2009 Jones Beach Airshow
May 23-24, 2009
Jones Beach, New York
Airshow report uploaded on June 1, 2009.
For the fourth year in a row, I have spent at least part of my Memorial Day weekend in Long Island for the Jones Beach Airshow. The show alternates every year with a jet team - with the recent trend being the Blue Angels on even years and the Thunderbirds on odd years. The Thunderbirds were scheduled to appear this year, and for the first time ever, the Canadian Snowbirds came down to Long Island and Jones Beach. This is not the first trip to Long Island for the Snowbirds, as I do believe they did a show somewhere on the island in the 1990s. For any airshow season, I am lucky enough to get to see the Snowbirds at least one SOMEWHERE, but for the 2009 season, I have at least three Snowbird shows - Jones Beach, Rhode Island, and NAS Oceana. There is a chance that I will make it to MCAS Miramar this year, which has the Blues and the Snowbirds on top of an amazing lineup of performers that I've yet to see.
I've heard many people complain that this year's lineup for Jones Beach seemed a bit sparse. To be honest, I agree with that, but there is a lot that needs to be said. For one, having two jet teams takes up a large chunk of the airshow time, especially for a show like Jones Beach which is absolutely locked in with a particular time frame. Had the Snowbirds not been scheduled, you would have seen at least three more aerobatic acts or even another single ship demonstration to fill in the remaining time. Since it is a beach show, all of the aircraft must stage from at least one airport, and this time all of the aircraft (minus the NY ANG HC-130 and HH-60) staged out of Republic Airport in nearby Farmingdale. The Thunderbirds require a runway with a minimum length of 7,000 feet, and Republic's longest runway is barely 6,800 feet. The team was nice enough to allow the jets to be staged at Republic if a temporary arresting gear was installed - and it was, on Runway 14/32 (the airport's other runway, 1/19, is about 5,500 feet long). It was the second time the Thunderbirds staged out of Republic, as they utilized John F. Kennedy International Airport in 2005. Most shows do not allow spectators to go to the staging airport to watch the performers take off, but at Republic, spectators were allowed to do just that.
Among the performances I've been looking forward to seeing was The Horsemen. I've seen Jim Beasley Jr. and Ed Shipley fly a two-ship Horsemen performance in whatever Mustangs they could get their hands on - whether it be all of Jim's or other people's Mustangs, but new for the 2009 season was a three-ship performance. The Horsemen are brought together by ASB.TV, which is an all-new re-branding of AirShowBuzz that features a brand new reality series that featured Beasley, Shipley, and Dan Friedkin flying a formation aerobatic performance at airshows throughout the country. Jones Beach featured what I believe was the first time all three pilots flew a full-up performance with three P-51 Mustangs. The trio flew performances at NAS Corpus Christi, Texas and Chino, California, but in F8F Bearcats instead of Mustangs. I knew that the three-ship performance was going to be almost exactly like the two-ship I've seen in years past, and that's exactly what I got to see, with the main difference being another Mustang in the air, and I absolutely LOVE the sound of a P-51 Mustang!
Now, my original plan was to spend Friday at Republic and Saturday and Sunday on the beach at Jones Beach. Unfortunately, that did not happen. I did spend Friday at Republic, getting video I've always wanted to get. With the help of A-10 demo pilot Captain Johnnie "Dusty" Green and the entire ASB staff on hand, I was able to get the A-10 East Coast Demo Team's ground show as well as all of the P-51 video I could ask for, which included Mustang startups, taking off (shot from the end of Runway 19), and even a few flybys - when I was ready to catch them. I did spend Saturday on the beach for the show, but expected nice weather and a slight breeze. HOW WRONG I WAS. I was clearly dressed for the summer, but it was VERY COLD on the beach. Temperatures were in the upper sixties but the winds were howling out of the east at twenty plus knots the entire day. Republic Airport reported gusts of up to sixty-five knots! As a result, the Golden Knights did not make any jumps, but the Red Bull Jump Team made a jump. The rescue swimmers from the 106th Rescue Wing were way off of their target because of the winds, and I was shivering the entire day. Unfortunately, the video shows just that. If you recall my video from Atlantic City and NAS Oceana last year (Fri and Sat especially), that's exactly how my Saturday video turned out. The only good thing to come out of Saturday, aside from the jet teams, was the Super Hornet demonstration. Jugs and Gerbil were able to take advantage of whatever humidity was in the air and managed to put together a VERY NICE vapor cone off the jet during the high speed pass. I had talked to both pilots later that night at the American Airpower Museum and Jugs stated that they were going Mach 0.98 in the pass and were very close to pushing it past 1.0, while taking note of that cone that was forming behind the jet.
