2015 Event Review

MCAS Beaufort Air Show 2015, April 11-12, 2015
Location: Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, Beaufort, S.C.
Admission: Free, Premium seating available at additional cost
Parking: Free on-site
Value: Excellent
Rating out of 10: 9
Display by the Italians
MV-22 with the AH-1F Cobra  

When you attend an air show at a military base with the nickname of FighterTown East, there is a high expectation that you will get to see some of the military’s fighter aircraft strut their stuff. The MCAS Beaufort Air Show 2015 didn’t disappoint.  Aircraft and rotorcraft from the US Marine Corp, US Navy, and US Air Force all performed demonstrations during the air show.


MCAS Beaufort is one of two Centers of Excellence for the Marine Corps F-35B program. The other one being located at MCAS Yuma. Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 (VMFAT-501), known as the Warlords, is based at MCAS Beaufort and has the mission to conduct effective training and operations in the F-35B in coordination with joint and coalition partners. Currently the squadron has members from the USMC and from Great Britain's Royal Air Force.

The MCAS Beaufort Air Show 2015 used the event as a sort of "Coming Out" party for the East Coast public to meet and view the newest fifth generation fighter, the F-35B Lightning II. The F-35B flew three times each day, once as part of the Marine Legacy Flight, once as part of the MAGTF demo and the third as a solo demo of the planes capabilities. There was also an F-35B on static display for public view.

The air show was long by north American standards. Flying started each day shortly before 11 a.m., with a pre-show teaser and continued through the Blue Angels performance which completed approximately 4:30 p.m. The pre-show started off with the Parris Island Marine Band entertaining the audience. Civilian aerobatic pilots Michael Goulian, Rob Holland, and Patty Wagstaff was next in the pre-show with a formation flyby, that highlighted the fact that all either have new paint schemes, sponsors, or airplanes for the 2015 season. Michael Goulian's lead sponsor for 2015 is Whelen Electronics and the red/silver paint scheme highlights that. Rob Holland is once again sponsored by Window World and his plane has a new wrap showcasing his sponsor's name. Patty Wagstaff is flying an Extra 330LX this season, which is different than the plane she has flown in prior years. According to Patty, the plane she used at MCAS Beaufort was leased from a friend but after April she will be flying a 330LX demonstrator from Southeast Aero.

Michael Goulian and Rob Holland did an aerobatic performance together as part of the pre-show, followed by Patty Wagstaff also doing an aerobatic teaser. All three performers would come back later during the main show and each perform their full solo routines. The official show opening involved members of the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) Parachute Team jumping from a Marine MV-22 Osprey. One parachute jumper carried a supersized, 1500 sq. ft. American Flag. While the jumper with the American Flag came down, the national anthem was song by Candice Glover. Candice Glover was the winner of season 12 of the American Idol TV show and she is a native of Beaufort, S.C. In addition to singing the nation anthem for the show's opening ceremony, Ms. Glover came back just before the Blue Angels to sing America The Beautiful, for which she received a standing ovation.

Following the national anthem, the Marine Legacy Flight made a single banana pass in front of the spectators. The formation consisted of an F-35B in the lead with an AV-8B Harrier on right wing and an F/A-18D on the right wing. All three fighter aircraft were from units based at MCAS Beaufort.The F-35B Lightning II came back around and did a solo presentation. The presentation demonstrated the STOVL capabilities of the F-35B. The plane also did an extended low hover near the spectator fence. This hover gave proof to the claims that the F-35B is a very loud aircraft. It was much louder than the AV-8B Harrier that also did an extended low hover in the same location, later on in the air show. The F-35B showed almost all of the capabilities except it didn't do a full vertical landing. Nor did it do an open/close of the weapons bay doors, showing where it carries weapons internally and like we are used to seeing in the F-22 Raptor demo. Following the F-35B demo were demonstrations from the two classic warbirds. Jim Tobul did his solo routine with the Korean War Hero F-4U Corsair. The Disabled American Veterans had the B-25 bomber, Panchito, fly their normal demonstration. Then the F-4U Corsair and B-25 Bomber joined up and flew several formation passes. When both warbirds weren't flying, they were parked in the static display area and available to view up close.

The Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) demonstration was much anticipated. This demonstration combined forces from multiple Marine units and bases to present to the public how all these units would work together in real world battlefield scenarios. Units from MCAS New River, MCAS Beaufort and Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune made up the Marine Expeditionary Force for the demonstration. The MAGTF scenario presented was a downed pilot located behind enemy lines and the Marine Expeditionary Force showed the recovery of the pilot using both fixed and rotary winged aircraft, along with a tactical insertion of Marines by parachute. Equipment used during the MAGTF included a KC-130J Hercules demonstrating inflight refueling of an F-35B and F/A-18. An MV-22 Osprey was used as a jump platform for the parachute forces. A CH-53E helicopter landed near the downed pilot to deploy ground forces to secure the area while an AH-1 Cobra flew close air support over the immediate area. When the area was secure, a MV-22 Osprey landed to retrieve the downed pilot and the para-commandos. All the time high cover was flown by an F-35B and two F/A-18 Hornets. The presentation included ground based pyro to simulate gun fire and bombing runs. The demonstration ended when the second F/A-18 Hornet made the last pass over the area and a wall of flames was fired off. The MAGTF presentation was followed by the solo aerobatic performers mentioned earlier for the pre-show teasers and a full parachute demonstration by the USSOCOM Para-Commandos parachute team.

