MCAS Yuma held its 50th Annual Airshow on March 17. This was the
first Marine aviation event of 2012, kicking off the celebrations
honoring the Centennial of Marine Aviation. The expectations were
high, and the Airshow did not disappoint. Highlighting the show was
the USAF Air Demonstration Squadron, the Thunderbirds. Their performance
capped a day filled with aerial demonstrations from World War II
vintage aircraft through to the latest addition to the Marine Aviation
arsenal. The weather was uncharacteristically cool and overcast,
but the rain and high winds predicted for this Saint Patrick’s
Day thankfully failed to materialize.
After passing through security, visitors passed by an extensive array of static
aircraft and vehicles. Representatives of almost the entire current inventory
of USMC aircraft were on display: AH-1W Super Cobra, AV-8B Harrier II, CH-46E
Sea Knight, CH-53E Super Stallion, F-5N Tiger II, F/A-18B Hornet, HH-1N Huey,
KC-130J Hercules, MV-22 Osprey, UC-12B Huron and UH-1Y Huey. The Navy had two
F/A-18E Super Hornets on display and the Air Force was represented by the B-52H
Stratofortress bomber, the C-17 Globemaster III transport, F-16C Fighting Falcon
fighter and HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter. The two hours between the opening of
the gates and the beginning of the air show left ample time to view the statics,
set up chairs along the long and open flightline, or purchase seats in the bleachers
or box seats in the preferred seating areas.
The flying began with a formation composed of an F6F Hellcat, F8F
Bearcat, F4U Corsair and a P-51D Mustang. John Collver flew his usual
impressive routine in “War Dog”, an SNJ painted in markings
from MCAS El Toro. Tora! Tora! Tora! then commemorated the Battle
of Wake Island with replica Kates, Zeros and Vals, complete with
pyrotechnics, culminating in their signature “Wall of Fire.” There
was also a well-executed Search and Rescue demonstration featuring
the venerable Huey helicopter. Four F-5N “Adversary” aircraft
from the “Snipers” of VMFT-401 made two passes in tight
formation, each aircraft painted in a different color variation of
the aggressor "lizard" camouflage.
A short break gave attendees an opportunity to visit the vendor booths, grab
a bite to eat or something to drink, and pass by the many exhibits of the business
expo, showcasing a number of local businesses, schools and organizations. A very
large “Kid’s Zone” featured a climbing wall, bounce houses
and even a paintball arena. Plenty of portable toilets were distributed throughout
the area, and free water was also available.
The afternoon started off with the first full tactical demonstration
of the MV-22 Osprey at MCAS Yuma. The crew did a great job of demonstrating
the amazing capabilities of this tilt-rotor aircraft. Then it got
loud as the F/A-18E Super Hornet demo took to the skies. A dirty
roll on takeoff was followed by several high-speed passes and the
minimum-radius turn; the full afterburners glowing brightly against
the by-now leaden skies. After several more maneuvers, including
the final photo pass, it was time for the Navy Tailhook Legacy Flight.
This program, established in 1999, pairs today’s state-of-the-art
fighters with warbirds flying in close formation to display the past
and present of Naval and Marine Aviation. At Yuma the F/A-18E Super
Hornet was joined by an F6F Hellcat and an F8F Bearcat for the formation
pass and a flight from behind over the heads of the spectators, followed
by a split. Then it got really loud as the AV-8B Harrier
II took off for its tactical demo. A long-time standard at the Yuma
Airshow, it continues to impress the audience with its combination
of high speed and hovering capabilities, transitioning between the
two with amazing ease. The Harrier swayed, bowed and pirouetted in
front of the crowd, descending slowly for a landing, then just as
quickly taking off vertically and screaming into the distance.
Then, for the first time since 1997, the USAF Thunderbirds took
off to perform at MCAS Yuma. Their presence as the headline performers
certainly enhanced the attendance, estimated at a record 60,000,
and they clearly pleased the crowd with their tight formations and
thrilling opposing passes. Prior to the show, a short induction ceremony
was performed, welcoming the newest recruits to the US Air Force.
After the show and following a short debrief the team members came
to the flightline to sign autographs and answer questions from the
Frank Kingston Smith did a great job of announcing the show, and the air boss
did an excellent job of keeping the performers on time and on schedule. Offsite
parking was provided as an option for the first time this year. This, combined
with the record number of attendees, led to some delays in shuttling people to
and from their cars. I’m certain the Marines will learn from this experience
and improve the service next year.
I would like to express my thanks and sincere appreciation to the Public Affairs
Office for their hospitality and assistance during the Airshow. Captain Reidinger
did an excellent job of setting up and organizing the media access, and Gunnery
Sergeant Dunk, Corporal Bopp and Lance Corporal Waterstreet provided invaluable
assistance during the day. I was very impressed by their professionalism and
commitment to excellence.
- F-5N Tiger II Flyby, VMFT-401 "Snipers"
- HH-1N Huey Search
and Rescue Demonstration
- MV-22 Osprey Tactical Demonstration,
VMM-561 "Pale Horse"
- F/A-18E Super Hornet Tactical Demonstration, VFA-122 "Flying
- Legacy Flight: F6F-5, F8F-2, F/A-18E
- AV-8B Harrier II Tactical
Demonstration, VMA-311 "Tomcats"
- USAF Thunderbirds
- F4U-1 Corsair
- F6F-5 Hellcat
- F8F-2 Bearcat
- P-51D “Man O' War”
- John Collver AT-6 "War Dog" Aerobatics
- Tora! Tora!