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Looking Back at the Tomcat’s Sunset at the 2006 NAS Oceana Air Show

The 2006 NAS Oceana Air Show was one of the major highlights (or lowlights, depending how you feel) for U. S. Naval aviation in the new Millennium. The show featured the beginning of the Sunset events for the Grumman F-14 Tomcat in American service.

The final operational F-14s were flying with VF-32, an Ocean-based Fighter Squadron, and a quartet of the swing-wing fighters flew each day of the air shows.

Hundreds of aviation photographers from around the world traveled to Virginia Beach, Virginia to witness the final public flights of the handful of remaining Tomcats, which would be fully retired just days after the air show.

The Fleet Flyby was and still is a highly anticipated formation flight with several different types of Naval aircraft joined up… in 2006 a dozen jets – 4 Tomcats, 4 F/A-18 (Legacy) Hornets, and 4 F-18E/F Super Hornets were all together at once… with a trailing “surprise” Hornet surprising everyone with a blistering fast pass soon after the big formation reached the far right of the air show spectator area.

There were more interesting events with historical significance too. Fat Albert – the Marine Corps KC-130T used by the Blue Angels, made a JATO takeoff during the shows… the JATO feature would be phased out three years later, so these departures were some of the final ones NAS Oceana would ever see.

The U.S. Navy Test Pilot School displayed one of the few remaining piston-engined aircraft active with the U.S. Navy too. A U-6 Beaver, utilized at the Test Pilots School, was on static display too.

An exciting group of warbirds made appearances, with a Starfighters F-104 jet ripping up the Navy base.

A Navy Legacy flight with a FG-1 Corsair, AD-4 Skyraider and VFA-106 F/A-18C Hornet also graced the Virginia Beach skies.

An Air Force F-117 flew, making multiple photo passes to show off its angular shape. The Air Force F-15 Eagle Demo Team also flew during the show, the Eagle was based at Langley AFB, “just down the road” from NAS Oceana.

This was truly a great aviation event for the public, with a large gathering of static-displayed military and civilian aircraft, in addition to a great flying display. While the Navy’s Grumman F-14 Tomcat had built quite a legacy while in service, the Sunset show was a worthy presentation to showcase the Tomcat’s final flying show surrounded with other memorable scenes.

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Looking Back at the Blue Angels 60th Birthday Bash at RNLAF Leeuwarden

Koninklijke Luchtmacht (RNLAF) Leeuwarden Open Dagen 2006

The year was 2006, and the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels Flight Demonstration Squadron as celebrating their 60th Anniversary. As part of their schedule, a short European tour was planned and executed, including a weekend at the RNLAF Leeuwarden, an air force base well northeast of the Netherlands’ largest city of Amsterdam. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to see another European air show, with a twist of Blues too. I chose to attend both the Friday and Saturday air shows, which were slightly different each day.

A fantastic flying and static display was presented, and now – some fourteen years later – it is well worth looking back at the event.

“Open Dagen”, or translated in English to “Open Days”, is a yearly tradition where Dutch military air bases rotate and one hosts an event open to the public for a weekend air show. This is the largest air show of the year in the Netherlands, and national pride in their air force is readily apparent. At the Leeuwarden air base, formation flying, solo routines and historic aircraft were all presented from one of the base’s two runways. The other runway and major taxiways were covered with parked aircraft on display, or space to stretch out and watch the almost five-hour long flying display.

The “home team” was led by a pair of solo military performers, the flashy F-16 demonstration as well as the PC-7 display. A large 9-ship F-16 flight, as well as an air refueling formation of a KDC-10 and F-16, and helicopter demos were all done with European flair.

A Netherlands heritage formation made up of a Spitfire, B-25 and the RNLAF F-16 demo ship was a highlight, with some great, close formation flying. Other foreign jet teams included the Patroille Suisse, Finland’s Midnight Hawks, a Portuguese Air Force 2-ship Alpha Jet team, and the Patroille de France. Of course, the Blue Angels flew their usual routine too.

A special Friday non-aerobatic flypast put the RAF’s Red Arrows in the lead of a formation with the Blue Angels F/A-18s below and behind the nine BAE Hawks. The Red Arrows had other weekend engagements, but made the short, cross-Channel flight for the Friday matinee salute to the Blue Angels.

In the ground, some very interesting military and civilian aircraft were displayed. An Austrian Shorts Skyvan, Finnish Fokker 27, Czech Air Force Antonov AN-26 and a new Polish CN-295 transport were just four aircraft not normally seen in North America.

Belgian and Royal Navy Sea Kings joined another Sikorsky helicopter, a German Army CH-53G. As far as heavy metal, a German F-4F, Turkish F-5-2000, Czech Saab JAS_39 Gripen joined multiple F-16s, including the RNLAF’s test aircraft, nicknames the “Orange Jumper” (Orange is the Netherland’s national color and identity).

Other warbirds on the ground included a DHC-2 Beaver, T-6 Texan, Fokker T-11 trainer, a Beech C-45, and a Piper L-4J. A pristine PBY Catalina was joined by a civilian Fokker 27 and Douglas DC-3C.

Unfortunately, the weather on Friday was overcast and hazy… but fortunately Saturday was the opposite… mainly clear blue skies, perfect for an air show. The Blue Angels attracted a lot of the attention at this Open Dagen, and performed brilliantly. The formation with the Red Arrows was a rare treat, seeing the two teams fly together. For me, my satisfaction also came from the diverse aircraft and operators at the show, from countries that I usually don’t see.

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Looking Back at the 2006 Edwards AFB Air Show

Late in October of 2006, the High Desert of California reverberated with the roar of jets in afterburner and piston engines growling with all of their might. The 2006 Edwards AFB Air Show went off without a hitch, with brilliant weather for flying and more than forty aircraft arrayed on the static display.

Read more » Random Warbirds #4


C-47 at Bridgeport Connecticut before the D-Day celebration in 2019.

Here’s number four in our series of random warbird photos, enjoy!

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