2006/10/14-15 MCAS Miramar Air Show


I visited the MCAS Miramar air show on October 14th and 15th.  Miramar is located just outside San Diego, and known as the base in which the movie TOP GUN was filmed.  The base used to be a Naval Air Station, but now it is maintained by the Marine Corps.  It was my third time to come to the Miramar air show.  The first time was in 1995 when I was training for private airman certificate in Arizona.  I used a weekend to visit San Diego and saw the American air show for the first time.  I was totally impressed by its scale, variation of the airplanes, and intensity.  In Japanese air show, I usually have to wait 15 to 30 minutes between flight demonstrations.  But, in Miramar something was always flying, and there was virtually no waiting.  The second time was in 1997, when I visited ACM SIGGRAPH conference.  I extended my stay for several days and visited the Miramar air show again.  I was deeply impressed again that time.

So, this time was my third time to come to the Miramar air show.  I used my United Airlines mileage to buy the airplane tickets, and I couldn't choose a comfortable time for departure.  I had to leave Pittsburgh on Thursday at 6am in the morning.  I had to wake up at 4am, left home at 4:30, and arrived at the Pittsburgh airport at 5am.  I had to change an airplane at Chicago.  (By the way, the Chicago O'Hare airport was in a blizzard and the tower was calling 3,500ft visibility.)  I arrived at San Diego at about 11am.

It was too early for checking in the hotel, so I drove to U.S.S. Midway Museum.  Last time I couldn't take much time to see inside, but this time I had plenty of time.  I saw some tables and some preparation of a party on the flight deck of Midway.  I supposed a veterans' reunion party or something like that was planned coinciding with the air show.  From the flight deck, I could see the aircraft carrier CV-76 Ronald Reagan on the other side of the bay.  After seeing the museum, I headed to the hotel and checked in.  On the way to the hotel, I saw six F-18s of the Blue Angels practicing over the Miramar base.

F-5 flew overhead when I was walking on the flight deck of the U.S.S. Midway Museum.  It could be T-38, but I thought it was a single seater.

The hotel I used for this trip was Best Western Seven Seas.  This was the same hotel I used in 1995 and 1997, and I liked it then.  This hotel was boasting free high-speed internet connection.  I thought I could send and receive E-Mails and upload quick report of the Miramar air show.  However, when I connected my laptop to the DSL modem in the room, my laptop could not establish a connection.  As a programmer, I tried all the possible configuration and concluded that it was a problem of ISP.  I called the front desk, and they sent a technician who knew nothing about the network.  He screwed up the matter even more.  My laptop could at least acquire an IP address, but after he did something, my laptop no longer could obtain any IP address at all.  He left a phone number of the technical support of ISP and gone.  I called the number, the tech support guy told me to do exactly what I did by myself, and nothing had changed.  The problem was simple.  Bad maintenance.  I probably will never use this hotel again, and I don't recommend this hotel.  I was forced to use a stone age technology, 56k modem, during the stay.

Friday 13th

When I came in 1995 and 1997, Friday show was not open to public and was only for those who were working for the military.  So, I supposed this time was the same, and I planned to go to Sea World with my wife.  In Sea World San Diego, we were looking forward to seeing emperor penguins.  We can see different types of penguins that can live in a warm environment at local aquariums, but emperor penguins can live only in a cold environment, and we cannot see very often.  We both liked the movie "March of the Penguins" and were looking forward to seeing real ones.  However, when I checked the Sea World web site (with 56k modem connection), I found that the penguin pool was closed.  We cancelled the plan, and changed the destination to the San Diego zoo.

The San Diego zoo was about 15 minutes drive from the hotel.  The main attraction was pandas.  It had two adult pandas and a cub.  We could see pandas in Japan, too.  However, probably we need to stay in a looooong line, and we would be able to see them just a short time.  In contrast, here in the San Diego zoo, there was only a short line to see pandas, and we could stay a little longer if we wished because it was not crowded at all.  It might be a little more crowded in the weekends though.  In general everything is crowded in Japan.  I like this relaxed environment of the U.S.  We spend almost all day in the zoo.

One of the pandas of the San Diego zoo.

Hummingbirds.  I took these photos inside the zoo, but they didn't seem to belong to the zoo.  At least they were not inside a cage.

Satruday 14th

Actually, I had a severe pain in my left foot.  It started when I got off the airplane at Chicago, and I was dragging my left foot when I was walking in the zoo.  The pain intensified on Saturday.  Luckily, there's no problem in driving, so I left the hotel at 7:30am and arrived at the air show parking a little before 8am.  I took a shuttle bus to move to the ramp area from the parking.

Despite the foot pain, I was walking around to see airplanes that I cannot see here in Pittsburgh.  Then it started raining, and I took cover under a B-1 bomber.  The cockpit of the B-1 bomber was open to public, and I wanted to look inside, but there was a long line, and I gave up.  10 or 15 minutes later the rain had stopped.  So, I walked to the grand stand.

The grand stand is (I think) unique to the Miramar air show.  I've never seen similar seating in other air shows.  It is just like a seating of a ball park or a football stadium, and benches are stacked together like stairs.  A ticket for the grand stand was $10 per person per day.  I took the third row from the top, and I could look down the airplanes on the runway.  By the way, the Miramar air show is admission free, but due to the grand stand and the tents of the other seating, flight demonstrations are hardly visible from the static display area.  So, unless you pay, all you can see are static displays.

When I sat down, F-117 taxied out to the runway.
F-117A taxiing.
And taking off.
I thought it was F-86 when I looked at it.  But, I noticed I was wrong.  According to the air show program it's called FJ-3 "Fury."  I guess I need to study harder about the historic airplanes.
F-117A flying by.  As you can see, scattered clouds were covering over the Miramar area.
F-117 landed right in front of the grand stand.

