Corps Base after 1998 when Marine interests would be reconstituted by the Base Realignment and Closure program. The Marines would transplant a long tradition of air shows citing the closure of MCAS El Toro in 1997. This year’s show included performances by such civilian and military headlining acts such as Sean D. Tucker, Red Bull’s Chuck Aaron, Roger Buis, the Patriots Jet Team as well as the Marine Air-Ground Task Force, the F-35B Lightning II and the crowd pleasing Blue Angels. With lighting conditions becoming harsher with each passing day and temperatures hovering around 95 degrees (35°C), the crowd grew larger. Swelling to an estimated 700,000 in attendance over the three days, the Miramar air show 2014 was primed to create a lasting impression.
Beginning bright and early at 8am the Miramar RC Flyers took to the skies with a remote controlled introduction to the multitude of aircraft to be viewed later in the air show schedule. Sean Tucker, a Miramar air show veteran, launched with another of his high-energy aerobatic routines in his Pitts Special Oracle Challenger III. Sporting a 400+hp Lycoming AEIO-540-D3B5 engine with composite Hartzell three-blade propeller this biplane can really move. Weighing only 1,129lbs (512 kg), the Oracle Challenger III includes a Wolf Aircraft LLC custom 8 aileron wing enabling Tucker to propel himself into mind bending maneuvers that he has named “the alley oop”, “the centrifuge”, “the double hammerhead”, etc. Always a favorite of mine, Sean Tucker provided the same heart stopping energy he is known for from his first performance to his last.
Other morning performances consisted of the well-known John Collver and his AT-6 “War Dog”, Steve Stavrakakis flying his Romanian IAR-823 as a tribute to veterans and Bret Willat with “Sailplane Magic”, a well-choreographed glider aerobatic routine with audio accompaniment. Otto the Helicopter would then take the stage. Roger Buis, flying a Schweizer 300C outfitted with eyes, a nose and a mouth entertained the early morning crowd with a comical program displaying skillful maneuvering such as flying backward at over 90 mph (144 km/h). Followed by a tribute to legendary aviator Bob Hoover with a T-39 Sabreliner owned and operated by Randy Fry, known for Fry’s Electronics, the west coast consumer electronics retail chain. Rounding out the morning’s performances would be the Red Bull’s Chuck “Malibu” Aaron in his aerobatic MBB BO-105 and the Red Bull freestyle motocross demo.
Opening ceremonies kicked off by the singing of the US National anthem, a performance by the Third Marine Aircraft Wing Band and Miramar’s commanding officer’s remarks. The Golden Knights and Navy Leap Frog Parachute Teams would wrap up opening ceremonies by jumping with the American flag and a free-fall maneuver regiment.
Military aviation for the Miramar air show 2014 begun with the launch of the Marine Air Ground Task Force. The MAGTF consists of three different, yet vital, components. The Ground Combat Element (GCE), the Aviation Combat Element (ACE), and the Logistics Combat Element (LCE) would all be represented throughout the program. Typifying the GCE, UH-1Y Venoms and V-22 Ospreys would deliver a multitude of ground assault troops. By either exiting from an Osprey or fast roping from the Yankee Hueys, the GCE demonstrated its ability to quickly infiltrate a battle space. The ACE meanwhile buzzed the flight line in mock reconnaissance passes, followed by target softening bomb runs by F/A-18C Hornets from VMFA-232 the “Red Devils” and AV-8B+ Harrier II’s from VMA-214 “The Black Sheep”. Close air support would be provided by AH-1 Whiskey Cobras from MWSS-373, which has seen action in both Iraq and Afghanistan. The logistical element was embodied by refueling formation flights by a KC-130 with various fixed and rotor wing aircraft, then delivery of a Humvee slung under an MH-53 Super Stallion. The entire exercise would culminate in numerous marines taking the runway, sweeping from one end to the other joined by light armor attack vehicles and M1 Abrams tanks, all while being punctuated by the over-the-top Marine colloquialisms thanks to the announcer Capt. John Reeves.
This year’s MAGTF demonstration would also mark the final flight of the Marines aging CH-46 “Phrog”. Phased out by Boeing’s V-22 Osprey, the Boeing Vertol CH-46 first flew in August 1962 then later fielded by the US Marines in 1966. Serving for over fifty years, the Phrog acquired such mantras as, “Phrogs forever” and “never trust a helicopter under thirty”.
Christened, Lightning II, Lockheed’s F-35 made its large stage debut before a huge and anticipating crowd. Designed to replace the US military’s F-16, A-10, F/A 18 and AV-8B warplanes by a three variant approach, the F-35 first flew in December 2006 and still finds itself in the midst of development. The Lightning II “B” variant on display made its appearance courtesy of VMFA-121, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. As a completely fly-by-wire system with over 6 million lines of code, the F-35B performance allowed for vertical take-off, hovering and vertical landing as well as extremely slow speed flying characteristics in its “medium performance software” configuration. Lockheed has produced 150 planes as of May 2014. Mired in controversy because of spiraling cost overruns due to developmental delays and order expectancy, the F-35 program carries on battling its way into military inventories worldwide.
In their 33rd appearance of the 2014 calendar year, the Blue Angels returned to Miramar for three days of intense, high energy flying displays. As my 5th, 6th and 7th Blues performances this year, the Blues were plagued by problems with different aircraft making for uncharacteristic lulls in the flawless performances that I had become accustomed to. Sunday’s performance was so badly faulted that the Blue Angels diamond formation flew with only three planes as opposed to four. This unfortunate development would have fashioned less disappointment if not for the previous days show commencing without the Blue Angel #5 opposing solo aircraft. As many air show photographers would agree, the holy grail of photographing a Blue Angels’ performance are the opposing solo passes. Despite problems, seeing the Blues fly is always a treat. With all the pomp and circumstance of every performance previous, the Blue Angels were given lemons and made lemonade.
In conclusion, Miramar 2014 was the place to be. At my hotel after each show, newscasts for San Diego County would be saturated by ongoing coverage of air show festivities and weather reports prompting show-goers to wear sun screen and to stay hydrated. In spite of soaring temperatures, massive crowds and harsh lighting conditions, Miramar has returned to the air show calendar in a big way. Slated to be awarded “The World’s Best Military Air Show” by the International Council of Air Shows, Miramar 2014 offered an abundance of displays, both static and flying, that should have captured the attention of any military aviation enthusiast.
Report and photos by Danny Hale ( view portfolio )
Last Modified: 19 December 2014
19 Dec 2014 Revised layout
22 Nov 2014 Added more photos