On Friday, October 3, I attended the annual air show at MCAS (Marine Corps Air Station) Miramar in San Diego. It was an awesome show, especially for an aircraft fan like me. When I got there they had an air/ground assault demonstration with helicopters, jets and marines. The highlight was a massive explosion which created a wall of flame. The heat was so intense I was able to feel it from where I was sitting. They had a performance from the Oracle Challenger, acrobatic biplane. The pilot, Sean Tucker, performed some amazing stunts. They also had flight demonstrations of the F/A-18 Super Hornet, the F/16 Falcon, the new F-22 Raptor. They had a legacy flight with a WWII fighter plane flanked by the F/A-18 and F-22. That is always an interesting sight. They also had a demonstration of the Marine Corps' AV-8B Harrier VTOL (Vertical take-off and landing) jet. Before I arrived they had more demonstrations of aircraft, but I was there for the most exciting parts. They also had all kinds of aircraft, both civilian and military, on display on the tarmac. This year, they had the new Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft. It is supposed to be a replacement for the aging transport helicopters used by the Marine Corps.
But, the real stars of the show were the Blue Angels. They made their return to Miramar after a one year absence. I last saw them in 1986, before they switched over to the F/A-18 from the A-4F Skyhawk. Our neighbor at the time was a retired admiral and he got me some VIP passes to the airshow. I was given the red carpet treatment. I sat in the VIP section. Among the guests were some high-ranking military officials. We were right on the edge of the runway so had front row seats to all the action. After the Blue Angels performed I was able to get up close to the aircraft and meet the pilots. It was a great experience. But, I didn't see the Blue Angels again until this year. Last year was my first time back to the air show since 1986, but instead of the Blue Angels they had the Air force Thunderbirds. The Blue Angels have always been a staple of the airshow but last year they had a scheduling conflict. So, I was excited to see them again this year.
The excitement grew as The Blue Angels started their engines and taxied down the runway, and then with engines roaring, they took to the sky in a precise diamond formation. Once in the air, they performed one amazing maneuver after another. They did loops, rolls, inverted flights and all kinds of different formations. The most hair raising maneuver was the knife-edge flight where two Blue Angels fly towards each other and then fly past each other with only a few feet to spare. One plane is actually slightly higher than the other to give the appearance that they are going head to head. They also did a fly-by in a tight formation with wings overlapping. The wings are only eighteen inches apart! One false move would be devastating. It takes the breath away to watch. It was a fantastic show. I can't wait to see them again next year.