Miramar Air Show 2019 | Year in Review
Jason Daniel Shaw
MCAS MIRAMAR | SAN DIEGO, CA
One weekend each fall, the skies above San Diego come roaring to life with the sounds some of the most amazing aircraft you may ever see. Over 500,000 people pass through the gates of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar to experience one of the greatest air shows in the world. The show features some incredible static exhibits in addition to the flying action. For kids, the chance to sit in the cockpit of an attack helicopter, fighter jet, walk through the back of the C-17 Globemaster or climb around the MV-22 Osprey is a major highlight. Watching those same planes then take to the skies and perform amazing aerobatics is something that will bring smiles to faces of all ages.
I first attended the show since 2007, the year before I moved to California. I just happened to be in San Diego the weekend that it was scheduled for and new that I had to go – I was hooked! 2013 was cancelled the day before it was scheduled to start due to the federal budget cuts and I was out of the country (Brazil) in 2017, other than that I have been every year. This year was special because the skies were amazing with the moody clouds mixed with the blue sky showing through. It goes to show that no matter how many times you have been, you will always experience something different. If you have never been to Miramar for an air show, make sure you add it to your bucket list – in the meantime, here is a little of what you have been missing.
WARBIRDS OVER MIRAMAR
The WWII warbirds are always some of my favorite planes to see at any air show. One of the big reasons is flying them is accessible to just about anyone. While I love the fighter jets, owning and flying in a warbird doesn’t require joining the military, just a pilot certificate, some training and a fair bit of money. Whether it is the classic P-51 Mustang, the iconic Corsair or one the many Grumman aircraft, each one brings so much history and a unique story to the sky. In 2017, at Sun n’ Fun, I got the chance to fly in the AT-6 Texan which was an incredible experience and gave me a whole new perspective on warbirds. There is just something about the sound of those engines that gets me excited!
U.S. ARMY GOLDEN KNIGHT OVER MIRAMAR
The opening ceremonies always include the U.S. Army Golden Knights flying in the American flag during the National Anthem. The coordination within their team is incredible to see and is one of the reasons that they are so precise in everything that they do. They will drop streamers over the drop zone to understand the winds and then make several passes before jumping from 13,000 feet. Each of them will then make a precision landing right at show center to the amazement of the crowd.
In 2016, I had the honor of going up with the Golden Knights for the opening ceremonies of the Miramar Air Show. Despite most of them making thousands of jumps in their career, they still practice their entire jump while still on the ground – every time. I sat right next to the back door, which remained open the entire flight up to 13,000 feet. These guys were so calm and collected that you would not know they were getting ready to dive out that door. Seeing them from both sides give you a real appreciation for what they do. Even though they are the Army’s demonstration unit, they are still soldiers and put their lives on the line to defend our country. And for that I thank them!
MAGTF MIRAMAR | MARINE AIR GROUND TASK FORCE
The MAGTF is what they call the Marine Air Ground Task Force demonstration that they put on in front of the crowd. It is an exciting show of air and ground superiority with pyrotechnics and highly skilled operators. Using just a handful of the tools in their arsenal, the Marines explain just how they clear an area of enemy combatants. Starting with the high-flying supersonic fighter jets, they clear the air field before bringing in the attack helicopters. Then the recon Marines fast-rope in and laser paint some targets for those same fighters. They get evacuated before the MV-22 Ospreys bring in the troops. As they strategically make their way across the field, the aircraft perform a pass in review. The grounds troops, their tanks and armored troop carriers then make their way down the crowd line, shaking hands and talking photos with the kids. The MAGTF is one of the reasons that so many of the spectators come out to Miramar each year.
ROYAL AIR FORCE RED ARROWS
Each year there is a different special performance. In 2018 and 2015, it was the Patriot Jet Team, in 2016 it was the Breitling Jet Team on their North American Tour. This year, it was the Royal Air Force Red Arrows from Great Britain. This was the first time that I had the chance to see them and their show is one of precision and grace. In contrast to the high-excitement Blue Angels show, the Red Arrows demonstrate precision with the grace that is expected of the British. The red, white and blue smoke that mark their paths looked beautiful against the cloudy sky. I hope that I get the chance to see this team perform again at another air show – maybe even in the UK.
BLUE ANGELS OVER MIRAMAR
The Blue Angels are a staple at Miramar and so many air shows around the country. If you have never seen them perform, you are in for a treat. Their show is always full of excitement and bound to get your adrenaline pumping. Everything that this team does is highly choreographed and the definition of precision, from the way they approach their F-18 jets to the way they put those same jets through some dynamic movements. I have photographed the Blue Angels countless times over the years but I was so happy with the background skies that were present at this year’s show.
F-35B OVER MIRAMAR
The F-35B, the short take off and vertical landing variant of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), has been making the air shows rounds for a few years. Noticeably absent this year was the awe-inspiring AV-8B Harrier. It is understandable though, as the Marines’ version of the F-35 has many of the same capabilities. I think that the days of the Harrier are numbered. The F-35 puts of a very similar demonstration to the Harrier and is a crowd favorite as it roars down the runway and takes to the sky.
MIRAMAR AIR SHOW
If you have an interest in aviation, there is so much to see at the Miramar Air Show as it is the world’s greatest air show. Even for those that don’t anything about flying, the sights and the show is not to be missed. Aside from the military demonstrations, there are various acts that truly amaze as they tumble their airplanes through the sky or roar down the runway in a jet firetruck. I hope to see you out there in years to come.