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Aero Vodochody L-39 Albatros Update


Aero Vodochody, the Czechoslovakian/Czech Republic aircraft manufacturer celebrated their 100th anniversary of existence in 2019, making it one of the oldest surviving aircraft manufacturers in the world. The company boasts that they’ve built some 11,000 aircraft over that century, providing aircraft to over 60 air forces and many more civilian concerns.

Aero L-29 Delphin.

The company is quite successful in the military jet trainer market, beginning with the in-house-designed Aero L-29 Delfin, and then the L-39 Albatros. In 1964, the company began design work on the successor of their (already successful) L-29 Delfins. This became known as the L-39 Albatros, a tandem twin-seat trainer with a modern ejection seat and a new turbofan jet engine, the Ivchenko AI-25 turbofan engine of Russian design. The second Albatros prototype made the type’s first flight on November 4, 1969, and soon this model of Czechoslovakian design took over the reins of most of the Warsaw Pact countries’ jet training needs, as older L-29s were phased out.

Single seat L-159A light attack jet.

Originally an advanced trainer in the 1970s through the 1990s, the type was adapted as a weapons trainer, target tug and a light attack aircraft too. Production of the L-39 ended in 1996. However, newer versions, called the L-59, L-139 and ultimately the L-159 were designed and produced. Main improvements to the original aircraft included Western jet engines and avionics, as well as increased stores capacity and utility. Some effort was put into simply upgrading existing airframes too, such as the 40 L-39ZA/ARTs upgraded by Elbit Systems for the Royal Thai Air Force.

Source: Aero Vodochody

In 2014, the L-39NG program was announced by Aero Vodochody. Improvements and modernization are readily apparent. Now powered by a Williams FJ44-4M engine, it adds a redesigned cockpit with a heads-up display, new avionics containing glass panel displays and night vision compatibility, plus a new, single piece canopy which improves visibility. By September, 2015, the L-39NG technology demonstrator (called the L-39CW) completed its development work. On December 22, 2018, the first pre-production L-39NG trainer made its first flight. On December 9, 2019, a second L-39NG took to the skies.

Stage 1 L-39NG versions will be converted from existing airframes, while Stage 2 aircraft will be newly-built aircraft from the ground up. The air forces of Senegal and the Czech Republic have ordered L-39NGs, as well as the Portuguese company Skytech, the American company RSW Aviation, and another American company, DRAKEN International. Some of these orders include both –NG and –CW versions.

An important opportunity for the L-39 series to extend its’ longevity isn’t just with new aircraft, but with retired military jets too. There are a few hundred L-39s, mainly the –C trainer version, that are privately owned by civilians. Most are in the U.S., where the type has become an economical warbird jet to operate (if there ever was one!). They have their own race class at Reno’s National Championship Air Races, and there are multiple civilian airshow teams that perform in the U.S. and Europe too.

Here’s a breakdown of most of the L-39/L-159 variants:

L-39X 7 prototype and static test airframes, two of which never flew

Civilian-operated L-39C Warbird taken at Quonset Point Rhode Island.

L-39C Albatros 2260 standard trainers with 2 underwing pylons, Ivchenko IA-25 engine.

L-39CM/L-39M1 Modernized versions used by Slovakia and Ukrainian Air Forces.

L-39V target tug version, 9 produced.

L-39ZO Weapons trainer with 4 pylons, 337 built.

L-39ZA Upgraded L-39ZOs with stronger landing gear and expanded weapons storage, 208 converted.

L-39ZA/ART Thai Air Force version, 40 built.

The single example of the Aero L-139 is in private hands.

L-139 One prototype with a Garrett TFE731 engine fitted.

Modernized L-159T1 trainer of the Czech Air Force

L-159A AND L-159B ALCA Upgraded aircraft with newer avionics, weapons systems and Honeywell ITEC F124 engine.

L-159E HONEY BADGER Single-seat L-159 version for DRAKEN International, acting as adversary trainers, threat simulation and chase aircraft, close to two dozen airframes could be converted to this configuration.

L-39NG Stage 1 aircraft are existing airframes fitted with a FJ44 engine and new avionics (called the L-39CW), and a Martin-Baker “zero-zero” ejection seat. The Stage 2 aircraft are new-build airframes with the same new engine and avionics, plus a new, wet wing design that does away with the wing tip tanks.