After F-117 fly-by, MV-22 taxied out!  Actually, my two main targets of this air show were F-22 and MV-22 in action.  Now, I had one of them!  After MV-22, Marine Air-Ground Task Force showed a ground assault operation demonstration.

Yes!  It's real!  I finally saw a real MV-22 flying!  It flew from left to right, made a left traffic pattern, and hovered when it came back to the show center.  It repeated the traffic pattern for twice or three times and landed.
AH-1W of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force
CH-46 of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force
Marines came out of CH-46.
CH-53.  It carried an artillery.

After the demonstration of Marine Air-Ground Task Force, civilian teams took a turn.  The Patriots jet aerobatic team, P-51 Mustang, and then living legend Sean D. Tucker filled the sky.

The Patriots.  According to the team web site, the wing leader is an active air force pilot who once flew a solo in Thunderbirds and is now flying F-117.
P-51 Mustang.  It was supposed to fly a heritage flight with a F-16.  But, if I heard right, the F-16 pilot didn't feel good and cancelled the flight.  So, it flew a formation with T-6 Texan instead.
Living Aviation Legend Sean D. Tucker just about to cut one of the three ribbons.  I could take this shot thanks to the grand stand.  Usually it is impossible to take this shot unless I secure the front-most position.  I'm considering to buy a portable stool for the next season (it can also be used for pre-flight inspection).  So, maybe I'll have more opportunity to take photos of low-flying maneuvers next year.

After AV-8B Harrier demonstration, it was the time for Blue Angels!  Unfortunately, scattered clouds remained over the Miramar base, Blue Angels chose to perform a low show, which skips or modifies some high altitude maneuvers.  However, I noticed that they sometimes mixed high altitude maneuvers when clouds permitted.
AV-8B Harrier.  Short take-off and vertical landing demo.
Fat Albert.  It didn't use JATO this time, but accelerated just above the ground then showed a steep climb.
One of the good photo opportunities of the Miramar air show is the mountains as a background.
Blue Angels solo taking off.  It accelerated just above the ground then pulled the nose rapidly for high angle climb.  I remembered that in 1995, a solo pulled the nose after it crossed the runway threshold, and the jet blast blew the sand on the ground.  I was looking forward to the cloud of sand, but it apparently pulled the nose before the end of the runway, and no sand cloud was seen.

Popular photo opportunities, Blue Angels Diamond, and Double Farvel.
Surprise pass after Echelon Roll.
Line Abreast Flat Pass instead of Line Abreast Loop.  If you go to the air show, and if the Blue Angels or the Thunderbirds starts a low show, don't be disappointed.  Low show lacks all the high altitude maneuvers, but in return, you have an opportunity of taking close up photos of the formations.  This time I succeeded in taking all five airplanes.  I wished I had had the sun behind.

It's an ordinary shot, but I liked it.  Due to high humidity, water vapor was visible over the wing very often.
Bomb Burst Downward.  Wait a sec, wasn't it a low show?  As you can see, they took advantage of a short moment that the scattered clouds gave way to the blue sky.
Six F-18s of the Blue Angels came back.
A close up look of the #1 airplane.

F-22 fly-by was cancelled with no announcement.  The weather was good enough for the most of the air show performances.  I cannot believe the fly-by was cancelled due to the weather.  Now I suspect that F-22 is just an airplane of myth.  F-22 may not really exist.  I probably should go to Langley AFB air show next year to clear this suspicion!

Sunday 15th

The pain in my left foot had just intensified.  So, I didn't walk around, and I headed straight to the grand stand.  So I could secure the second raw from the top, and also I could see some performances that I missed the day before.
Shock Wave Jet Truck

John Helton's Piper Cub.  The car below the airplane is his world smallest aircraft carrier.  He actually landed and took off from his aircraft carrier over and over again.  His slow speed handling was impressive.  Moderate cross-wind was blowing at the time of his performance.  I wish I could control an airplane as good as he did at slow speed.  I need a lot more practice to reach his level
Mig-17F of Red Bull team.

F-117 showed its back today.  If only the sky had been bright blue!

Marine Air-Ground Task Force demo.
AV-8B demo.

MV-22 demo.  You can see that the overcast cloud was covering the area.
F-16 taking off.  Due to the rapid nose-up, the flame of afterburner touches the runway surface.
F-16 and P-51 heritage flight.
Sean D. Tucker
High-speed pass of F-18F.

I was expecting that the cloud would clear up by the afternoon.  But, in reality the cloud never disappeared.  I saw clear sky to the west of Miramar over the ocean, but it didn't spread to overhead.  Actually the wind intensified and wind chill felt just like winter.  I never expected San Diego was colder than Pittsburgh.  Due to low cloud, the Blue Angels performed a flat show, which consists mostly of formation fly-bies.
It was a very difficult condition for taking a photo.
Diamond Dirty Flat Pass.  My goal was to take all four pilots in one picture, but the face of the #3 pilot is only half visible.
Surprise Pass.  It comes usually after Echelon Roll, but since it was a flat show, it came after Diamond 360 Degree Turn.
Blue Angels landed after the performance.

It was dark and cold, but I enjoyed the show.  At least I saw MV-22 for the first time.  But, I caught cold and had a fever.  So, I didn't go out much on the next day.  I seemed to be recovering.  However, on the way back to Pittsburgh, the connecting flight delayed for several hours at Washington D.C.  And the airport was cold.  As a result, my cold was worsened.  When I came back to the apartment, I had 100F fever.  I had to stay in bed for another two days.

The Miramar air show was the biggest air show among all air shows I visited in 2006 and our last air show of this season.  I'm planning to go to the air shows within driving distance from Pittsburgh, plus one air show that is far from Pittsburgh.  The top candidate is Nellis AFB.

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