2009 NAS Oceana Airshow
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Airshow report written on October 19, 2009.
This was almost the show that was never meant to be. Many have questioned why NAS Oceana's airshow was scheduled for October, and the easiest answer could be found within the Blue Angels' schedule. The show, which was moved to October, did not feature any of the usual trademarks of the NAS Oceana Airshow, namely the Friday night Twilight Show and the Saturday evening Beach Blast, because of the possibility of cold temperatures. There was a Beach Blast of sorts planned, but it would not have been the same. I don't blame the airshow organizers with that decision, as I would have done the same if I were in their shoes. I say that because I do not like the cold weather, and I got a good share of it during the airshow weekend. This is going to be a rather short airshow report, since there really wasn't a whole lot I could say about anything in terms of the show and the performers. I know the performers themselves would understand where I'm going with this. It should also be noted that the theme for this year's show revolved around breast cancer awareness, as October is the highlighted month for breast cancer. The city of Virginia Beach planned a walk/run on the Saturday of the show along with a free "Breastival" later that night, which would have featured the Blue Angels, and a way to drive up attendance for that event. It didn't work, and I will go on why.
This year's NAS Oceana Airshow lineup had one of the largest array of performers one could ask for in a show that featured BOTH the Blue Angels and the Snowbirds. Six single-ship military demonstrations were slated to perform (E-2C, F-15E, F-16, F/A-18C, F/A-18F, QF-4E), along with a large compliment of Hornets and Super Hornets for the Fleet portion of the show. New for this year's show were the Pietsch brothers, Mike Rinker, and Otto the Helicopter. In addition, Dale Snodgrass, John Mohr, Bill Leff, and the Shockwave Jet Truck made appearances. The British Red Devils were represented as the sole parachute team for the show - a show that usually features a minimum of two parachute teams. Not a minute of the show would feature any down time, but sadly, this year's show featured a lot of down time between acts... and all for the worst reasons...
Going into the beginning of the week, practically all of the major weather forecasts predicted a Nor'easter going up the east coast, wrecking havoc on the Hampton Roads area for the entire weekend. Thursday through Sunday, the days most die-hard Oceana Airshow fans usually spend in Virginia Beach, were slated to be very rainy and for the most part, windy. It rained for a good amount on Thursday as expected, but it was warm. Rain was forecasted for the morning on Friday, but being cool and breezy. However, it rained ALL DAY on Friday. Only Otto the Helicopter flew on Friday and Kent Shockley got to fire up the Shockwave Jet Truck twice. Weather forecasts for Saturday were all over the place, but most predicted rain for the early morning and clouds all day, combined with a decent amount of wind. Let's just say that Saturday was the only day it DIDN'T rain. However, with cloud decks flirting between 700-1,000 feet, not a lot of the acts could fly. Sunday's show featured some of the most annoying misty drizzle (and some periods of steady rain), high winds, and extreme cold one could ask for. Not a single jet got into the skies on Sunday. Everyone was bundled up as if this was a cold, wintry day, and it sure felt like it.
Those acts that never got a chance to fly included the Snowbirds, all of the Fleet-related Hornets and Super Hornets, the F-16 demonstration (though I do believe that they were a part of the voluntary grounding that the 20th Fighter Wing imposed because of a recent accident), the British Red Devils never got a chance to jump, and because of the weather between Tyndall AFB and NAS Oceana, the QF-4E Phantom never made it to Oceana. Bill Leff was able to fly three times on Saturday, with the third time being a race between him and his T-6 versus the Shockwave Jet Truck. The Snowbirds did attempt to fly on Saturday, with the first three jets taking to the skies to do a weather check, but immediately returning to base because of the clouds. John Mohr flew twice - the first time performing the airplane to helicopter transfer, which featured stuntman Todd Green, and the second time flying a modified routine of his. I've told John and his wife Lyn how much all you guys appreciate his performance, based solely on the comments on the videos that feature him. I was also very happy to hear that he will be making at least one appearance in my area in 2010!
Probably one of the best series of airshow acts out there belong to Kent & Warren Pietsch. Kent flies a comedy routine in his Interstate Cadet that is unlike any in the airshow industry. His act features some of the best flying you will ever see, working one aileron and the entire rudder throughout the performance (and yes, I do mean one aileron!). In addition, Kent will also land his Cadet on the top of an RV as well as performing an aerobatic routine AND turning the Interstate Cadet into a glider - deadsticking the plane to the ground and coming to a stop by placing the propeller spinner in the hand of the airshow announcer. The deadstick act is amazing and represents one of the best energy management performances you can find in an unpowered powered plane. Saturday's deadstick featured Kent coming up short on announcer Rob Reider and mentioning it was the first time in any of his performances that he came up short. You can chalk that one up to the winds that day. No big deal... it's still a great act. Warren Pietsch also flies an aerobatic performance - this time in a clipped-wing Taylorcraft. Most of the performances that Warren flew were in conjunction with Kent - he took the stage prior to Kent flying his comedy routine, and finishing it once Kent got on the ground. Warren also flew when Kent attempted to land the Interstate Cadet on the top of an RV.
A lot of people have e-mailed me asking me what the Fleet would have entailed. None of the fleet jets got to take to the skies, but the Air Power Demo would have included an in-flight refueling demonstration between two Super Hornets and a mock air-to-air dogfight between a Super Hornet and a Hornet from VFC-12 Fighting Omars, which is the aggressor squadron based at Oceana. The typical four or six attack passes would have also been included in the demonstration, and the size of the Fleet Flyby was not given to me, but I have heard that the number of aircraft was to be as large as sixteen Hornets and Super Hornets. The Legacy Hornet demonstration that was flown on Saturday was flown in the White Hornet, and would be the last time a Hornet demo would be flown in that jet. It is slated to be repainted in the standard grey in November.
As I said earlier, Sunday's weather was definitely the worst I had ever had to put up with at any airshow. I'm no fan of cold weather but I was able to brave an entire day in the rain, cold, and wind on Friday and Saturday, but Sunday was too much for me. I had traveled with one of my friends, and we both came to some sort of agreement that the opportunity to leave in the middle of the show on Sunday was available. Once the Snowbirds gave the signal that they were not going to fly their performance, we decided to go home. It was a great move, as I found out several hours later that the Blues weren't going to fly. It's probably the first time where I got fed up with the weather and left in the middle of an airshow, and I can bet that everyone would understand that move. Yes, I was dressed for it, but I also did not want to be sick as a dog the days after. While the weather wrecked havoc on the show, I still enjoyed my time in Virginia Beach. I did exercise a plan of not going, but decided on going because there would be more than just the airplanes that would make up for the bad weather. Had I stayed home, I probably would have had a worse weekend.
I will definitely be back for the 2010 show, despite the 2009 show getting the title of worst airshow weather, ever. I know that the entire team at Oceana will bounce back from this and come up with a great show next year.
Military Demonstration Teams
US Navy Blue Angels
British Army Red Devils
Military Aircraft Demonstrations
E-2C Hawkeye Demonstration - VAW-120
F-15E Strike Eagle Demo Team
F-16 Fighting Falcon East Coast Demo Team
F/A-18C Hornet Demonstration - VFA-106
F/A-18F Super Hornet Demonstration - VFA-106
Naval Air Power Demonstration
NAS Oceana Fleet Flyby
QF-4E Phantom in Heritage Flight
Aerobatic Performances, Warbird Performances, and Others
Kent & Warren Pietsch
Shockwave Jet Truck
Otto & Todd Green
USAF Heritage Flight
US Navy Legacy Flight