July 28-29, 2001
Written on August 3, 2001.
NAS Lemoore is home to at least 10 Hornet and Super Hornet squadrons and showcases an airshow every two years or whenever they can get a jet demo team. The year 2001 saw Lemoore get the Blue Angels, and me attending as well. This was my first time attending a show in Lemoore and I wasn't really sure as to what I would expect in the static displays. I assumed there would be 10-20 Hornets floating around, many of them in CAG colors. Well, what was the case? The static ramp was practically empty, almost bringing back what Willow Grove had for a static display in 2000. Notable aircraft on display included a C-5, FedEx 727, P-3, CA ANG F-16, F-117, Super Hornet, and one CAG Hornet from VFA-25. In comparison, there was an almost equal balance of military and civillian aircraft on display. It was nice to have space between the aircraft for photography purposes, but there should have been a lot more military aircraft, including at least one Hornet/Super Hornet representing every squadron based at Lemoore.
Before I go on with the flying displays, I want to clarify that I attended the Sunday show. Sunday's show unofficially started out around 9:45AM with a Blue Angel #3 spare flying some maneuvers. This was mainly to see that the aircraft was in excellent working shape for a show, as the plane has not flown a show in quite some time (thanks Frank!). A Hornet from VFA-125 took off as did an F-4U Corsair to set up for their Legacy Flight later on in the day. The official start of the show began with the playing of the National Anthem and a flyby with an American flag being towed by a Huey SAR helicopter operating out of Lemoore. Then came the Legacy Flight. The formation made four passes, all coming from show right. Frank Kingston Smith was nice enough to point out that in the back seat of the Corsair was the CO of NAS Lemoore. The formation made one final pass from behind the crowd before breaking. The Corsair landed and the Hornet buzzed the crowd in afterburner, scaring us to death! He then landed and both aircraft staged on the taxiway in front of the crowd and the Blues for a closeup look and to wave. The Legacy Flight was impressive, yet had the Bearcat flown in formation as well, it would have been even more impressive!
Dan Buchanan started off the civillian side of the show with his amazing routine in his hang glider. Helping cut his ribbons short came from the Bulldog, piloted by Jim LeRoy. Putting LeRoy (or anyone) up with Dan to cut those ribbons makes your heart pound faster and faster. I must say, the crowd near me was literally on their feet the whole time! Having never seen Buchanan's performance in the past, I must say it is one of the best you'll ever see and knowing the physical limitations Dan has makes the performance even more spectacular. I would strongly suggest you to watch the performance and see it for yourself.
Chuck Lischer was up next in his F-260 Warrior. The F-260 is a plane used for aerial combat simulations and in this case, airshows. His performance is a high-energy and down to earth (at times, literally!) and is purely amazing. I have seen him fly many times in the past, as part of Team America and as a solo demonstration.
The Super Hornet was up next. I have had the unique opportunity (as did 200,000+ others) at Lakehurst to see a Super Hornet depart, and it was awesome! It is indeed one very loud fighter, and this demonstration just proved how loud and maneuverable it is! The demo consists of a 500 foot takeoff roll (yes, a 500' takeoff roll - if you don't believe me then look at the video that I'll post later on), minimum radius turn, as slow as 100 mph and as fast as 700 mph, to name a few. The SH is slightly louder than an original Hornet and in specific cases of weather, makes some very nice vapor passes! However, the vapor wasn't as present at Lemoore as, say, Willow Grove because of the low humidity in the Central Valley. You think 103º and 20% humidity is bad? Then come to New Jersey when it's 90º and the humidity's 50% or more. If you had attended Sunday's show, you might not have noticed that the SH showed some smoke (or vapor) coming from the engines in the middle of the square loop. The pilots took it as if nothing went wrong, and he completed his demo flawlessly and landed safely without any problems at all. He's not flying a lot of shows this year, so if you want to go out and see a demo, go right ahead!
After the Super Hornet, John Collver flew his AT-6 Texan in a beautiful routine. This was the second time (well, third - wasn't really counting the Twilight Show at Miramar) I got to see him fly and what strikes me is that he flies most of his demonstration with music and no narration. It is a welcome change and I admire it. If the music was taken out and John called his own maneuvers from the cockpit, he would have a routine similar to what Dan Caldarale used to fly. To be honest, I really didn't like the paint job on Collver's Texan at first but seeing him fly at Lemoore, it grew on me.
