2013 Air Shows

MCAS Yuma Air Show March 9, 2013

Location: MCAS Yuma, Arizona
Admission: FREE
Parking: Free off-site and free shuttle; paid preferred parking available.
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MCAS Yuma held its 51st Annual Airshow on March 9, kicking off what will most likely be a very spartan 2013 air show season in the US. Despite the cancellation of essentially all USAF participation at shows this year, and uncertainty regarding Navy and Marine resources, the show did go on. The Marines put on full tactical demonstrations of both the MV-22 Osprey and the AV-8B Harrier and had a static lineup with almost the complete inventory of Marine Aviation aircraft. The highlight of the static lineup was, without question, the F-35B Lightning II, on display for the first time at an air show.
The show began with a performance by the Marine Drum and Bugle Corps. “The Commandant’s Own” played a series of songs, culminating in the National Anthem as the Military Freefall School parachutists flew in the flag. Greg Colyer began the flying with a series of very nice aerobatic routines in his T-33 “Ace Maker.” This ended in a race with Bill Braack in his jet car. Steve Stavrakakis then put on a nice show in his rare Rumanian-built IAR823. MCAS Yuma is home to VMFT-401, the only Marine adversary squadron. The “Snipers”, flying F-5N aircraft, provide other units the opportunity to engage in dissimilar air combat training. A flight of four aircraft, in three different camouflage patterns, took off in sections and made a number of formation fly-bys before breaking dramatically to land. Kent Pietsch then put on the first of his three aerobatic performances of the day. His comedy routine has to be seen to be believed. He “invades” the closed airspace, playing the part of a complete novice with no flying skills whatsoever. His aircraft soon begins to shed parts such as an aileron, a tire, and a roll of paperwork which he manages to shred on its way down. It takes incredible skill to fly so erratically so close to the ground, including his signature wing-scrape. The announcer finally talked him down, whereupon he was apprehended by three Marines. It’s a pleasure to watch, whether you’ve seen it before and are in on the joke, or are watching it for the very first time and think the FAA is going to throw the book at Kent. The theme of this year’s show was a salute to Korean and Vietnam War veterans, so the next act was a recreation of a Korean War air engagement. An AT-6 Texan, in the role of a Forward Air Controller called in an F4U-1 Corsair and F8F Bearcat to provide air support for troops on the ground. The planes made several passes, both in formation and individually. Many of the passes were strafing or bombing maneuvers, accompanied by simulated machine gun or bomb explosions provided by the Marine EOD squadrons. A pair of P-51D Mustangs, “Man O’ War” and “Spam Can,” provided top cover and made a number of very nice photo passes. Suddenly a MiG-15 appeared in the sky. A T-33, playing the part of an F-80, was scrambled and a dogfight between the two jets soon ensued. It was a very nice aerial demonstration and thanks go to the CAF, Planes of Fame Museum and Greg Colyer for providing the planes and pilots. Then it was time for one of the marquee performers, the MV-22 Osprey. The full tactical demonstration began with a vertical takeoff followed by a high-speed pass with the engine nacelles fully forward in airplane mode. As the aircraft circled for its next pass, the nacelles were rotated 90 ° and the Osprey returned in helicopter mode to perform the hovering portion of its demo. The aircraft overshot air show center, slowed, then backed up to stop. It then rotated 360 ° , swayed left and right, bowed to the crowd and landed vertically. It then departed with a rolling takeoff, circled and landed. It was an impressive demonstration of the tactical capabilities of this tilt-rotor aircraft, performed by a crew from VMM-165 "White Knights" out of MCAS Miramar. Kent Pietsch then returned to the skies, demonstrating his extraordinary command of energy management by killing the engine in his Interstate Cadet at 6,000 feet, performing a series of aerobatic maneuvers, taking over three minutes to land, and then rolling to a stop with the tip of his propeller hub touching the outstretched hand