2014 Event Review

MCAS Miramar Air Show, October 3-5, 2014
Location: MCAS Miramar, San Diego, California
Admission: Free
Parking: Free on-site, with shuttles to the flightline
Value: Excellent
Rating out of 10: 10+
 
Blue Angels
F-18s of the Blue Angels
MAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGG-TAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAFFFFFFF!!!!!.

Anyone who has attended the MCAS Miramar Air Show in the past few years will immediately recognize the “Voice of MAGTF”, Capt. John Reeves, announcing the exciting, fast-paced and explosive action of the Marine Air Ground Task Force in action. The air show staged a triumphant return after last year’s last-minute cancelation, and the MAGTF, always an integral part of the show, took center stage this year: “Celebrating the Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF)” was the theme for this year’s three-day show, which took place October 3-5.

The schedule for each day’s show was roughly the same. The gates opened to the public at 0800, the flying began an hour later and continued pretty much non-stop until 4PM. On Saturday there was a twilight show which started at 5:30PM and concluded with the “Great Wall of Fire” at 8:30PM. That’s more than twelve hours of action and made for a long day! Especially with the sunny skies and triple-digit temperatures. Luckily there were lots of places to sit down: free open seating at each end of the flightline, numerous box seats, six massive sets of bleachers and a variety of public chalets providing shade and catered food and drinks. There were also many food and drink vendors distributed throughout the tarmac, most operated by base squadrons with proceeds going towards their morale and welfare funds.

This year’s event featured two jet demonstration teams, the civilian Patriots and the Navy’s Blue Angels, tactical demonstrations from the AV-8B Harrier II, MV-22 Osprey and the F-35B Lightning II, civilian aerobatic performers, two parachute teams, and, of course, the Marine Air Ground Task Force assault demonstration. Almost a mile of runway apron was filled with aircraft on static display. The ongoing budget sequestration limited the military static displays to local Marine Corps aircraft, but pretty much every aircraft in the inventory was represented, and Squadron’s Row was well populated. The brand-new F-35B, however, attracted the lion’s share of the crowd’s interest. Hopefully the Air Force and Navy, represented this year only by the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-8B Fire Scout UAVs, will return in force next year. A pair of German Air Force Tornados and a US Coast Guard MH-60T Jayhawk rounded out the current armed forces aircraft on static display. The Flying Leathernecks Museum had almost all of their aircraft on display, giving visitors an opportunity to see aircraft representing the Marine Corps’ long aviation history. There were also many private warbirds on display. Additionally, there were well over a hundred exhibits and booths featuring everything from Navy divers in a swim tank to M1 Abrams tanks. And everywhere were Marines, eager to interact with visitors and tell them what they do and why they do it. Indeed, this opportunity to interact with the Marines aboard the air station is one of the highlights of the show for many. The flying schedule was the same each day, with the morning being devoted to civilian acts and the military performing in the afternoon. The Blue Angels concluded the afternoon’s flying each day. The evening show also included a mix of civilian and military demonstrations. The AV-8B Harrier II tactical demo took place just as the sun was setting. Well after dark “Little Buddy” lit up the skies over Miramar with an incredible series of afterburner passes in the F/A-18C. A fireworks display set to the stirring music of John Philip Sousa set the stage for the concluding act: the Great Wall of Fire.

But the highlight of the show was clearly the MAGTF. Two incredible explosions marked the beginning of the demonstration, simulating ground bombardment from offshore naval vessels. The action is explained by the dynamic and over-the-top narration of Capt. John Reeves, accompanied by a hard-driving rock music soundtrack. Soon the skies were filled with a multitude of aircraft, both fixed-wing (jet and prop) and rotary (helicopter and tilt-rotor). Two KC-130J Hercules tankers passed overhead, the first refueling two pairs of AV-8Bs and F/A-18Cs, the next trailing two pairs of CH-53s and MV-22s. The Hornets and Harriers then made several high-speed strafing and bombing passes, accompanied by loud and showy pyrotechnics. Two UH-1Y Hueys soon appeared with Marines fast-roping to the ground to the strains of “It's raining men! Hallelujah, it's raining men” by the Weather Girls. All the while Super Cobras were darting about providing cover. The advance team then clipped on to a rope dangling from a Huey and the eight Marines were extracted and flown through the sky. Three Ospreys made a high-speed pass, transitioned to hovering flight, then descended to deliver their loads of infantry. Then it was time for the aptly named “Heavy Haulers” to bring in the mechanized equipment. Three CH-53E Super Stallions, one with a Humvee dangling below it, delivered their loads. The Marines on the ground slowly advanced towards the crowd line, all the while providing each other cover. From show right soon appeared an armored column led by two M1A1 Abrams tanks and followed by several LAV-25s, Humvees and an MTVR 7-ton truck towing a howitzer. Two final passes by the Hornets and Harriers, each accompanied by a wall of fire, ended the assault demo. Now it was time for the pass in review, where all of the ground assets paraded within arm’s reach along the crowd line, and the aircraft flew slowly overhead. The Marines were heartily cheered by the crowds and they, in turn, exchanged high-fives and handshakes with the spectators. It is truly one of the highlights of the show and a demonstration seen very rarely elsewhere.

