Thunder & Lightning over Arizona
Davis-Monthan AFB, Tucson, AZ Nov 5th-6th, 2021
Even though we started to get back from Covid in 2021, some shows decided to cancel rather than have their shows this summer. I had 3 shows cancel that I planned on attending this year, 2 of those I was going to travel to (Cherry Point & Oceana). Then I looked at Pensacola but they moved their show to a Beach Show. My last attempt was Tucson and I wasn’t let down.
This was my first time shooting an air show at Davis-Monthan, for picture taking, your shooting into the sun all day. Friday & Sunday I shot from E. Irvington Rd, which is pretty much show center, just off base. A lot of the demo acts would do their 360 after burner turns right over us. I went on base Sat, they had the most impressive static display I’ve seen since Aviation Nation at Nellis AFB. The only downfall was the majority of them were in these sun shelters which made taking decent shots impossible. Then w/the show not allowing large camera bags on base, I didn’t bring my 2nd body with a wide angle lens.
All 3 days, Fri-Sun were sunny and warm, upper 80’s to low 90’s. I flew from NH where it was 50, so this was a big change. I was then very thankful for those sun shelters when I went on base, it was great to sit underneath them and then move out when the flying started.
The show kicked off with an HC-130J departing with the US Navy Leap Frogs parachute team and jumping with the American flag during the National Anthem. Kirby Chambliss went up next in his Red Bull stunt plane. Next up was Vicky Benzing in her red Stearman biplane. Kirby Pietsch took his Jelly Belly plane, then Aftershock Jet Fire truck came out and raced down the runway, he came out a few other times and raced planes throughout the day.
The F/A-18 Super Hornet Demo took to the skies next. They flew an E model on Sat, but an F model on Sunday. This was a very impressive demo, seemed like the afterburner was on most of his show. WWII planes went up next, B-17 “Sentimental”, B-25 “Semper Fi”, F6F Hellcat & a C-47 “Old Number 30”, they did multiple passes each. A CSAR demo was performed next showing how a downed pilot would be rescued. This had 2 A-10’s, an EC-130H, the HC-130J, and 2 MH-60 Pavehawks.
Greg Coyer went up in his T-33 Shooting Star and then the A-10 Demo from right here at DM. The F-35A Demo took off after the A-10, boy this demo was so awesome. Major Kristin “BEO” Wolfe rocked the house with this little jet. So many great passes in full burner and the clear blue skies really made the afterburner pop. While the A-10 Demo jet loitered during the F-35 Demo, a P-51 launched to fly as the Heritage Flight Demo with the F-35.
After the Heritage planes landed, Red Bull Helicopter and Parachute team went up next. Crazy to see a helo do a barrel role. Tom Larkin took up his “Mini Jet Air show” jet, this looks like the small aircraft from the James Bond movie.
The show closed out the final 2021 appearance of the USAF Thunderbirds. It was a great end to a tough air show season. Hoping for more shows next year if Covid goes away.