of the airshow announcer. This engine-off performance was almost immediately followed by Bill Braack’s Smoke-N-Thunder jet car demonstration. The 10,000 horsepower produced by the J34 engine, originally used in the T-2 Buckeye, propel Bill to almost 400mph in just seconds. Deploying the braking parachute, he decelerates even more quickly, experiencing 11Gs before stopping. The unmistakable “whomp, whomp, whomp” of a Huey announced the start of the Search and Rescue demo, put on by the MCAS Yuma SRU. The helicopter hovered at show center as a corpsman rappelled down, then departed as the victim was being tended to. After returning, a cable was deployed and the corpsman , with “Rescue Randy,” was winched up, waving to the crowd as they departed. Kent Pietsch performed his third and last act of the day, landing his plane on the “world’s smallest aircraft carrier”, the top of a pickup truck. The final act of the day was the AV-8B Harrier II tactical demo, put on by MCAS Yuma’s own VMA-214 “Blacksheep.” It began with a very loud and steep rolling takeoff, followed by a very high-speed pass. This was followed by a number of hovering maneuvers very similar to that of the Osprey, but much louder, ending with a vertical landing. The final takeoff was vertical into a hovering position, then a high-power climbing departure very different from demonstrations seen in the past. It would be a shame indeed if more people were not able to see this new and exciting routine. Unfortunately, due to the budget sequestration, the USAF’s F-22 Raptor demonstration was cancelled.
An extensive array of static aircraft representing almost the entire current inventory of USMC aircraft was on display. The Navy had two SH-60B Seahawks and a beautiful F/A-18E Super Hornet CAG bird from VFA-11 “Red Rippers” out of NAS Oceana. Yuma Proving Grounds provided a colorful Lakota and a Cessna Caravan. Many warbirds were on display, including those of the CAF’s AirPower Tour. However, the highlight was the first appearance at an airshow of the F-35B. The aircraft was fenced off, but viewers could get very close to the aircraft, and no limits were placed on photography. The “Green Knights“ of VMFA-121 are the first operational Lightning II squadron and crew members and pilots were on hand to answer questions. There was plenty of time between the opening of the gates and the beginning of the air show 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. There were many exhibits showcasing a number of local businesses, schools and organizations. A very large “Kid’s Zone” featured a climbing wall and bounce houses. Plenty of portable toilets were distributed throughout the area, and free water was also available. Jon “Huggy” Huggins did a great job of announcing the show, bringing many of the performing aircraft in past airshow center to give the viewers a closer look. The shuttle service from the offsite parking was much improved over last year.
An estimated 25,000 people attended the show, down considerably from last year’s 60,000. Some of this decline must surely be attributable to the cancellation of the F-22 Raptor demo and uncertainty over whether the show would even take place. 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 and Corporal Waterstreet provided invaluable assistance during the day.
Aircraft on flying and on static display:
  • F-5N Tiger II Flyby, VMFT-401 "Snipers"
  • MV-22 Osprey Tactical Demonstration, VMM-165 "White Knights"
  • HH-1N Huey Search and Rescue Demonstration
  • AV-8B Harrier II Tactical Demonstration, VMA-214 "Blacksheep"
  • F4U-1 Corsair
  • F8F-2 Bearcat
  • P-51D “Man O' War”
  • P-51D “Spam Can”
  • MiG-15 Fagot
  • AT-6 Texan
  • Steve Stavrakakis, IAR 823
  • Kent Pietsch, Interstate Cadet
  • Greg Colyer, T-33 “Ace Maker”
  • AH-1W Super Cobra, USMC
  • AV-8B Harrier II, USMC
  • CH-46E Sea Knight, USMC
  • CH-53E Super Stallion, USMC
  • F-5N Tiger II, USMC
  • F/A-18D Hornet, USMC
  • F/A-18E Super Hornet, USN
  • F-35B Lightning II, USMC
  • HH-1N Huey, USMC
  • KC-130J Hercules, USMC
  • MV-22 Osprey, USMC
  • HH-1Y Huey, USMC
  • SH-60B Seahawk, USN
  • Plus many warbirds, including B-29 “Fifi”, B-25 “Maid in the Shade”, C-47, P4Y Privateer, …
Rating: 9 out of 10


Report and photography by Norman A. Graf for ASR Media LLC
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