A bittersweet moment for many in the crowd was the final flight of the CH-46E, also known as the “Phrog.” “The Marine Corps is about to be out of the Phrog business and that seems sad; however, it is also an exciting time as we complete the transition to the more capable MV-22 and prepare to write the next chapter in the great legacy of Marine aviation,” said Lt. Col. John Field, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (HMM) 364 commanding officer. “The machine changes, but the Marines are still going to do the same mission, whether it’s 46s in Vietnam or Ospreys in places to be named later, carrying that culture and that legacy into the new airframe.” The Sea Knight entered service with the Marines fifty years ago in Vietnam and has served in every major engagement since. A flight of four CH-46Es, the lead ship painted in the markings it carried in Vietnam, concluded the MAGTF. “It is a good way for the squadron to retire the aircraft by flying one more pass for the American public to see,” said Capt. Brett Bishop, a Phrog pilot with HMM-364.

This year also marked a first for MCAS Miramar: the Marine’s newest fighter aircraft, the F-35B Lightning II, made its inaugural appearance at the airshow. The tactical demonstration was performed by Lt. Col. Steve Gillette, commander of VMFA-121 “Green Knights,” the first operational F-35B squadron. Flying in from MCAS Yuma, he slowed the Lightning II, opened a multitude of doors, swiveled its vector-thrust exhaust and hovered over the runway. After a number of maneuvers and flybys, Lt.Col. Gillette landed the aircraft. He later took off using afterburner and returned to MCAS Yuma.

This year also marked a first for MCAS Miramar: the Marine’s newest fighter aircraft, the F-35B Lightning II, made its inaugural appearance at the airshow. The tactical demonstration was performed by Lt. Col. Steve Gillette, commander of VMFA-121 “Green Knights,” the first operational F-35B squadron. Flying in from MCAS Yuma, he slowed the Lightning II, opened a multitude of doors, swiveled its vector-thrust exhaust and hovered over the runway. After a number of maneuvers and flybys, Lt.Col. Gillette landed the aircraft. He later took off using afterburner and returned to MCAS Yuma.

Fat Albert at the Boneyard
Fat Albert under repairs

It is estimated that a half million visitors came aboard the air station to attend the show. But for those unable to attend, the media coverage of this airshow is phenomenal, with Marines providing real-time video streams, uploads to DVIDS and posts to Twitter and Facebook. We would like to sincerely thank Capt. Melanie Salinas, Director, Public Affairs, and all the members of her team for a fantastic and memorable experience covering the Air Show. Finally, we would like to thank all the Marines, volunteers and performers at MCAS Miramar for making this Air Show such a success.

 
 
 
 
Air show performers:
US Navy Blue Angels
F-35B Lightning II, VMFA-121 “Green Knights”, MCAS Yuma, Tactical Demo
MV-22 Osprey, VMM-166 “Sea Elk”, MCAS Miramar, Tactical Demo
AV-8B Harrier, VMA-214 “Blacksheep”, MCAS Yuma, Tactical Demo
US Navy Leap Frogs Parachute Team
The Patriots Jet Team
Sean D. Tucker, Oracle Challenger III
Brett Willat, Sailplane
John Collver, AT-6 “War Dog”
Steve Stavrakakis, Romanian IAR
T-39 Sabreliner, Bob Hoover Tribute Flight
T-39 Sabreliner, Bob Hoover Tribute Flight
Chuck 'Malibu' Aaron, Red Bull Helicopter
Roger Buis, Otto the Helicopter
US ARMY Golden Knights Parachute Teams
Bill Braack, Smoke-and-Thunder Jet Car
MAGTF Assault Demonstration
F/A-18C Hornet (x3) VMFA-232 “Red Devils”
AV-8B Harrier II (x2) VMA-214 “Blacksheep"
KC-130J Hercules (x2) VMGR-352 “Raiders”
MV-22 Osprey (x3) VMM-166 “Sea Elk”
CH-53E Super Stallion (x3) HMH-465 “Warhorse” & HMH-462 “Heavy Haulers”
AH-1W Super Cobra (x2) HMLAT-303 “Atlas” & HMLA-369 “Gunfighters”
UH-1Y Super Huey (x2) HMLA-469 “Vengeance”
M1A1 Abrams Tanks, LAV-25s, Humvees, towed artillery
Static displays included:
Panavia Tornado (x2) Luftwaffe, Holloman AFB
F/A-18 Hornets
AV-8B Harriers
MV-22 Ospreys
AH-1Z Super Cobras / Vipers
UH-1Y Hueys / Venoms
CH-46 Sea Knights
CH-53E Super Stallions
KC-130J Super Hercules
F-35B Lightning I
UC-12W Huron
USCG MH-60T Jayhawk
NASA T-34 Mentor, Armstrong Flight Research Center
USAF MQ-1 Predator UAV
US Navy MQ-8B Fire Scout VTUAV
Multiple Warbirds
Almost the complete aircraft collection of the Flying Leathernecks Museum
Ground Vehicles of all types, including Humvees, LAVs, MRAPs, combat construction equipment, M1A1 Abrams tanks, UAV launchers
And on, and on, …
Report and photography by Norman A. Graf for The Aviation Magazine

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Wall of fire
 
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