I had gotten slightly ill overnight on Friday, and Saturday's weather didn't help me one bit, which in turn, made me feel like crap once it got real dark. It was to the point where I knew I could not make it to the beach on Sunday without an adequate amount of rest (four hours of sleep wasn't going to cut it). Somehow that worked out in my favor, as I woke up late on Sunday and would have not been able to get to the beach on time and in time for the show. The weather was a huge factor in this, as it was foggy and hazy Sunday morning. The fog and haze delayed the start of the show from 10 am to about 12:30 pm. I had no idea on that and decided that it was best to stay close, and that decision meant a trip to Republic. My friend Dan was kind enough to get our party out onto the airport, near where I shot the Blue Angels departing in 2008. In talks with people at the airport and while reading the boards on ASB, I came to realize that our 12:35 arrival at Republic warranted the fact that we saw EVERYTHING take off and land at Republic that actually flew in the show. The Snowbirds and the Golden Knights were the only performers who were unable to fly or do their performance. Kennedy traffic for Runway 22L was routed over the airport, and as a result, I was able to get my first close-up look at the whale of an airplane known as the Airbus A380. Everyone makes a huge deal out of the aircraft, but it's really nothing special. It's QUIET. By the time this airshow report makes it online, A380 service to Kennedy would already have been suspended, as Emirates is sending the JFK jet to Toronto.
Of course, the jet teams were the reason to come to Jones Beach. Both the Snowbirds and the Thunderbirds put on magnificent high show performances on Saturday. Interestingly enough, the Thunderbirds flew the D-model in the slot position both days, but with a centerline tank on the jet. I am also told that Boss also flew a D-model, but his jet did not have a centerline tank (possibly because the Slot pilot uses a bottom part of Boss' jet as a formation reference point). This was due to the fact that the F100-PW229 engine in the Block 52 Vipers are more fuel-thirsty than the F100-PW220s in the Block 32s, due to the higher thrust of the 229s. Jones Beach was the first time this season I had seen the Snowbirds in the 2009 season, and I could tell they had taken some notes from the Red Arrows when they were on their Goodwill tour. I'm sure the Snowbirds have flown this maneuver in the past, but it was the first time I had ever seen them fly a Goose formation (think 8G Goose from the Reds, but with seven Snowbirds in the Goose formation instead of five Reds). The team also dedicated their four-ship heart performance to the late Katie Reider and her father, airshow announcer Rob Reider, and as a result, played one of Katie's songs during the maneuver. I had not caught on with it at the time, but after reading it later that night, was amazed to see the team do such a thing. In addition, this year's team has a special meaning to me. Snowbird #5, Major Doug "Dewey" Clements, was actually a CF-18 Hornet demonstration pilot during the 2002 airshow season, and also took me flying in a CF-18 in 2004. He had traveled up to Quebec City for that show and in talks with him at the show, revealed that he would fly the number five position (the second line astern position, not the lead solo!).
Overall, despite the setbacks with the weather and my health, I managed to cover the show and get to experience Republic Airport operations during airshow weekend in a way I never thought I'd get to see. I especially want to thank Jugs and Gerbil for their kind words, along with Jim, Ed, and all of the ASB representatives for allowing me to get some things I've always wanted to get, in terms of Mustang video. I also want to thank Chris Baranaskas for his kind assistance with my video on Monday. On Sunday, three P-51s (with Chris flying Glamorous Gal) and a P-47 took off to perform a missing man formation flyover at a parade in Northport, the airshow at Jones Beach, and at Republic Airport. The missing man flyover was dedicated to Chris' late father Bob, who passed away in April preparing an aerobatic performance in the family's P-40 Warhawk. Appropriately enough, Chris was the pilot who pulled away from the formation, as a tribute to his father, who, like son, was a kind and knowledgeable gentleman who appreciated everyone he met and talked to.
Military Demonstration Teams
US Army Golden Knights
Military Aircraft Demonstrations
106th Rescue Wing - HC-130 & HH-60
A-10 Thunderbolt II East Coast Demo Team
F/A-18F Super Hornet Demonstration - VFA-106
Aerobatic Performances, Warbird Performances, and Others
Red Bull Helicopter & Jumpers
USAF Heritage Flight
US Navy Legacy Flight
Warbirds Over Long Island
N/A - Beach Show
10:00 AM - 3:00 PM