Great Pacific Airshow
Did not expect this airshow to be quite this good. The Great Pacific Airshow, formerly the Huntington Beach Airshow, had six headline-capable acts.
Got there a few minutes late, as the USAF Boeing C-17 Globemaster III was doing its show, complete with supporting KC-135 tanker (!). Probably just missed the USN F-18 Demo due to the late arrival. Can't forget-- the C-17 did an extraordinary low-level pass with the KC-135, boom extended, that I seriously regretted not pulling over for to appreciate!
The Royal Canadian Air Force Snowbirds were next. Nine Canadair CT-114 Tutor trainers of the RCAF 431 Air Demonstration Squadron put on an amazing show. Something about having so many aircraft in the air is an experience beyond the smaller six-aircraft formations that the Thunderbirds or Blue Angels use. Sadly as skilled as their performance was, it was a bit hazy this early in the afternoon, and the white/red/white color scheme did not photograph well.
Next headline-capable act was the USAF A-10 Thunderbolt II demo team, which as a solo was a bit less interesting than the Snowbirds' big formations. The beach location could have lead to some great low-level approaches, but they skipped that. Probably because the F-35 Lightning II demo team was next, who really lit things up (literally!) with a bunch of afterburner passes. All the moisture in the air meant some terrific transonic vapor cones as he played around, including showing off the F-35's high AoA (angle of attack) capabilities. Then it was time for Heritage Flight, joined by retired USAF Major General Tommy Williams in a P-51D. Usually seeing these three aircraft is an experience in and of itself, but with so much other hardware out there today...
Brief flight of a Douglas C-47A Dakota III, then the fourth (!) headline-capable act hit: the USAF F-16 Thunderbirds. They did a great show as always, showing off the Block 52's power-to-weight ratio, and highlighted by a low-level afterburner fly-by right over the pier (!!!!).
Red Bull Racing did some crazy nuts stuff too-- flying so low over the water he was almost swimming (!), and then not to be left out, FedEx's Boeing 757 did a few passes, then a Yak-110 took the stage. As impressive as such a custom creation might be, it was drowned out by the next act, which was also the headliner of the night: the RAF Red Arrows.
Officially known as the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, much like their Canadian Air Force brethen, they also fly nine jets-- in this case the BAE Hawk, and one of their signature formations, the torando, is beyond impressive. Several others, notably the Red Bull Racing, emulated it today, but none did it with the same flair and beauty. The non-afterburning Hawks lack the sheer impact of the F-16C Block 52 (Thunderbirds), F-35A (F-35 Demo Team), or other higher-performance aircraft-- but the Red Arrows make up for it with their large formation and dramatic use of color. They are absolutely worth seeing in person if you haven't before!
If you want an intense four-and-a-half-hours of flying, at least this year, this was about as good as it gets.
Wrapped up the day with "tacos" from Naugles, an OC institution that was recently revived. Much like Tito's Tacos or the fast food "Mexican" food chains of Taco Bell and Del Taco, they do a hard shell taco and an even less common hamburger bun taco. Much to my disappointment, the quality of meat used is terrible, and wouldn't be out of place at a bad fast food joint. I understand nostalgia and am glad I tried it, but will go elsewhere in the future.