Jets Roar At The 2016 Fort Lauderdale Air Show
The Lucas Oil Parachute team presented the colors and opened up the show at 11:00 AM with a series of formation jumps landing on the beach at show center. The first of the Canadian teams came out to enjoy the beautiful Florida weather next, as the Snowbirds took to the skies with their signature blend of grace and precision, keeping the beachgoers entertained with nearly constant action throughout their demonstration. While the power of the CT-114 isn’t comparable to the front line fighters, the wide range of formations demonstrated by the team is nothing short of incredible.
Following the Snowbirds, things slowed down with the USCG strutting their stuff, performing a SAR demonstration offshore at show center. The first portion of the demonstration came in the form of an airdrop of a pump and rescue supplies by an HC-144A Ocean Sentry out of Air Station Miami. After the drop, the twin turboprop took up a position orbiting the “victims” while the Dolphin helicopter came in to complete the rescue. The MH-65D crew along with a 45 foot Response Boat – Medium demonstrated a series of rescue techniques using the basket and rescue swimmer. This demonstration provided people with a close up view of the Coast Guard teams so important to keeping this coastal community safe.
The first of the three single ship jet performances was also the one with the widest speed range in a single demonstration, as the USMC AV-8B Harrier performed its mix of high speed passes and an extended period of ear splitting hovering in the show box, transitioning from transonic passes to backwards flight and pedal turns with minimal effort.
After the jump jet bowed out of the show box (literally), the Long Island based Geico Skytypers took off to showcase their T-6/SNJs, demonstrating a series of tactics and maneuvers from WWII, an era that many consider to be the golden age of air to air combat. The Skytypers filled the sky with smoke and round engine noise, keeping their aircraft constantly in front of the crowd.
From the 1930s era trainers, we then moved to the most advanced aircraft in the USAF inventory, as the F-35 participated in a heritage flight with a P-51 in its civilian airshow debut. Despite the teething issues and continued controversy surrounding the aircraft, the crowd seemed thrilled to see the Lightning II take to the skies in formation with a World War II-era P-51, in a beautiful showcase of past and present in an effort to ensure people never forget the sacrifices made to keep us safe.
The second of the Lucas Oil sponsored performers followed the heritage flight, as Mike Wiskus brought his Pitts to show center. Performing an impressive series of maneuvers, the red and white aircraft danced around show center in a nonstop 12 minute display of aerobatic prowess.
VFA-106 sent an F/A-18C down from NAS Oceana to perform their tactical demo. Showcasing the flight envelope of the legacy Hornet, the lone USN representative brought the speed, noise, and vapor to the airshow, which coincided with Ft. Lauderdale Fleet Week 2016. The naval aviators did their service proud with this crowd favorite demonstration of the current frontline carrier-based fighter.
The six black L-39s of the Breitling Jet Team gave the crowd’s ears a chance to rest, with a decidedly more quiet show than the Hornets that flew before and after their display. This Europe based team was performing their first of six demonstrations of North America this year, just their second season performing on our side of the pond. Culminating with a release of flares and a dedication to the American military for their service in Europe in WWII, this demonstration was a mix of formations familiar to Blue Angels and Thunderbirds fans, as well as many passes unique to their team, with a European flair and grace thrown in for good measure.
The beautifully painted CF-18 Hornet made its appearance over the Atlantic next, as Captain Ryan Kean showcased Canada’s top fighter. The 2016 show jet is painted in a striking yellow and black livery commemorating the 75th anniversary of Canada’s efforts to help train British pilots in the Second World War. Designed by Jim Belliveau, this aircraft will certainly be a sought after treat by aviation photographers throughout the 2016 season. After surprising the crowd with a sneak pass entrance, Captain Kean brought the speed and noise with a high energy demonstration of Canada’s current frontline combat aircraft.
Sticking with the bright aircraft theme, Matt Chapman took his Embry Riddle sponsored Extra 330LX. Matt’s blue and yellow Extra performed a nonstop series of high energy maneuvers, with impressive tumbles, rolls, and loops being strung together in a preciseformat that unlimited class monoplanes are known for.
For the finale, the US Air Force Thunderbirds took off and brought more than a half hour of dedication, precision, and professionalism to Ft. Lauderdale Beach. Showcasing the F-16, and representing the Air Force, the Thunderbirds close formations were a real crowd pleaser, and were a great way to wrap up the festivities.
With the strong lineup of performers, beautiful weather, and perfect lighting, the Ft. Lauderdale airshow was a treat for both airshow fans and avgeeks alike. Show aircraft staged out of numerous local airports, including Ft. Lauderdale International and Pompano Airpark, giving spotters a real treat in the days and weeks leading up to the show.
The author would like to thank the show organizers, teams, public affairs department, and the Fort Lauderdale Fire Department for their hospitality and assistance.