Melbourne Air & Space Show rocks Florida’s Space Coast
MELBOURNE, Fla — The skies above the Melbourne International Airport roared with the sounds of jet and propeller-driven aircraft this weekend. The show was held from March 21-22 and included the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, the F-22 Raptor demonstration team, U.S. Air Force F-16 Viper Demonstration Team – and an array of other government and civilian organizations.
From our perspective in the control tower, the show comes across as an exercise in logistics. In particular, we were able to witness first-hand the interaction between the air-traffic control tower, the “show boss” who controls the airspace during the rehearsals, and the show and the Blue Angels administrative officer they send to the tower. The coordination involved – is nothing short of amazing.
Another aspect that was particularly notable is that the show’s producers value partnerships with schools and universities. The reason behind these efforts is to inspire youth to pursue education and fields that relate to Science Technology Engineering and Math, more commonly known as “STEM”. Brevard Schools sent students out to see the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels arrive, and the Florida Institute of Technology’s College of Aeronautics students and faculty were on hand at a “hangar party”.
SpaceFlight Insider was surprised to find how maneuverable the C-130 – called “Fat Albert” – that the Blue Angels utilizes is.
Major Dusty Cook (USMC) is one of the aircraft’s pilots. He spoke about how his performance (steep climbs, tight turns and a fast landing with a very short stop) serves to demonstrate the capabilities of the C-130. Cook detailed that he has a special sense of responsibility toward the iconic aircraft and its vital role in allowing the Blue Angels to perform.
Fat Albert carries pallets of repair supplies and equipment to maintain the Blue Angels fleet, and 40-60 mechanical/maintenance staff. Cook noted that he and the team he works with strive to maintain the craft within operational specs.
“I’m leaving it for someone else to fly, so I feel a duty and obligation to turn it over in perfect condition,” Cook said.
Without a doubt, perhaps one of the most spectacular elements of the Melbourne Air & Space Show – was the F-22 Raptor. The fighter’s maneuverability is matched only by the deafening roar of its two Pratt & Whitney F119-PW-100 turbofan engines. For 2015, there are currently only 20 air shows which will benefit from an appearance of these astonishing aircraft.
One of the more popular aspects to enter into the lexicon of those who follow air shows – is the “Legacy Flight”. The one carried out at the Melbourne Air & Space Show was no different. The Legacy Flight held above the Melbourne Air & Space Show consisted of the F-22 Raptor, the F-16 Viper, and the P-51 Mustang. The F-22’s pilot spoke highly about being part of that and the years of history represented by the flight of those three planes.
“Being able to fly with these other historic aircraft, is a privilege. There is a lot of history that is represented when we take to the skies,” said the F-22’s pilot, Captain John “Taboo” Cummings.
As the show’s rehearsal drew to a close, it began to rain. Curious about what impact this would have on program, I asked the officer on duty if this could cause the Blue Angels to cancel their part of the show. Lieutenant Junior Grade (LTJG) Phil Harper, turned and with a smile denoting his experience, responded with: “No, sir. We are an all-weather Navy, sir.”
SpaceFlight Insider is a space journal working to break the pattern of bias prevalent among other media outlets. Working off a budget acquired through sponsors and advertisers, SpaceFlight Insider has rapidly become one of the premier space news outlets currently in operation. SFI works almost exclusively with the assistance of volunteers.