With an operational lifespan of over fifty years (1969 through 2020), the Aero L-39 Albatros has been a familiar sight at both military and civilian air fields. It has been a large part of Aero Vodochody’s success for half of the company’s existence too. With newly-overhauled and -built airframes being rolled out over the next few years, the light jet should be earning its keep as a trainer, attack jet and sport aircraft for another few decades too.

Grumman’s Long-Serving C-2A Greyhound Will Be Retired This Decade


U.S. Navy C-2A Greyhound arrives aboard an aircraft carrier somewhere in the Pacific. Photo by Dion Makowski

The Grumman C-2A Greyhound was developed from the E-2 Hawkeye AWACS during the 1960s. More than five decades later, the final examples of this venerable aircraft carrier-borne transport are slated to be retired … around the type’s 60th birthday. Operating in rugged and challenging environments, the Greyhound will be replaced with the Boeing CMV-22B Osprey, a tiltrotor whose capabilities were barely on the horizon in the 1960s.

Navy COD in the foreground, at its home away from home. Photo by Dion Makowski

The C-2A won a competition to replace the remaining Grumman C-1A Carrier On-board Delivery (COD) aircraft in the U.S. Naval inventory, which were modified Grumman S-2 Tracker anti-submarine aircraft. The first two Grumman YC-2As were produced from modified E-2A Hawkeye radar aircraft. Gone went the radome, and a new, larger fuselage was added to the wing/engine structure of the Hawkeyes. The first flight of a prototype occurred on November 18, 1964. After flight testing was accomplished, 17 production aircraft were ordered; the type was introduced into service in 1966.

The 19 initial C-2As flew to and from aircraft carriers around the world for two decades. The fuselage of the new COD was designed to be able to transport individual jet engines from shore to the carrier, as well as high priority cargo, passengers, and another important item – mail for a carrier’s crew.

Other missions for the Greyhound included parachute operations for cargo and special forces paratroopers (Navy SEALS included). Inclusion of an in-flight operating cargo door and an on-board winch helps handle cargo loading and offloading chores easily. The aircraft has folding wings, which helps with shipboard handling and storage. An Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) is fitted for remote operations too.

Pre-SLEP C-2A at NAS North Island

The first production batch aircraft were all overhauled in a 1973 Service Life Extension Program (SLEP). These older airframes were all later retired by 1987. A batch of 39 new production C-2As was ordered in 1984; the new airframes were all in use by 1990. Of the newer batch, some 36 airframes were upgraded during a SLEP, with a service life stretching to the year 2027. One item which is readily apparent of the latest SLEP is the inclusion of a new 8-bladed NP2000 propeller, which is also fitted to current E-2D Hawkeye aircraft.

CMV-22B is in early testing, photo via NAVAIR – U.S. Navy

A program to replace the C-2 Greyhound saw three airframes vying for the job. An improved C-2A with refinements from the newest E-2D Hawkeye was fielded by Northrop Grumman. A derivative of the Lockheed S-3 Viking was also fielded. Ultimately, a specialized variant of the Bell Boeing MV-22 Osprey was chosen though, and the first prototype of this series (called the CMV-22B) flew on January 21st, 2020 at Amarillo, Texas.

Overall dimensions and performance of the Greyhound includes:

Crew: 2 pilots and 2 loadmasters.

Can carry 26 passengers or 12 litter parients, and a total payload of 10,000 pounds.

Wingspan is 80 feet 7 inches, length is 56 feet 10 inches.

Empty weight is 36,749 pounds, maximum takeoff weight is 57,500 pounds.

Powered by two Allison T56-A-425 turboprops.

Maximum speed is 343 knots, cruise speed is around 260 knots, stall speed is 82 knots.

Range is up to 1,300 nautical miles normally 1,000 miles, service ceiling is around 30,000 feet.

VRC-40 Greyhound in commemorative colors.

The C-2A Greyhound has supported U.S. military forces throughout numerous conflicts, including the Viet Nam War, the Gulf War and Operation Enduring freedom to name just a few. Although shipborne operations are carried out via “Detachments” from a main operating unit (Fleet Logistics Support Squadrons VRC-30 in the Pacific and VRC-40 in the Atlantic), there have been other Squadrons during the type’s history too. Training Squadrons for E-2C Hawkeyes acquired examples for a short period of time, VX-20 operated an example for Test and Development, and for a single Navy Transport Squadron (VR-24) in the European and Mediterranean areas.

