United States Air Force Flight Demonstration Teams “Vaporize” Ocean City Air Show

F-22A nearly encased in its own vapor. (All Images credit: Author)

The “OC Air Show” was a stunning success for those starved of air show entertainment. It was also the first timefour Air Force demonstration teams took part in the same show

Taking place over the beaches of Ocean City, Maryland, a resort town on the Atlantic coast of the United States, the Ocean City Air Show was held on August 15-16, 2020. Originally the OC Air Show was scheduled for June, but COVID-19 caused it to be postponed until this past weekend.

The show was highlighted by not only the United States Air Force Thunderbirds, but also the A-10C Thunderbolt II, F-22A Raptor, and F-35A Lighting II flight demonstration teams. Before the air show’s postponement, only the Thunderbirds were scheduled to perform at the OC Air Show.

U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds during the Ocean City Air Show.

The cancellation of air shows across the country made it possible for the A-10C, F-22A, and F-35A demo teams to take part in this show. This was the first time having four Air Force demonstration teams taking part in the same show, as they are normally spread across the globe during air show season. In addition, this show was the first air show of 2020 for the United Air Force Thunderbirds.

While the official air show took place on Saturday, the military aircraft arrived at nearby NASA Wallops Flight Facility, on Thursday, while the civilian aircraft flew into Ocean City airport on Thursday and Friday.

F-22A and A-10C on the ramp at NASA’s Wallops Island Facility.

The air show’s organizers arranged for media to cover the arrival of the Air Force demonstration teams at Wallops. It was a treat to be given such close access to the newest fighters in America’s inventory. Normally F-35s and F-22s are kept a fair distance from the public.

Captain Kristin “Beo” Wolfe and Crew Chief Senior Airman Malik McKenzie strike a pose in front of their F-35A.

We were fortunate to witness the arrival of the F-35A Lightning II demo team. This team is led by Captain Kristin Wolfe, call sign “Beo” as in Beowulf. After her aircraft was secured, Captain Wolfe spoke to media and posed for shots. Captain Wolfe also looked forward to flying this particular show as she said conditions were perfect for aircraft to produce some good vapors. She could not have been more correct.

A-10C Thunderbolt with vapor streaming off its wings.

During the practice day on Friday, the climate conditions were perfect for the fast jets to produce awesome vapor trails. The air was extremely moist as it had been raining that morning. When an aircraft flies and maneuvers, it produces areas of low pressure. As the pressure is reduced, the air temperature also falls, causing the moist air to produce water vapor. As a photographer I have never seen so much vapor coming off the F-35A, F-22A, F-16Cs and even the A-10C.

Thunderbird 5 lead solo producing an iridescent vapor trail.

The United States Coast Guard supported the air show by anchoring the Fast Response Cutter USCGC Nathan Bruckenthal (WPC-1128) at show center. By doing so the cutter provided a fixed “landmark” for pilots maneuvering in the offshore aerobatic box. Performing over the ocean can increase risk to aviators as depth perception of the featureless water is more challenging, as compared to flying over land. In addition, the cutter along with two smaller response boats kept the box clear of unauthorized civilian craft.

U.S. Coast Guard MH-65C Dolphin demonstrating open water rescue with cutter USCGC Nathan Bruckenthal in the background.

The Coast Guard also demonstrated the MH-65C Dolphin’s capabilities by performing an open water lifesaving drill. The helicopter came to a hover over a rescue mannequin. Then an Aviation Survival Technician, aka rescue swimmer, jumped from the helicopter, retrieved the rescue mannequin, and was safely winched back on board the MH-65C.

This year’s OC Air Show was a treat in so many ways. It was the first full fledged 2020 air show in America since the COVID-19 pandemic. The historic participation of four Air Force demonstration teams really made the show unique and impressive.

My hat is off to the Town of Ocean City, air show promoter B. Lilley Productions; the Air Force demo teams and so many others for making the rescheduled OC Air Show happen.

F-22A, F-35A and A-10C demonstration teams flyover in a three plane formation.

About Randy Jennings
Randy Jennings is the proud son of combat WWII Mustang pilot, Warner Jennings. From birth, he has been obsessed by all things aviation; past, present and future. As a photojournalist, he has covered aviation events in the United States and Europe. He lives in the Washington DC region with his beautiful wife and rambunctious daughter.