2017 Event Review

Los Angeles County Air Show 2017 - March 25-26, 2017
Location: General William J Fox Airfield, Lancaster, CA
Admission: Adult: $25, Youth: $20, 5 and under Free
Parking: $10
Value: Excellent
Rating out of 10: 9.5
 
USAF Thunderbirds

USAF Thunderbirds

On March 25th and 26th, General William J Fox Airfield in Lancaster, CA hosted the 4th Annual Los Angeles County Air Show headlined by the United States Air Force Thunderbirds who are celebrating the 70th Anniversary of the Air Force. The show featured many other performers in the air including various military jets, warbirds, aerobatics, and more.

Gates opened at 9:00 am, and people were able to visit the different tents and static displays prior to flying activities. The static display lineup was pretty light but featured some special aircraft which included the first production F-35A Lightning II, NASA F/A-18A Hornet, a rare Scaled Composites ARES, and more. There were a lot of different display tents to look inside from Lockheed Martin, Skunk Works, NASA, Northrop Grumman, and STEM Expo.
Flying officially started at noon with the Patriot Parachute Team jumping for the opening ceremonies. After the team was finished with their sky dives, the Collaborators aerobatic group performed a 3-ship display. The pilots in the formation included Rob Holland, Matt Chapman, and Bill Stein.
The show featured a nice variety of aerobatic pilots with different talents. Rob Holland made his first appearance at LA County performing in his super manoeuvrable MXS monoplane Matt Chapman also performed aerobatics in his Extra 330LX sponsored by Embry-Riddle. Bill Stein flew an unusually painted Edge 540 which changes colors from green to purple to gold based on the certain light angle. Slowing the speed down was Rob Harrison who flew his rare Zlin 50 LX known as the "Tumbling Bear" which did a lot of different loops and tumbles unlike the other aerobatic pilots. Vicky Benzing performed in the Boeing Stearman biplane which turned back time to the days of World War II.
There were many warbirds that flew at the show courtesy of Planes of Fame and the Commemorate Air Force Southern California Wing. Aircraft featured in the warbird theatre included the P-51 Mustang, P-38 Lightning, F4U Corsair, B-25 Mitchell, Spitfire Mk XIV, and Yak-9. They each performed multiple solo passes to the crowd and even featured a pyro demonstration which included various explosions and a Wall of Fire at the end.
Among the many civilian performers that participated at the show, there were a few good jet demonstrations from a T-33 Shooting Star known as "Ace Maker II" piloted by Gregory "Wired" Colyer, an L-39 Albatross piloted by former Thunderbirds solo Paul "Sticky" Strickland and an F-86 Sabre from Planes of Fame piloted by Steve Hinton. One of the more rare jet performances was by the NASA ER-2. The ER-2 is a special variant of the U-2 Dragon Lady used for high altitude research based at the NASA Armstrong Facility at Edwards AFB.

One of the aerial performers courtesy of the U.S. Air Force was the Heritage Flight. Spectators were able to witness a rare formation flight of past and present Air Force aircraft which featured 2 A-10 Thunderbolt II’s and a P-38 Lightning. This marked the first time in nearly 5 years that the A-10 participated in the Heritage Flight Program after budget cuts came into effect. Piloting the A-10s were Maj. Dan “Cosmo” Levy and Capt. Chad “Possum” Rudolph, and Steve Hinton in the P-38.

Representing the U.S. Navy at the show was the F/A-18 Super Hornet TAC Demo Team from VFA-122 “Flying Eagles.” On Saturday the team flew the E model using a jet from VFA-14 “Bounty Hunters” and on Sunday flew the F model with a Flying Eagles jet. They flew the different tactical capabilities of the Super Hornet including high speed passes, tight turns, and more.

Concluding the flying portion of the show was the United States Air Force Aerial Demonstration Squadron known as the Thunderbirds lead by Lt. Col. Jason Heard. The Thunderbirds came to Lancaster for their second show of the 2017 season in which they are celebrating the Air Force’s 70th Anniversary know as “Breaking Barriers.” Spectators got to witness the many different manoeuvres the team showcased including various formations, breaks, and solo routines. On Sunday, the team only flew 5 aircraft after Lead Solo Maj. Alex Turner was reported sick. It was a rare opportunity for the crowd to see an altered demonstration which featured the rare stinger formation.

After flying activities concluded, the crowd was allowed to continue visiting the different tents and statics before gates closed at 5:00 pm. The city of Lancaster once again hosted an excellent air show full of different things to see in the air and on the ground. Special thanks goes to the performers, staff, volunteers, airport crew, sponsors, and spectators who helped make the 2017 Los Angeles County Air Show a success!

 
Performers included:

U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds
U.S. Air Force Heritage Flight - x2 A-10 Thunderbolt II, P-38 Lightning
U.S. Navy F/A-18E/F VFA-122 TAC Demo Team
NASA ER-2
Gregory “Wired” Colyer - T-33 Shooting Star “Ace Maker II”
Planes of Fame F-86 Sabre Demonstration
Paul “Sticky” Strickland - L-39 Albatross
Warbird Theatre - P-51 Mustang, P-38 Lightning, F4U Corsair, B-25 Mitchell, Spitfire Mk XIV, Yak-9
Vicky Benzing Stearman Aerobatics
Rob Harrison Tumbling Bear Aerobatics
Rob Holland Ultimate Airshows Aerobatics
Matt Chapman Embry-Riddle Aerobatics
Bill Stein Aerobatics
Patriot Parachute Team

Static included:

F-35A Lightning II - 1st Production F-35A, Edwards AFB, CA
NASA F/A-18A Hornet - NASA Armstrong Center, Edwards AFB, CA
C-17A Globemaster III - Travis AFB, CA
X-47A Drone Mock-Up
HH-65 Dolphin - San Francisco, CA
Scaled Composites ARES

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Report and photography by Geoffrey Arnwine for The Aviation Magazine

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USAF Thunderbirds Image by The Aviation Magazine
 
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