A pair of VRC-30 C-2As taking part in the 2012 CONA flypast at NAS North Island.

Fifty-five years after the first prototype flew, the days of the C-2A Greyhound in Fleet service are numbered. The rugged design served around the world on some of America’s largest and most lethal weapons – aircraft carriers. It’s crews performed important duties during war and peace, and the design withstood the test of time, with the help of a pair of major Service Life Extension Programs. Interestingly enough, the two main operators of the C-2A today incorporate a sunset in the background of their unit insignia. Although the new tiltrotor technology will add some capabilities to the new COD mission that the Greyhound didn’t have, a fifty-year service life means that the aircraft’s design certainly wasn’t lacking in ability nor longevity.



Dover Air Force Base in Delaware had its big air show for 2019, officially called “Thunder Over Dover”, on Saturday and Sunday, September 13th and 14th. Counting both the Static Ramp and the Hot Ramp, the organizers were able to muster up 55 aircraft this year and draw almost 150,000 plane chasers for each day. The show also included six hours of flying by both civilian and military acts, including the number one attraction this year, the USAF F-22 Raptor Demonstration Team teaming up with a P-51D Mustang for the final Heritage Flight.


Dover Air Force Base (DOV / KDOV) is a major Air Mobility Command (AMC) base and is home to the 436th Airlift Wing, an active USAF host unit and the 512th Airlift Wing, an Associate Air Force Reserve Command (AFRC) unit. The 512AW helps maintain, repair, support and fly the same aircraft as its active duty counterparts. Members of the 512th work side-by-side with members of the 436th AW in fulfilling the mission, maintaining and flying the Lockheed-Martin C-5M “Super Galaxy” and the Boeing C-17A “Globemaster III”, working together to form “Team Dover”. The 436AW at Dover consists of the 3rd Airlift Squadron flying the C-17A and the 9th Airlift Squadron flying the C-5M. The Reserve 512AW consists of the 326th Airlift Squadron flying the C-17A and the 709th Airlift Squadron flying the C-5M at Dover. Both Wings have many Maintenance Mission Support and Medical Squadrons that keep the whole place going. A very serious unit that continues to operate here at Dover is the “Charles C. Carson Center for Mortuary Affairs” under the USAF Mortuary Affairs Operations Center (AFMAO), also known as “Port Mortuary”. The Mortuary staff receives the remains of US service members as well as government officials and their families stationed abroad in Europe, Southwest Asia and the Middle East. They are known lately for receiving the remains of all service members who are Killed-In-Action (KIA) in the Afganistan-Syria- Iraq Theaters of Operation. There are always two or three Kalitta Air Charter Dassault Falcon 20 aircraft waiting on Standby at the south ramp at Dover to transport families and the deceased to their final resting places from Dover.

Bob Finch photo

On a lighter note, Dover remains the home of the Air Mobility Command Museum (AMCM) located at the south ramp of the Base. That AMCM at Dover is dedicated to the military aircraft and refueling aircraft and the men and women who flew and maintained them within the AMC, and earlier, the MAC. It has the largest and most complete collection of fully restored US military cargo aircraft in the Eastern US as well as some aircraft that were previously based here at Dover, such as the F-106 “Delta Dart” interceptor. Until a few years ago, there were eight “Alert Barns” that housed eight F-106A Delta Darts from the 95th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, previously based here at Dover in the 1960’s during the Cold War, ready to launch on 5-minute warning to get up and intercept incoming Soviet TU-95 “Bear” nuclear-armed bombers inbound to attack the East Coast cities of the US. The museum currently has over 35 aircraft on display. It’s newest additions this year are a second C-119G “Flying Boxcar” and a KB-50J Stratotanker. When you are at the Museum and you look to the east across Runway 32, you can see the ordinance bunkers and the underground command post bunkers from the Cold War days when the 95th FIS under the USAF Air Defense Command (ADC) stored nuclear missiles in these same bunkers that armed the F-106’s that were on 24-hour alert status here at Dover AFB.


