REPORT: Dayton Airshow 2018

The 2018 Dayton Air Show did not disappoint. While an initial glance at the lineup may have had you questioning attending, the show was well organized and exciting. The weather leading up to the show put a damper on some of the static displays, but it was still one of the finest ground displays we have seen. Not only were you able to get very close to the aircraft, many of them you could tour. The C-17 Globemaster even had the cockpit doors open for tours; the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital DC-10 and FedEx 757 were also available for walkthrough.

To kick off the show, the US Army Golden Knights took off to observe the ceiling height and winds aloft. Several times throughout their check they were amongst the clouds, which would have prevented a jump. After a short 15 minutes delay at show start, the ceiling improved and the show started with a set of jumpers circled by Redline Airshows RV-8s. The 10mph (16kph) west-south-west wind didn’t stop them all from landing within feet of the target.

While the troopship was still in the air, a “Red Tails” P-51C Mustang flew several passes in front of the crowd, as the airshow narrators spoke of the important role the Tuskegee Airmen played during the war. The whistle of the P-51 is undeniable and a real treat to hear. The only thing missing was a heritage flight pass, which is usually with a modern jet. Since the F-22 did not fly until later on during the show, I assume there was a simple show timing issue that prevented a heritage flight.

Once the P-51C demonstration was complete, the Golden Knights team lined up for a photography while their C-31A Troopship passed behind them. Once the troop ship was back on the ground, Vicky Benzing demonstrated the capabilities of her Extra 300S. Vicky made history in 2015 at the Reno Air Race when she set the records as fastest woman racer at 469.831mph in an L-139. While the Extra 300S is not nearly as fast as the L-139, this demonstration was about precision aerobatics. Vicky’s aerobatic performance was spirited and full of energy.

Dale Coller, also the crew chief for John Klatt Airshows, flew after Vicky in his Extra 300L. Dale’s demonstration was similar in nature to Vicky’s, but given it immediately followed her act in a very similar 300S aircraft, it almost felt like a continuation of same act. Both Vicky and Dale’s performance really needed to be separated by a different aircraft type performance to truly appreciate their talent.

Redline Airshows was up next. We saw them perform in their RV-8 aircraft last year, but since then they have really kicked it up a notch: their routine felt more precise and dynamic. The team mixed many traditional maneuvers like hammerhead stalls and loops that you would see from an aerobatic performance, with maneuvers such as the mirror pass and opposing solo passes you would see from the Blue Angels or Thunderbirds. The team is local to the Dayton area and built the RV-8s themselves. It is exciting to think that one could build an aircraft, put together a routine and perform at an airshow as large at Dayton. That is not to belittle the team’s skill, but I think it is an amazing feat for a civilian.

Subsequently, Sean D. Tucker flew his final solo performance at Dayton, after announcing his retirement from solo performances last year. I, along with several of the other photographers, always look forward to Sean’s triple ribbon cut: three sets of poles are lined up less than 1,000 feet (305 meters) apart; the poles are 25 feet (7.6 meters) tall, and around 75 feet (23 meters) apart. Sean swoops down and cuts the first ribbon in a knife-edge pass with the right wing, the next set with the left wing knife-edge, and the last set inverted – all in one pass at over 200mph (322kph). If you’ve never experience this feat, it is something to see before Sean retires!

It has been some time since I have witnessed an F-22A Raptor demonstration, and this one did not disappoint. The F-22 lifted off the runway in less than 1,000 feet (305 meters), however one of the most impressive capabilities demonstrated was the ability for the Raptor to “slide” backwards. Paul Lopez “Loco” pitched the aircraft nose up, until the airspeed indicator hit zero, then he proceeded to slide the aircraft back down several hundred feet until power was applied again, increasing forward speed to fly the wing again. The demonstration was a blast to watch and photograph.

Once the Raptor was back on the ground the movie-version B-17 “Memphis Belle” executed a flat pass along the show line. Once the pass was complete, the B-17 landed on runway 24L, which was behind the crowd and active for most of the show. B-17 Memphis Belle was then taxied back to the static displays, and parked next to the B-52 “Memphis Belle”. The original, veteran, Memphis Belle was unveiled in May of this year, after many years of restoration work at the US Air Force Museum, also in Dayton.

Tora Tora Tora Airshows performed their routine which includes eight North American Aviation, Harvard and Vultee Aircraft painted to reflect Japanese attack aircraft, at the time of WWII. The narrator asks the attendees to close their eyes, while he begins to describe the events leading up to the Pearl Harbor attack. The air raid sirens start after the first round of simulated attacks (which includes pyrotechnics). The choreography required to have eight aircraft in an air box flying low level maneuvers is immense, but they make it look easy. The performance includes plenty of explosions, fire and smoke, which make the routine difficult to photograph once the action has started. With that being said, the smoke caused many photographers like myself to get out from behind their camera and take it all in. Tora Tora Tora is an impressive demonstration, and one that leaves the audience reflecting on the attack of Pearl Harbor.

The dual independent power-plant Screaming Sasquatch Jet Waco flew Dayton this year, and left quite the impression on me. First off, it is an interesting looking aircraft: while it maintains its Waco identity from the lower wing up, there is a CJ610 jet engine mounted between the gear struts. When the jet power plant is throttled up, it produces an extra 3,000 pounds of thrust. The sound of the piston engine and prop are completely washed out, and all that you hear is the sound of the jet engine, which was used for all but one of the near vertical climb outs. It certainly captured, and maintained my attention.

The Blue Angels headlined the Dayton Air Show and as always, put on a steller show. One of the nice things about the Dayton Air Show is the fact that its scenery is wide open for miles around, unlike other venues that the Blue Angels have performed at. This gives attendees the ability to track both the delta and opposing solos, when they are positioned away from show center. The wide open space also makes it much easier to track the 700mph (1126kph) fast pass, which, depending on the venue, can be very difficult to catch.

Danny Clisham and Rob Reider have been co-announcing the Dayton Air Show for many years. They do an absolutely fantastic job in keeping the crowd engaged and entertained, both during and between demonstrations. With this year’s list of demonstration teams, the show felt smooth and well timed. Kudos to the air boss and organizers.

If you have the opportunity to attend and plan on photographing the airshow, I highly recommend the Photo Tour and Pit Pass. While several times more expensive than regular admission, the benefits are easily worth the cost. First off, you get media parking, which means  an easy entry and exit. You get to enter the grounds at 07:00 – two hours before everyone else; this allows you to photograph the static display almost free of people. Once the photo tour is over, the photo pit is at show center, offering you the best view available – a tent with seating and water is also provided. If you care about your photos, this is the way to go.

The Dayton Air Show proved itself again as a go-to air show for the Midwest US.

Jacob Rutledge is an IT professional by day, aviation and photography enthusiast by night. Jacob keeps his eyes on the sky from the Midwest US.