Air Show Report : Thunder over South Georgia 2019 - Moody AFB
Thunder over South Georgia 2019 - Moody AFB
George Karavantos visited Moody Air Force Base during the Open House and Air Show on November 3-4, 2019.
Moody AFB Open House
Last November, the big "Thunder over South Georgia" airshow took place at Moody Air Force Base, located in southern Georgia, northeast of the city of Valdosta. The base is well known to the Warthog’s fans since it hosts three A-10 Thunderbolt II fighter squadrons (74th, 75th and 76th). One of these squadrons will be hosting Hawgsmoke 2020, a biennial bombing and gunnery competition between all the A-10 units.
Moody AFB is the home of the 23rd Wing and the non-flying 93rd Air-Ground Operations Wing. The 23rd Fighter Group directs the flying operations for the USAF's largest A-10 fighter group, consisting of two combat-ready A-10C squadrons (74th and 75th) and 23rd operation support squadron. The 76th FS is assigned to the Air Reserve Component’s 476th Fighter Group that is linked to the 23d Fighter Group.
The interesting fact about this base is that it does not only house A-10s. The 347th Rescue Group is also based at Moody AFB and consists of the 41st Rescue Squadron equipped with HH-60G Pave Hawks and the 71st Rescue Squadron equipped with HC-130J Combat King IIs. The three different aircraft types are combined into a combat search and rescue force specialized in locating and recovering downed pilots from a hot zone of the battlefield integrating the A-10’s close air support prowess.
The "Thunder over South Georgia" airshow took place during the weekend of November 3-4, 2019. The opening of the show was the parachuting team of USAF, the Wings of Blue from the 98th Flying Training Squadron, followed by a fly-by of an A-29 Super Tucano, which belongs to 81st Fighter Squadron that is also stationed at Moody AFB. The 81st FS provides close air support training to the Afghan Air Force.
Military Flying Demonstrations
The airshow was headlined by two of the USAF Air Combat Command’s solo-ship demo teams, the F-22 Raptor Demo Team and the A-10C Demo Team, along with the U.S. Navy Blue Angels. The highlight of the show however was definitely the display by the Moody AFB aircraft in a unique and dynamic demonstration, which combined air and ground demos representing all squadrons of the base.
This demo showed a simulated rescue of a downed airman, featuring two HH-60G rescue helicopters responsible for the extraction and two A-10C aircraft providing close air support. The two Warthogs performed simulated ground attacks that were combined with timed explosions, while at the same time, two F-15Es were providing aerial cover from above. Near the scene, a HC-130J was orbiting at higher altitude in order to provide air refueling to the two helicopters for their return to their base.
This demo highlighted the Air Force’s close air support and combat search and rescue missions and capabilities enabling air superiority to be maintained.
Talking about air superiority, the star of the show was undoubtedly the F-22 Raptor. Although not unique to this event, the Raptor Demo is always breath-taking. The F-22 is a unique fighter and Demo Pilot Major Paul “Loco” Lopez put his highly maneuverable aircraft through its paces for once more at the end of another successful airshow season.
Next, it was the time for the Warthog to shine! Despite lacking in high performance and afterburner noise, the A-10 executed a unique display with lots of tight turns, combined with pyrotechnics and a lot of rock music! We are huge fans of the Warthog and since its return to the airshow theatre in 2018 always trying to find opportunities to meet it like many others. The team had recently painted its demo aircraft in a distinctive heritage paint scheme, and it was great to be able to see and admire it at this airshow. The aircraft was painted green on its top side after a P-51 Mustang to pay tribute to Lt. Henry William Brown, a 355th Fighter Group pilot during WWII and the fighter group’s highest scoring Ace.
After their displays, the F-22 and A-10 joined in formation with a P-51 Mustang for the U.S. Air Force Heritage Flight formation, making several passes along the crowd line.
Air Show Fun
A notable highlight of the show was Kyle Franklin’s Flying Circus with his Demon-1 biplane, known as “Dracula”. The Demon-1 is a custom-designed aerobatic aircraft that first appeared at AirVenture 2018.
Other performers in the flying program were the Pitts Pegasus Model 12 flown by Jeremy Holt and the colorful "Playful" Extra 330 flown by Adam Baker. A very enjoyable additional display took place on the ground, it was the Hayden Proffitt's “Hot Streak II” jet truck; a 1957 Chevy Pickup equipped with two Westinghouse J34-48 jet engines. This engine was originally powering the North American T-2A Buckeye. The maximum thrust per engine is 12,500 pounds of thrust with afterburner, which is being translated to 25,000 of Horsepower! The jet truck is thereby able to reach speeds of over 350 mph making it the world's fastest pickup. On the day of our visit Hayden's Chevy raced against a DH115 Vampire flown by Jerry Conley and it won! Jerry currently owns three de Havilland Vampire classic jets, including a DH100 single seater that will be new for the 2020 display season.
A very distinctive presence on the ground was the appearance of one of the rarest World War II bombers that are still flying; the B-29 Superfortress “Fifi”. That the B-29 survivors list now displays not just “Fifi” but also “Doc” as airworthy examples is the proof of the love and dedication of a large group of people who really appreciate the history of aviation!
Unfortunately, absent from the static displays was the eagerly awaited XP-82 Twin Mustang, one of just five Twin Mustangs left and the only flying example in the world following its official return to the air on January 28 this year after a decade long restoration. The aircraft had to cancel its participation two weeks prior to the show.
The 2019 Thunder over South Georgia airshow was concluded by the U.S. Navy Air Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels. As the oldest American jet display team and one of the oldest in the world, the Blue Angels live up to their reputation every time with their unique and precise display.
There was a great variety of star attractions and plenty for the photographer and aviation enthusiast to be happy about. The range of aircraft from warbirds to fifth generation fighters along with the incredible spectacle from all the squadrons of Moody AFB gave us a unique experience that we are going to remember for a long time.
The next “Thunder over South Georgia” has not been announced yet as far as we know, let’s hope for a return in 2021 or 2022.
Report and photos by George Karavantos ( view portfolio )
Last Modified: 29 December 2019