The “Thunder Over Dover” Static Line was quite impressive for 2019, considering that the Blues or the T-Birds did not pay Dover a visit this year. In past shows, Dover limited the Static Line to the short ramp in front of the Air Mobility Command Museum to the south. For this year they moved most of their C-5’s and C-17’s out of the way and opened up their main ramp for more airplanes. Counting the Hot Ramp and the Static Ramp, the organizers rustled up over 55 planes for 2019. Starting on almost a one mile walk down the ramp from the south, the first static we hit was a 1975 Piper PA-28R-200 owned by the Delaware State University School of Aviation with “Tuskegee Airman” tail art; then another DSU plane, a Cessna-172; then a 1940 yellow Stinson L-9B Voyager named “Bloody Mary” in WW2 CAP colors; next a USAF Cessna-172P owned by the Dover AFB Aero Club; a second DAFB-AC plane – a 1977 C-182; then a 1998 Lancair Super ES-082 Experimental;


More statics included a 1966 Cessna-150G done up as a white and grey USAF T-51A trainer; a 1956 Beech T-34 Mentor with a bright yellow tail and nose; a 1991 Beech B-35T Bonanza; a blue HU-1N VIP Huey from the 11th Wing, 811th Operations Support Group, 1st Helicopter Squadron, a unit currently consisting of about 15 Hueys at JB Andrews in DC that provides VIP transport for government or military officials in the DC area. This unit at Andrews will soon transition to the Boeing / Augusta-Westland MH-139 (Leonardo-139) where 30 of these new helos will be based.

Next, a 1988 Aerospatale Socata TB-30 Epsilon single engine mono-wing; a 2016 CAP Textron-Cessna-182T “Skylane”; a 2018 CAP Textron-Cessna 172S; and finally there were two T-6A Texan II’s from the 71st FTW / AETC from Vance AFB, OK, that arrived late to the ramp and parked next to the wire.

Nearby was Dr. Joe Masessa’s (MD) grey 1968 US Army Grumman OV-1D “Mohawk”, a twin engine and previously armed military observation and attack aircraft, now done up in FAC SEA Vietnam colors. The plane had 1,600 names of those missing or captured during the Vietnam War painted on the Mohawk’s fuselage. Dr. Masessa was going to take his Mohawk up for an aerobatic demo for the Dover weekend but he rested his plane for this show on the static ramp and answered questions all weekend about the plane. Sadly, Dr. Joseph Masessa lost his life in a fatal crash of his OV-1 Mohawk on Friday, November 1st, at the Audi Stewart Air Show at Witham, Florida, on the Friday Practice Day for the air show. A video showed the Mohawk diving almost vertically ‘nose down’ exploding instantly on impact upon hitting the ground, according to observers, after he completed his 10 minute aerobatic routine. This crash came a month after the Collings Foundation fatal B-17 crash at Bradley Airport in Connecticut in October. It’s fun to watch the warbirds go up at air shows but we must remember that this air show flying can be a risky business. On occasion there are fatal crashes. PhotoRecon Magazine extends its condolences to those who lost their lives in these two recent warbird crashes.

The Static Ramp also had some “heavy metal”: a Lockheed-Martin C-130H2 “Hercules” tactical transport aircraft from the 166th Airlift Wing (166AW), DEANG, with a light blue tail band and “The First State” nose art, out of the nearby New Castle ANGB, near Wilmington; the real “Heavy Metal”, a 58 year old B-52H Stratofortress strategic bomber out of Barksdale AFB, Louisiana, from the 20th BS “Buccaneers” / 96th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron “Red Devils” (dual unit), with a red and black tail band, “LA” tail code, “Devils Island” art work and a worn out nose art logo “The Last Laugh”; next to it an F-16C Viper down from the 177th Fighter Wing (177FW), “Jersey Devils”, NJANG, with a red “New Jersey” tail band and an “AC” tail code out of the Atlantic City ANGB, NJ;