Eric Beard flew "Russian Thunder", his Yak-54. It is indeed a rare aircraft, with less than five flying in the United States today. The paint scheme almost resembles Drew Hurley's Yak-55. In fact, I got both Drew's and Eric's aircraft mixed up once! Eric has a very nice routine and I would definitely love to see it again. The A-10 West Coast Demo Team's Warthog then departed to set up for their demonstration. Meanwhile, Jim LeRoy went solo in the Bulldog. I have to say that was the very highlight for the aerobatics. LeRoy goes down low, and I mean low!!! I don't mean 20 feet or 10 feet. I mean like 10 inches!!! Jim has a double ribbon cut, which always amazes the crowd. It's too bad he won't be at McGuire this year... they don't know what they're missing out on!
The A-10 West Team was now up. The demo is one of the best A-10 demos around (well this is after not seeing the East Coast Demo yet) and includes some pyro! The most amazing part of the routine happens to be the A-10 Wall of Fire. It speaks for itself (literally!)! After the A-10 demo, one thing really surprised me - there was no Heritage Flight! I don't know why but it really hurt not seeing one. Two F-16s from Cannon AFB in New Mexico were staged way off to the left in the static display, almost as if they were going to participate in the flying activities. Well, they did. They took off in formation and performed one high speed pass in formation and a break to depart the show area for home.
A wingwalking act consisting of Margie Stivers and Hartley Folstad and their Stearman took off with Frank asking the crowd to wave and clap their hands in the air. No offense to anyone, but it looks like Frank and everyone else was doing jumping jacks! The Stearman disappeared into the horizon, letting three warbirds take to the air. The warbirds consisted of an F8F Bearcat, Yak-4, and a Hawker Sea Fury in RAAF markings. They made three passes in formation from the right. The formation broke on the fourth pass and they flew from the left and the right in a dogfight-like style.
Margie and Hartley then returned to Lemoore performing what looked to me as their performance. To be honest, this wasn't really as heart wrenching as the Wicker's or Gene Soucy and Teresa Stokes' routine. At the end of the routine, Margie joined with Frank on the set for a little interview. I guess that's their little unique tidbit for their performance!
The Blue Angels closed the show. Fat Albert performed a JATO takeoff, and it is amazing to see it against a perfectly clear blue sky. He performed his high speed flat pass and a short-field landing. Because of mechanical failures the past couple of days, the Blues lineup was different on Sunday. From the left, you had Blue Angel #s 1-2-3-7-5-4. Blue Angel #7 was the replacement for the #4 aircraft while Blue Angel #4 flew in place of #6. It seems confusing but if you know which pilot flies which aircraft, it's not so bad. They flew their entire high show, which included ever maneuver in that show. It was great to see their high show after the disappointing weather at Lakehurst in June. All in all, it was a very good show!
Oh yeah - this is the easiest air base to get onto and out of. Parking control was outstanding! The Lemoore parking crew sure know how to handle an airshow!
F/A-18 Hornet - VFA-25, CAG, NAS Lemoore, CA
F/A-18F Super Hornet - VFA-122, NAS Lemoore, CA
T-34 Mentor - VT-5, NAS Pensacola, FL
AH-1F Cobra - California Army National Guard, Fort Irwin, CA
UH-1H Huey - California Army National Guard, Fort Irwin, CA
T-45 Goshawk - TW-2
UH-60 Blackhawk - USCG San Diego, CA
UH-1N Huey - MCAS Camp Pendelton, CA
HH-65 Daulphin - USCG San Francisco, CA
HH-65 Daulphin - USCG Los Angeles, CA
F-117 Nighthawk - Holloman AFB, NM
(2) L-29 Delphin
P-51A Mustang "Polar Bear"
T-34C Mentor - VFA-125, NAS Lemoore, CA
T-38 Talon - Holloman AFB, CA
T-2C Buckeye - VT-9, NAS Meridian, MS
L-2 Bird Dog
Nanchang CJ-6A Chujiao
C-5B Galaxy - Travis AFB, CA
C-46 Commando "China Doll"
P-3C Orion - NAS Whidbey Island, WA
F-16 Fighting Falcon - California Air National Guard, Fresno IAP, CA
Boeing 727-200 - FedEx
(2) F-16 Fighting Falcon - Cannon AFB, NM
Announcer: Frank Kingston Smith