2006/07/08-09 Wings Over Pittsburgh Air Show
The Wings Over Pittsburgh Airshow was held in Pittsburgh Air Force Reserve Base, right next to Pittsburgh Int'l Airport. The reserve base is the home of the 911th Airlift Wing. The air force reserve base was about to be closed last year, but it managed to survive, and we are happy to see the airshow again in the base! :-)
The 911th Airlift Wing is the reserve squadron of air force, and they invited Thunderbirds for the last year and the year before the last year, but they decided to invite Blue Angels this year. Maybe because Blue Angels was invited, I felt that I saw more Navy airplanes for static display than last years.
One good thing about the static display of this airshow was that two F-14s were on display. This is the final year for the F-14 Tomcat, and I was happy to see them alive (not in the museum) once again before the retirement. It is a kind of mixed feeling to see F-14s retiring way before F-15s, which is developed almost the same time as F-14. I heard that Naval airplanes suffers from salty wind and degrades much quicker than ground based airplanes.
And, the show stopper was Blue Angels! When I saw Blue Angels for the last time, the altitude was high, and the wait between maneuvers were longer than Thunderbirds, and I liked Thunderbirds better. However, I was wrong. Solo airplanes flew very low altitude close to the audience, probably often lower than 200ft. Formations also flew very close. Oh, man! They are good! Now I again cannot tell which of Blue Angels or Thunderbirds team is better. (Well, it's an endless discussion, just like which baseball team is the best, isn't it? :-)
I had way more chances to see Thunderbirds than Blue Angels until last year, and I was not very familiar with the timing to get a good shot of the Blue Angels. So, I missed some good photo opportunities. I'll try again in the Dayton airshow and the Cleveland airshow later this year (and hopefully San Diego, Miramar airshow as well.)
And, Blue Angels will surprise you (if you remember this, you will not :-) after echelon roll. You will be paying attention to the four airplanes flew away to your right, and one solo airplane comes in from the left with full afterburner. You'll be stunned by the unexpected jet noise, and seconds later, another surprise by the other solo airplane incoming from the behind the audience with full afterburner :-) Thunderbirds do the same thing after Trail to Diamond roll, and in that the solo airplane exposes its top side of the airplane at close distance, so it's a good photo opportunity (I'm ending up with getting close-up of afterburner flames though :-P) But, Blue Angels solo flies in level (zero bank) so, it's not a good photo opportunity. I think the best timing for getting a good look of the top side of the airplane is the first diamond photo pass, and echelon parade (at the very beginning of their flight.) Also, sometimes airplanes flew to the behind the show center often exposes its top side to the audience for joining up again. I'll try to take them for the next time.
By the way, the airshow web site (http://www.wingsoverpittsburgh.com) listed ACC DEMO (F-117 or B-2 fly-by) and A-4 Skyhawk DEMO, and I was looking forward to seeing a stealth airplane fly-by and A-4 Skyhawk flying. However, I didn't see any F-117, B-2, and A-4 Skyhawk on the first day. But, it is common to have some extra for the Sunday show. So, I was expecting to see them on Sunday.
And, on Sunday, the second day of the airshow, A-4 Skyhawk was setting in the flight line! I saw A-4 Skyhawks in the air a few times when I was an undergrad student. VQ-5 Squadron was flying between Atsugi Naval Air Station and (probably) Kadena Air Base in Japan sometimes. But, I saw them from distance, and never had a chance to take a photo of A-4 Skyhawks in the air. Of course, I had chances to see A-4 Skyhawk in the museum, but I wanted to see a live A-4 Skyhawk, ideally, in the air. So, this time, I though finally I had a chance to see it flying.
And, A-4 Skyhawk started the engine, .... then taxied to the static display area. It didn't move until the end of the show. Major disappointment :-(. Did the airshow web site mean A-4 Skyhawk taxiing demonstration? Well, at least I saw A-4 Skyhawk moving. Next time, I should see it in the air. And, F-117 and B-2 didn't come, either.
Well, I didn't see A-4 Skyhawk fly-by, nor F-117 fly-by, but we have Blue Angels! But, at the time of the Blue Angels, we had low cloud, and the visibility was a little low. So, Blue Angels omitted some vertical maneuvers, and they raised the altitude. It was not as exciting as the last day :-(
Although the second day was a bit less exciting than the first day, the airshow was good overall. The Blue Angels on the first day was absolutely awesome, and I was happy to see F-14s for the last time before their retirement. At least I saw moving A-4 Skyhawk. I'm looking forward to seeing the Wings Over Pittsburgh 2007.
The next airshow within driving distance from Pittsburgh is the Dayton airshow end of this month.
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