next an A-10 C “Hog” from the 175th FW, MDANG, out of Warfield ANGB, Martin State Airport, MD, with a “MD” and “Baltimore” tail code with multiple target strike nose art symbols on the side nose, a battle veteran for sure; next an F-15E Strike Eagle from the 333rd FS “Lancers” / 4th FW, “SJ” tail code out of Seymour Johnson AFB, NC; a General Atomics MQ-9 “Reaper” UAV / RPV drone from the 174th Attack Wing (174ATKW) out of Hancock ANGB, NY, near Syracuse, with a “CH” tail code (Creech AFB, AZ) as a dismantalable display model also noted with Invasion Stripes and four special logos – 432nd Wing, 432nd DO SPT SQDN, 11th Attack Squadron and the 15th Attack Squadron, besides the 174th, (free advertising for all players); a Lockheed C-5M “Super Galaxy” from the local 436AW / 512AW here at Dover; a McDonnell-Douglas C-17A “Globemaster III” also from the 436AW / 512AW at Dover; a McDonnell-Douglas KC-10 “Extender” tanker from the 305AMU / 514AMU, AMC, out of McGuire; an MC-130J-1-LM “Commando II” Super Hercules from the 9th Special Operations Squadron “Night Owls”, 27SOW, out of Cannon AFB, NM; next, a white Raytheon T-1A (Beech-400A) “Jayhawk” from the 3rd FTS “Peugoets” (a mythical creature or maybe a French car?), 71st FTW, Vance AFB, OK, “VN” tail code, an advanced trainer for airlift and tanker pilots.


Four Demo Team planes were parked very close to the wire where the public came in from the north ramp and easy to be seen as you walked in from the public parking area — The Raptor Demo Team from the 1st FW “FF” from Langley were parked close to the wire with their two F-22’s and also close to the wire were the two A-10C “Hogs” from the A-10 Demo Team from the 23rd Wing, ACC, out of Moody AFB, Valdesta, Georgia. The rest of the Hot Ramp aircraft were set back a ways including a local favorite, the B-25J-25-NC Mitchell bomber “Panchito” from the nearby Delaware Aviation Museum at Georgetown, Delaware.

This year’s Hot Ramp was well stocked with an abundance of 10 mono-wing and bi-wing stunt planes in many bright colors, but unfortunately hard to see up close by the public until they taxied out. The stunt guys included: Nathan Hammond’s 1956 de Havilland DH-1C Super Chipmunk, a Canadian RCAF trainer named “Ghostwriter”, that’s a red, white and blue 2-seat mono-wing stunt plane and sky writer with a checkered tail and a blue nose. Randy Ball was supposed to be here with his MiG-17 from Fighter Jets Aerobatics Inc., but his friend, Bill Culberson, showed up with his own Soviet MiG-17F from the Red Star Pilots Association. Bill’s MiG-17 was based on a Soviet wartime factory scheme and designed later to match Randy Ball’s MiG-17F from Ball’s FighterJets Inc. Lately, Culberson has been supporting Ball on MiG-17 Demos in the eastern USA.

Next we had RJ Gritter’s blue high wing American Champion 8KCAB “Decathlon” mono-wing plane; Grant Nelson’s red and yellow custom bi-wing Mudry CAP-232 that he named “Bubbles”; Brent Handy’s Canadian (C-GZPG) red and white bi-wing Pitts S-2B; Todd Farrell’s Canadian (C-GHEF) red bi-wing Pitts S-2B (the two Canadians team up together at air shows); Patrick McAlee’s blue and yellow Swayne Pitts S1-E bi-wing; and Jacqueline “Jackie-B” Warda’s Extra EA-300, a 2-seat mono-wing stunt plane. Then we had a big aerobatic airplane, Matt Younkin’s 1943 red and black Twin Beech-18 (AT-7C); next an old friend at the shows, John Klatt’s “Jack Links” red and black classic “Jet Waco”, a 1929 Taperwing that he calls “Scream’in Sasquatch”, that’s fitted with a P&W 985 radial engine and a belly-mounted GE J85 jet engine; then John Klatt’s second plane flown today by Dell Coller, a red and black Extra 300L 2-seat mono-wing; next, Col. Bruce Heinlin (CO of the Mid-Atlantic CAP Wing) plane. a C-182 that he later did a photo-ship demo pass in down the Flightline.

The Hot Ramp also had the “Trojan Thunder” Demo Team that came to Dover with six T-28 Trojans done up in 1965 bright colors of the various military services, quite different from today’s “Low-Viz” on all the current military planes; then we had Andrew McKenna’s bare metal polished gloss P-51D Mustang that he would fly later together with Maj. Paul “Loco” Lopez in the F-22 Demo Raptor for the concluding 2-ship “Heritage Flight”. Far down the north ramp were the C-17A and the C-5 M, both from Dover, that would later do the “Heavy Metal” demos. Finally, far off was a privately-owned black and yellow Shorts Irish-built Brazilian Embraer EMB-312 “Tucano” that would take to the air for a fast high speed aerobatic performance. So there you have it; 55 airplanes on the ground”


