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AutoMatters & More: Action-Packed 2015 MCAS Miramar Air Show

Blue Angels passing a little too close for comfort
Blue Angels passing a little too close for comfort

Shockwave jet truck
Shockwave jet truck

The 2015 Miramar Air Show, featuring the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels, thrilled fans once again at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. This was also the first opportunity for many in the public — and myself — to see the new F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter in action, demonstrating its short takeoff and vertical landing capabilities.
The theme of this year’s air show was “A Salute to Veterans and Their Families” — many of whom live in or near San Diego, or are stationed at MCAS Miramar. Their mission, which they fulfill with honorable service and unparalleled dedication, and through many sacrifices, is to protect us, our values and our way of life. We owe them a great debt of thanks and our sincere appreciation.
As always, there were many static displays of past and present military aircraft, ground vehicles and equipment. Throughout the show, Marines, sailors, airmen and Coast Guardsmen explained what we were seeing, tirelessly supported the show and assisted their many guests. There were also many vendor tents to check out and activities to enjoy.
Before the aerial portion of the show, the Third Marine Aircraft Wing Band performed. Established during WWII, the band has been at MCAS Miramar since 1999.
Joining the Blue Angels this year with tight-formation flying and thrilling aerobatic maneuvers were the Patriots L-39 Jet Team and, on their very first U.S. tour which followed their 2014 European tour, the Breitling L-39 Albatross Jet Team from France.

Breitling L-39 Jet Team from France
Breitling L-39 Jet Team from France

Breitling’s long ties to aviation began with its development of onboard chronographs for airplane cockpits, including World War II propeller-driven fighters. Flying within 10 feet of each other and at speeds approaching 435 mph, their ace pilots performed unique precision maneuvers, set to a soundtrack of music that sounded appropriately French. They were especially easy to see against the light blue sky, thanks to their paint scheme, which included a black fuselage and gray on the underside of the wings.
The U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute team performed daring feats that included passing a baton at 120 mph.
A Boeing AV-8B Harrier demonstrated its vertical takeoff and landing capabilities. It was amazing to observe it slowly rotate in midair and face the large audience. It can be armed with 500- and 1000-pound bombs, Maverick missiles, cluster munitions and Sidewinders.

Heavy lifting for the MAGTF battle demo
Heavy lifting for the MAGTF battle demo

Adventurer Sean Tucker, in his familiar
red custom-built 400 hp, up-to-300 mph Oracle Challenger III aerobatic
stunt biplane, amazed the crowd. He has flown more than 1,200
performances, entertaining more than 105 million fans in an air show
career that began in the mid-’70s. His stunts included maintaining
stationary, straight-up flight in the “Harrier Pass”; falling backwards
towards the ground, turning to point downwards and resuming normal
flight in the “Double Hammerhead”; nose-over-tail tumbles through the
air, seemingly out of control, in the “Forward Flip” and “The
Centrifuge”; and his signature “Triple Ribbon Cut,” during which he used
the wings of his biplane to slice, one after the other, three ribbons
stretched between three poles on the ground.
The Shockwave Jet
Truck could not be missed as its powerful, flame-throwing jet engine
left a huge trail of white smoke, propelling the truck in high-speed
drag racing runs that included a race with a plane flying low overhead.

Cloud of condensed water forms around a jet
Cloud of condensed water forms around a jet

Of course, the highlight of the show was
the performance by the U.S. Navy Blue Angels. It began with an
aerobatic flight demonstration by “Fat Albert” — the Blue Angels’ C-130
support plane, in its distinctive Navy blue and gold paint scheme, and
commanded by Capt. Katie Higgins, its first female pilot. Earlier this
year, I enjoyed the extreme privilege of flying on a Fat Albert air show
rehearsal flight, which was commanded by Capt. Higgins at the NAF El
Centro Air Show (see AM #376).
In the finale, the Blue Angels, in
their F/A-18 Hornets, flew in spectacular formations high above, with
smoke on; crossed paths in daring head-on maneuvers; and surprised the
crowd by flying at high speed from behind and over the grandstands —
giving us plenty to remember and to come back to see again next year.
Please write to AutoMatters@gmail.com with your comments and suggestions.

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