REPORT: NAS Oceana Airshow 2018

For 75 years, the United States Navy has been providing Virginia Beach, Virginia with plenty of airplanenoise. Unofficially and most fittingly known as the Hornet’s Nest, Master Jet Base Oceana is home to multiple squadrons with both Legacy Hornet and Super Hornet operations. Recently, Legacy Hornet units had been pulled from the fleet’s front line and most Legacy jets will primarily be used as training and adversary aircraft for the near future as the aircraft is nearing the end of the service life… and then some.

This Is Flight was privileged enough to attend the Oceana Air Show for the second consecutive year, and it was a show you wouldn’t want to miss. It was the largest lineup the show has had in its history, with a quartet of aerobatic teams including the Canadian Snowbirds, US Navy Blue Angels, Warrior Jet Team and the GEICO Slytypers. Additional acts included the US Air Force F-22 Raptor Demonstration Team out of Joint Base Langley-Eustis down the road from Oceana in Hampton Roads, Kent Pietsch, Michael Goulian, Bill Leff, Greg Shelton, Bob Carlton, Jim Tobul, the US Navy Tailhook Legacy Flight, Navy Tactical Demonstration Team (TACDEMO) and the Air Power Demonstration featuring local squadrons from Oceana loudly showing the performance and maneuverability of both the Legacy and the Super Hornets.

Sure, that’s a hefty list of performers, but in this show alone, there is significance to what is listed above. For years, Bill Leff has been wowing crowds all over the world in his T-6. His aerobatic performance shows just how graceful the T-6 can be while the supersonic sounds ofthe propeller tips snap against the ear drum providing beautiful radial music.

So, what was different this year at Oceana? This season, select venues were able to see the Navy Tailhook Legacy Flight featuring TacDemo F/A-18 Super Hornet from VFA-106 stationed at Oceana performing formation passes with Jim Tobul and his F4U-4 Corsair, “Korean War Hero”. Several years had passed since this iconic flight featuring the premier fighters of their time had flown together.

In addition to the Legacy Flight, Jim Tobul flies his Corsair in a demonstration of its own, and seeing the ‘Bent-Wing Bird’ fly is always a crowd-pleaser. Another civilian performer, Greg Shelton, flew his FM-2 Wildcat in the show. With one of the most interesting routines with a Wildcat, Greg starts his performance by rotating the aircraft and pointing the nose at least 45 degrees into the sky as he pulls up the gear – not bad for 1940s technology.

Another huge highlight and certainly a crowd pleaserwere the Snowbirds. Personally, it had been 17 years since I saw the 9-aircraft team grace the skies intheir CT-114 Tutors. Their show is split into multiple sequences of 9-jet maneuvers and solo acts. The red and white jets looked absolutely stunning across the Virginia Beach skies.

Michael Goulian, a Massachusetts native, flew his Extra 330 in front of the Virginia Beach crowd. Michael pushes the Extra to its limits and the rolls the aircraft enough times to make anyone nauseous just watching. When he isn’t flying his Extra for airshow routines, you can find Michael representing the United States in the Red Bull Air Race, where he finished in third place overall this season.

Speaking of civilian performers, Kent Pietsch in his Interstate Cadet took center stage a couple of times each day, once to performs a dead stick routine turning the engine off at altitude, and the other ending with him landing on a moving van!

NAS Oceana is located about a stone’s throw away from the Atlantic Ocean and on Saturday evening after the show, a jump team would land right on the beach and the Navy Tactical Demonstration Teamprovided plenty of noise. As the sky darkened with the sun setting, the F/A-18 Super Hornet went into zone 5 afterburner, lighting up the darkening on several passes.

NAS Oceana is truly a Hornet’s nest, and the show was opened this year with the Air Power Demo, which included both Super Hornets and Legacy Hornets painted as adversaries. It is a fast-paced demonstration featuring a mock dogfight, aerial refueling, and simulated ground attack with pyrotechnics to support ground forces.

Each day, the Blue Angels flew their routine and the buzzing sound of the Legacy Hornets, a sound all too familiar to the locals, still brought smiles to everyone’s faces. The Blue Angels intend to phase out the Legacy Hornet as nearly all squadrons that fly it (aside from adversary training) have taken it off the front line. Initial rumors are looking to have the team transition to the Super Hornet after the 2020 season.

This Is Flight wishes to thank the entire NAS Oceana team for their courtesy and putting on a great show in 2018; we will be back!


Ryan Kelly has been around aviation for over twenty years and photography for five. He is a licensed pilot that enjoys sharing his passion for aviation and photography with others. Ryan currently resides in Eastern Pennsylvania and enjoys sports, music, and cooking.