The Flying Show had just one “Super Star” this year at Dover: The F-22 Raptor Demo Team with Maj. Paul “Loco” Lopez on the stick who would team up later for the “Heritage Flight” with Andrew McKenna in his high gloss polished bare metal P-51D Mustang (famous for having no name) for the “Grand Finale” flyover. But Dover’s loss of a star multi-ship military demonstration team was certainly made up for with a multitude of private aerobatic stunt flyers, some local “heavy metal”, the “Trojan Thunder” T-28 Demo Team and the US Army Special Operations Command parachute team “The Black Daggers”. At exactly 1100 hours things started happening in the air: the two Moody A-10C’s and the two Vance T-6 Texan II’s did some low passes followed by a Delaware State University Aviation 4-ship fly-by. Then Matt Younkin’s 1943 Twin Beech was the jump plane for the USASOC Black Daggers mass jump and flag drop for the National Anthem. “Jackie-B” in her Extra-300S next was the first of amazingly 10 aerobatic stunt plane acts scattered in all day at Dover.

We also had mixed in during the day four Warbird flying demos: “Panchito”, the local B-25J WW2 Mitchell bomber; the Twin Beech-18 / C-45 Expeditor; the P-51D gloss metal Mustang and the “Trojan Thunder” 6-ship demo team with their T-28C Trojan trainer / light attack birds all in different high intensity service colors from the bright 1960’s. Also scattered in were the local Dover Heavies: The C-5M Super Galaxy Demo and the C-17A Globemaster III Demo, both showing off their their full combat capabilities both in the air and on the ground. Right in the middle of all this, Col. Bruce Heinlein, the CAP Mid-Atlantic Commander, went up in his CAP Cessna-182 for some low slow passes to photograph the 150,000 person Dover Crowd Line.

The Dover Crowd was next treated something very different. We’re all familiar with the current Beechcraft (Textron / Hawker-Beechcraft / Raytheon) T-6A “Texan II” that’s based on the Swiss Pilatus PC-9, a turboprop trainer now used extensively by the US Air Force and the US Navy. Next to go up was a private “carbon copy” of the T-6A / PC-9, a privately owned 1987 Shorts Tucano”, a 2-seat turboprop basic trainer, here done up in black and yellow colors with a RAF rondel, a high performance plane built by Short Brothers in Belfast, Northern Ireland (still part of the UK). It is a license-built version of the Brazilian Embraer EMB-312 Tucano, that looks and feels just like a T-6A Texan II. The advanced Super Tucano EMB-314 is the A-29 now being flown by the Afghanistan Air Force. Shorts sold 160 EMB-312 Tucanos to the RAF as a trainer in the mid 1980’s. These Tucanos were retired from the RAF recently in October of 2019 and are now being sold off by the Brits, many to civilian buyers right now. It has just been reported that 22 Tucanos were recently sold to a Phoenix aircraft company and are now up for sale in the US. A recently restored 1992 Shorts Tucano Mk-1 is reportedly for sale by Platinum Fighter Sales in Deer Valley Arizona for $950,000 with only 2,000 hours! Go for it! Buy one! We were probably seeing one of these Arizona private Tucanos performing today at Dover!

And good job Dover Air Force Base for putting on another great air show in 2019. “PhotoRecon Aviation Magazine” wishes to thank Lt. Natasha Mosquera, PAO, and the entire Dover Public Affairs Office for inviting us back again in 2019 to cover the Show and again providing us with great cooperation.

We hope to see everyone again for the next Dover Air Show in 2021.

2019 Wings Over Camarillo Air Show


Wings over Camarillo continued to step it up again this year as they introduced pyrotechnics to this year’s event. The show was held under beautiful skies and amazing temperatures on August 17th and 18th, 2019.

The day prior to the show kicking off was arrival day. One of the highlights for me was the arrival of one of these static displays. A F/A-18E Super Hornet from VFA-151 Vigilantes, being piloted by LT. Joe ‘Jamboy’ Kirksey of VFA-97 Warhawks, broke overhead in preparation for landing. Along with being able to hang out with Jamboy and some of the other pilots from VFA-97 again, he brought a very special aircraft with him. The aircraft, belonging to VFA-151, had been dedicated to LT. Charles ‘JTACZ’ Walker who had recently passed away during a training accident. Jamboy had just recently returned from a combat cruise where he was at sea for over seven months defending our nation. Growing up, he had volunteered at the Commemorative Air Force at the Camarillo Airport, and it was here at the airport that he earned his initial pilot’s license. Throughout the weekend, Jamboy was proof for those in attendance that if you have a love for aviation and for flying, you could start that dream right here at the Camarillo Airport, and one day could be flying fighter jets.

