Highlights of the 2005 Yuma Airshow

US Army 'Golden Knights' parachute team

The flying display at Yuma actually started with some falling, as the US Army Golden Knights parachute team jumped out of their aircraft, formed up into a pattern and then broke apart so they could deploy their parachutes.   The crowd was then treated to a demonstration of each one coming in to land at the same place at show center.

aerobatic act

Almost all American airshows, even the military ones, include performances by civilian aerobatic aircraft.   I've often wondered what Joe Public thinks of these displays, especially if there are three or four of them, but there are certainly maneuvers which can be appreciated by everyone, even if they don't know anything about flying.

These are Chinese built Nanchang CJ-6A military trainers, which is why you're seeing such a profusion of communist red stars at an American military airshow!   These aircraft have become very popular over here with warbird enthusiasts, because they're relatively cheap to buy and operate, and there's even quite a support network in America now.

Nanchang CJ-6As

Another ex-communist military import, and obviously a step up from the CJ-6As.   These are Czech designed L29 Delfins, which were the main Soviet basic jet trainer for many years.   These two are part of the four-ship civilian jet display team called the Thunder Delfins, which perform at many shows in this part of the States.

civilian L29 'Thunder Delfins' jet display team

Here's a military display put on by the marine corps search and rescue unit based at Yuma.   The helicopter they're using is the venerable UH-1N Iroquois, better known as the "Huey" of Vietnam fame.   The Iroquois has now been largely replaced by more modern helicopters like the Blackhawk, so this is one of the few opportunities left to see them still operating.   As you can see, one of the crewmen is exiting the helicopter to perform a rescue of a dummy which they unceremoniously tossed a couple of hundred feet onto the runway.   If you go to this show with young children then you might want to let them know that this is about to happen, or they might think they're seeing someone fall to their death!

crewman exiting UH-1 search and rescue helicopter
search and rescue crewman with 'rescued' dummy

I'm sure that most people who are in need of these guys' services are very grateful to see them coming, but they might have second thoughts if they knew how they were about to be treated!   Heck, I bet these guys don't even buy you flowers the next morning!

Yuma is a marine corps air station, and the highlight for many people is a demonstration by a marine corps AV-8B Harrier "jump jet".   These guys always put on a good show, and the appearance of nice fluffy white clouds, which is unusual in this part of the country, adds quite a bit to the scene.   When it's hovering, the Harrier injects water in with the fuel, to provide extra thrust and cool things down a little.   I'm told that this also knocks the soot off the inside of the engine, resulting in the dark exhaust you see here.

AV-8B Harrier jump-jet   (click here to open a new window with this photo in computer wallpaper format)

The harrier is full of oddly shaped plates and baffles, such as those you can see under the fuselage in this shot.   The sensors on the tip of the nose and under it give it an almost comical cartoon-character appearance, and the thing you see on top of the nose is actually a small wind vane, which allows the pilot to judge which way the wind is coming from when hovering.   It's a sub-sonic ground attack aircraft, so streamlined efficiency isn't as important as maneuverability.   Nevertheless earlier versions of the harrier acquitted themselves very well in air-to-air combat against Argentine aircraft during the Falklands war.

AV-8B Harrier jump-jet

Of course it's the harrier's vertical and short takeoff and landing (VSTOL) ability which makes it so interesting to the public and so attractive to the marine corps.   It allows them to operate it from the small marine corp amphibious landing carriers which are also used for helicopters.   Once on shore, the harrier can operate from small, poorly-prepared forward bases which are inaccessible to more conventional aircraft.   It's intended to eventually replace the harriers with the VSTOL version of the joint strike fighter, which is supposed to be a one-size-fits-all solution for the air force, navy and marines.

AV-8B Harrier jump-jet   (click here to open a new window with this photo in computer wallpaper format)

In 2004 the Air Force did an A-10 Thunderbolt II  ("warthog") demonstration at the Yuma show, but this year the A-10 stayed on static display.   Instead, an F-15 Eagle and this F-16 Fighting Falcon did solo displays.   The F-16 is America's light-weight general purpose fighter/bomber, and is also used by a multitude of other countries.   In this close-in shot you can see the green "heads-up display" (HUD) in front of the pilot, and the cannon mounted where the wing meets the fuselage.

F-16 Fighting Falcon

It seems that the air force has revamped its display routines, and it certainly shows!   As well as steep diving approaches and a high angle of attack pass, they also did the spectacular high-speed banking photo pass that you see here.

F-16 Fighting Falcon photo pass  (click here to open a new window with this photo in computer wallpaper format)

The F-15 Eagle certainly wasn't going to let the F-16 have all the fun!   The performance started off with a spectacular steep takeoff with afterburners in action, and continued through various passes at low and high speed which showed off the Eagle's incredible power.   The F-15 has been America's premier air-to-air combat aircraft since it entered service in the mid 1970s, a position it's now relinquishing to the F-22 Raptor.   Like the navy's F-14 Tomcat, which was also designed purely for air-to-air combat, the Eagle was later reworked to make it capable of dropping ordnance onto ground targets.   The F-15E Strike Eagle has a second crew member who operates the targeting systems while the pilot maneuvers the aircraft.

F-15 Eagle taking off

However, as you can see this is the single seat air superiority version of the Eagle, and he's out to show that it can put on as spectacular a display as the Fighting Falcon!

F-15 Eagle photo pass  (click here to open a new window with this photo in computer wallpaper format)