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2012 Air Shows
MCAS Yuma, March 17, 2012
Location: MCAS Yuma, Yuma, Arizona
Admission: Free
Parking: Free, on-site plus off-site and free shuttle
Value: Excellent
F-5N Tiger II Flyby, VMFT-401 'Snipers'
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 audience.
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.

Performers included:


  • 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 Eagles"
  • 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! Tora! Reenactment

Rating: 9 out of 10.

MV-22 Osprey Tactical Demonstration
Legacy Flight
Tora! Tora! Tora!
SNJ painted in markings from MCAS El Toro
USAF Thunderbirds
USAF Thunderbirds
Review and photography by Norman A. Graf for AIRSHOWSREVIEW LLC.
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