The show kicked off each morning with the American Flag being parachuted in by a member of the United States Air Force Wings of Blue parachute team, who had jumped out of the C-47 Skytrain ‘D-Day Doll’. Jason Somes, Wing Leader for the CAF’s Southern California Wing based here at Camarillo Airport, flew behind it in the P-51D ‘Man O’ War’ as the jumper descended towards the crowd. Jason later flew the museum’s F8F Bearcat during the show, as well as his new red and black Mig 17 Fresco. The Wings of Blue conducted a larger jump later in the day with several parachutists demonstrating their precision to land on specified spots along the crowd line.

There were several trainers and experimental aircraft that conducted low passes down the show line during the day, with some showing off their tight formation work in T-34 Mentors, T-6 Texans, and Navions. The Lightning Formation Team, in their various RVs, performed a demonstration of both larger formation work and had a few solos make opposing passes. The Condor Squadron made multiple passes each day as well showing off different formations with each pass. An AH-1 Cobra with the Army Aviation Heritage Foundation made a few passes daily and was selling rides as well. Jason Somes in his newly acquired Mig-17 was one of the other highlights of the show for me. He made several passes each day in afterburner showing off the aircraft’s sleek wings and high-speed low-altitude capabilities.

One large pyrotechnic was detonated as Sammy Mason was ending his aerobatic routine in his Pitts S2. This created a large smoke ring that Sammy then flew through on the downside of a loop he executed. Also providing aerobatics were Vicky Benzing in her red Stearman, Judy Phelps in her Pitts, and John Collver in his SNJ/AT6 ‘Wardog’. The Wings of Blue conducted a larger jump later in the day with several parachutists demonstrating their precision to land on a specified spot on the airfield.

Along with the show in the air, the show is well known for the classic car show where entrants can have their car’s picture taken in front of a vintage aircraft each morning. There were many vendors selling a wide variety of novelty items, a kid’s corner with small rides and bounce houses, a Veteran’s booth where you could sit and speak to Veteran’s about their experiences while serving our great nation, and static displays scattered amongst the show goers.

Another unique experience that this show offers is the ability to take a ride in a helicopter prior to the show’s start and again after the show concludes. Orbic Helicopters is based on the airport and was offering rides at a discounted rate throughout the weekend. These rides were VERY reasonably priced and several people I had recommended take advantage of these prices were thrilled with their experiences and thanked me afterwards. It’s a great opportunity to get a bird’s eye view of the air show area, as well as the surrounding hills and farmlands of Camarillo. If you didn’t get a chance to take advantage this time around, they should be available next year as well. But why wait? If you’d like to go flying before that, visit for more information. They offer a wide variety of services to meet your needs.

Several warbirds took to the skies each day with pyrotechnics exploding on the ground during their demonstrations. For the morning portion, these warbirds included a B-25 Mitchell (Executive Sweet), a P-51D Mustang (Lady Alice), a P-38 Lightning (Skidoo), a P-63 King Cobra (Pretty Polly), and the Planes of Fame’s P-47G Thunderbolt. In the afternoon, the warbirds conducted an air-to-air demonstration as well as mock bombing and strafing runs. Those aircraft included: The Planes of Fame’s F4U Corsair, the CAF’s F8F Bearcat, F6F Hellcat (Minsi III), P-51D (Man O’ War), A6M Zero, and the world’s last surviving PBJ-1J Mitchell, also belonging to the CAF at Camarillo. The final pass executed by this group was a formation of the fighters. As they reached show center, a wall of fire erupted in front of the crowd to the cheers of all in attendance.

The show was a success once again. Between the excellent weather, good light for photography, great line up (especially with the added pyro), and of course all the great people I spent time with from the CAF and VFA-97, this show is a must hit every year for me.

A special thank you to Ken Obi of Orbic Helicopters, Linda Erlich, Richard Silva, and all of the great people at the CAF for helping make this another very memorable year!