Highlights of the 2005 Riverside Airshow

For hardcore aviation enthusiasts, one of the highlights of the 2005 Riverside airshow was a series of flypasts by a C-141 Starlifter from the nearby March Field air reserve base.   This was a particularly special occasion because it was one of the last displays of this aircraft type before it is finally retired.   In 2005 only March Field and Wright-Patterson Field in Ohio had Starlifters still in service, and March's C-141s were all being retired later in the year in favor of C-17 Globemaster III transport planes.

C-141 Starlifter with undercarriage down

A KC-135 Stratotanker from March Field also did some nice flypasts, and there's little doubt that we'll continue seeing them for many years to come.   There are over 600 Stratotankers in service and they constitute the mainstay of the US military aerial refuelling fleet.   The one you see here is a KC-135R, fitted with modern engines which dramatically improve its efficiency while making it much quieter than previous versions.   In contrast, you can see that the C-141 above has older style engines, which are also much smokier!

KC-135 Stratotanker with wheels down

Unlike many airshows, Riverside provides some very scenic backdrops, just one thing which makes this show something of a photographers' delight.   In this case, it's a view of Mt San Jacinto, which always has a good covering of snow at this time of year.

T-6 Texan

The Riverside police put on a very good display, including a simulated helicopter and ground unit chase of a fugitive in  a car, which did several high speed circuits around the airfield!

Riverside police helicopter

If you think your cubicle at work is small, then just see what Rob Harrison "The Tumbling Bear" has to put up with as he does his display in a Zlin 50 aerobatic plane.   Several of America's top aerobatic pilots performed at the show, including Ed Hamill in the Air Force Reserve Pitts Special biplane, Julie Clark doing lots of low-level passes in her bright yellow T-28 Trojan called "Top Banana", John Culver his T-6 Texan "War Dog", as well as veteran performer Eric Beard in his Yak 54 "Russian Thunder".

Rob Harrison performing his aerobatic routine  (click here to open a new window with this photo in computer wallpaper format)

These propeller-driven displays were augmented with a three-ship demonstration by the Thunder Delfins in their Czechoslovakian built L29 Delfins, which for many years were the standard Soviet military jet training aircraft.

Thunder Delfin Soviet L29 jet trainers

The classic warbird community was also quite well represented for such a small show.   The Palm Springs Air Museum B-17 Flying Fortress stayed on static display, but there was a strong naval fighter contingent, including this F4U Corsair, one of several aircraft belong to the southern California wing of the Commemorative Air Force, based at Camarillo.

F4U Corsair

This F6F Hellcat is another world war two naval fighter from Camarillo.   Doing the show the pilot was so intent on making a wide turn for each pass that he rather naughtily flew right over the top of us, making it impossible to get any good shots of him, so I had to wait for his departure after the show to take this photo.

F6F Hellcat

This Mitsubishi Zero is also based at Camarillo.   Unlike most Zeroes on the airshow circuit it's a genuine Zero airframe rather than a replica, however the engine is an American Pratt and Whitney radial.   The Planes of Fame Museum at Chino in California has the only Zero flying with its original engine, but because of its rarity it isn't flown as much as this one.

Mitsubishi Zero
F8F Bearcat

The final member of the Camarillo contingent to fly at the show was this F8F Bearcat.

Originally developed by Grumman as an aircraft able to climb fast in order to shoot down incoming kamikaze fighters, the Bearcat arrived just too late to participate in world war two.   However it was used extensively during the French war in Indo-China which America largely funded, supplying the French with huge numbers of aircraft and massive amounts of other equipment in their fight against the communists.

F-18F Hornet   (click here to open a new window with this photo in computer wallpaper format)

The snowy mountains and baked grass are very remiscent of the Warbirds over Wanaka airshow in New Zealand, however this F-18D Hornet is not a sight you're likely to see anywhere in New Zealand anytime soon.   The Royal New Zealand Air Force is a pitiful shadow of its former self, especially since the last of its offensive aircraft were retired a few years ago.   The A-4 Skyhawks were the pride of the air force, but now all that's left are a handful of C-130 Hercules and P-3 Orions, and a couple of VIP transports.

On the plus side, however, Wanaka does have an excellent collection of warbirds and none of the smog which besets Riverside and the other airshows held in the Los Angeles basin.

The Hornet wasn't the only American strike aircraft at the show; the Air Force were good enough to provide an F-117 Nighthawk "stealth fighter" to do a few passes.   However the Nighthawk pilots are only allowed to do dull flat passes with any banking or other vaguely interesting maneuvers performed well away from the show area, whereas the navy allows its Hornet demo pilots to do a full-bore rip-snorting display  including fast banking passes, high angle of attack slow passes, minimum radius turns and other exciting maneuvers.   Since it's designed with enough power and maneuverability to get on and off aircraft carriers, the F-18 also has the muscle to take off from Riverside's short runway, as well as to land without parachute assistance.   Two separate demos were done, one by each pilot, and that meant two takeoffs and two standard navy landings, which means putting it down hard and making sure it sticks!

This nice "Tailhook Legacy Flight" was also done with the Camarillo aircraft, but as you can see they were too widely spaced to make a perfect photograph.   The Hornet had a bit of trouble flying slowly enough to stay with the warbirds, so it had to maintain a slightly nose high attitude to get enough lift.

Tailhook Legacy flight with F-18D, F4U Corsair, F6F Hellcat and F8F Bearcat