The US Air Force was represented by the F-16 Viper demonstration team from Shaw AFB in Sumter, S.C. The 2015 F-16 demo pilot is Captain Craig "Rocket" Baker and he showed the crowd what we have all missed for the past couple of years while Air Combat Command dealt with budget constraints that kept the team off the air show circuit. Teaming up with a P-51 Mustang, the F-16 performed the standard Air Force Heritage flight after the F-16 solo demo. The Geico Skytypers team performed a team aerobatic routine using their SNJ-2 classic warbirds. During the weekend the Skytypers were unable to do any of their trademark aerial messaging due to thick cloud cover and low ceilings.

The second demonstration of Marine VTOL capabilities came courtesy of the AV-8B Harrier demonstration. While this was the normal Harrier demo that has been performed for a few years, it did provide a sharp contrast to the Harrier’s replacement, the F-35B. The biggest difference is the Harrier is quieter than the F-35 and carries the weapons under the wing. It won’t be long until the Harrier enters retirement, so take any opportunity you can to view a Harrier demo wherever you can

It was then time for the main attraction, the United States Navy Demonstration Team, The Blue Angels. This year's Blue Angel team has close ties with MCAS Beaufort. Blue Angel #7, Captain Jeff Kuss, the team's narrator, is a Marine and was stationed at MCAS Beaufort just prior to joining the Blue Angels. Several other members of the Blue Angels were also stationed at MCAS Beaufort at one time in their careers. The Blue Angels performance was kicked off by the all Marine crew of the C-130T known as Fat Albert, doing a demonstration of the plane's capabilities. Fat Albert was piloted by Captain Katie Higgins, who is the first female demonstration pilot for the Blue Angels. The Blues Angels flew their normal demonstration with the extra precision normally seen near the end of the season. The diamond touts that they fly wingtip to canopy only eighteen inches apart. Close inspection of photos taken at this show reveal that they appeared to be flying closer than those eighteen inches. The Blue Angels fly some of the oldest F/A-18 airplanes in the fleet. Along with age comes increased maintenance and mechanical problems. The team experienced some of those mechanical problems during the Saturday performance. Blue Angel #2 left the diamond shortly after takeoff and quietly landed the plane. The pilot transferred to the #7 plane and quickly rejoined the diamond formation. Near the end of the demonstration, Blue Angel #3 was seen to separate from the diamond and eventually also quietly landed using the arresting wire system. It was learned later from team members that both planes experienced warning indications and as the policy is one of safety first, both planes landed. In both cases I was told faulty computer boards caused the warning indications. The reason Blue Angel #3 used the arresting wire equipment was the faulty computer board was one that had some control over the nose gear steering and the use of the arresting wire to better control the landing was the safer option. The Army Aviation Heritage Foundation's Sky Soldiers offered spectator rides in one of their Cobra as well as their Huey helicopters throughout the day, except when the Blue Angels were flying.

The MCAS Beaufort Air Show had a very large ramp area for static displays. The USAF provided a B-52 bomber, a C-17 cargo jet and two F-16 Vipers for static display. The US Navy provided a P-3C Orion for public viewing. The ARMY was represented by an AH-64 Apache and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters. The remaining active military aircraft on static display were from the Marine Corps, including AH-1 Cobra, CH-53E Super Stallion, HH-46E Sea Knight and MV-22 Osprey rotorcraft. Marine jet aircraft included a F-35B Lightning II, two F/A-18D Hornets, a AV-8B Harrier, and EA-6B Prowler. There was also a Marine KC-130J Hercules tanker on static display. Privately owned static display aircraft included a C-45G Expeditor, F-4U Corsair, B-25 Mitchell Bomber, O-2A Cessna, P-149D Focke Wulf, O-2A Cessna, and OV-10D Bronco. Also on display were various classic automobiles.

Attendance for the two public days and one rehearsal day was estimated to be 140,000 – 150,000. The base did an excellent job of efficiently moving people on and off the air show grounds. There were adequate food vendors and portable rest room facilities. A common spectator complaint was that they were all concentrated near the flight line area and not spread out throughout the grounds, including the static display area. Food prices were on the high end of prices common at air shows with bottles of water costing $3 each, soft drinks for $4 and a chicken finger plate going for $9. A lot of spectators were upset that the paid premium seating pavilions and VIP chalets were set up right in front of the Blue Angels aircraft and blocked the view for general admission, of the Blue Angels ground show. Part of this discontent was countered by the Blue Angels narrator, #7 Capt. Jeff Kuss, who left the announcer's stand and walked around in front of the general admission crowd during the performance. After the performance, the Blue Angels signed autographs in front of the general admission areas.

Performers included:

Blue Angels

F-35B Lightning II

USMC MV-22B Osprey Demo Team
Marine Legacy Flight
DAV Flight Team B-25 Mitchell Bomber
F-4U Corsair
Marine Air Ground Task Force
-130J Hercules demonstrating inflight refueling of an F-35B and F/A-18
Army Aviation Heritage Foundation’s Sky Soldiers Cobra and Huey helicopters
F-16 Viper Demonstration Team
Geico Skytypers
Rob Holland and many more...
Static aircraft included:

F-35B Lightning II                    

AV-8B Harrier                   

USMC KC-130J Hercules                             

USMC MV-22 Osprey                              

C-17 Globemaster III

B-52 Buff
CH-53E Super Stallion           
UH-60 Black Hawk
F-16 Viper
OV-10D Bronco and many others....
Report and photography by Clifford Martin for

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