“Our community and the world needed a good story and something to hold onto”, Jackie Parashar, Public Affairs Officer for Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach, Virginia, told TheAviationist.com about the 2022 NAS Oceana Air Show this past Saturday and Sunday, September 17 and 18, 2022.
And at Naval Air Station Oceana, during the return of their renowned air show, the public definitely did hold on to the spirit and enthusiasm that makes this event famous.
2022 is the first NAS Oceana in-person air show since the global pandemic began. The last NAS Oceana in-person show was three years ago in 2019. The USAF Thunderbirds headlined that show back in 2019 just before the pandemic. In 2020, at the height of the pandemic, NAS Oceana hosted a “virtual air show”. But for the last three years, two key ingredients were missing from this massive east coast show: live crowds and the hometown favorite U.S. Navy Blue Angels.
Public Affairs Officer Parashar told TheAviationist.com: “We’re anticipating the final number of spectators will be a new record, but we don’t have the final figures yet”. Parashar went on to tell us that the show was streamed on LiveAirshowTV.com to, “79 countries”. Air show photographers from around the U.S. traveled to Oceana to catch images of the Navy’s Master Jet Base and its interesting tenant units.
But the show didn’t end at the gates of NAS Oceana. When I drove off of the Master Jet Base at Oceana, crowds watching flight demos packed roads and parking lots across all of Virginia Beach, right up to the Atlantic coast. Tourists in high rise beachfront hotels panned their smartphones in unison to follow the Blue Angels as they arced above the ocean during repositions. Cars pulled to the shoulder. Grinning commuters used their hands as visors against a brilliant azure sky to see the Blue’s new Super Hornets. “This is something everyone can agree on, the Blue Angels are amazing”, one spectator told me outside NAS Oceana.
In addition to the return of the Blue Angels to Oceana, there were several milestones that contributed to massive crowds and spirited displays at the 2022 show.
One significant event was a change of command ceremony for Fighter Squadron Composite Twelve, or VFC-12, the “Fighting Omars”. This elite squadron flies the adversary-painted F/A-18 Super Hornets in Russian and Chinese markings. Their mission is to simulate potential adversary threats to train U.S. Navy fleet combat pilots for any contingency.
Outgoing VFC-12 commanding officer, U.S Navy Commander Scotty Golich, call sign “Cawk”, flew his final flight with the squadron prior to the unit’s official change of command ceremonies during the weekend.
Golich flew a distinctively painted F/A-18E Super Hornet with “Flanker” style camouflage and Russian markings on his last flight as commander. He lead a formation of Super Hornets, one painted in Chinese adversary markings and another with a freshly applied U.S. livery. Golich handed over command of VFC-12 to U.S. Navy Commander Adam Stevens, call sign “McKid”.
Another significant transition was the reported last F-35C Demo Team flight of U.S. Navy Lt. Joe Calvi, call sign “811”. Before the team flew its first demonstration of the show, Lt. Calvi chatted with reporters and photographers about his flights during the show.
“I’m flying the sneak [pass] today from the left. Since this is my last flight, I’m gonna send it”, Lt. Calvi told photographers. Calvi was accompanied by Lt. Commander Dan Slater in another F-35C Lightning II during the demos and in a Navy Legacy Flight that combined an F-4U Corsair and an F/A-18 Super Hornet.
The U.S. Coast Guard provided another unusual and colorful flight demonstration for Oceana 2022. A Coast Guard HC-130J Super Hercules long range surveillance aircraft from Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, in Elizabeth City, North Carolina made an impressive formation pass with an MH-60T Jayhawk search and rescue helicopter.
According to the Coast Guard at Elizabeth City, “The HC-130J has a more advanced engine and propellers, which provide a 20 percent increase in speed and altitude, and a 40 percent increase in range over the HC-130H. The new aircraft also features state-of-the-market avionics, including all-glass cockpit displays and improved navigation equipment. The HC-130J’s suite of command, control, communication, computers, cyber, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C5ISR) equipment helps to extend the fleet’s mission capabilities”.
The two aircraft flew in exceptionally tight formation, providing two passes over the demo area on the Friday media day and on Saturday. The HC-130J Super Hercules did not appear on Sunday at the show, presumably because of tasking for hurricane search and rescue operations in the Caribbean. The MH-60T Jayhawk did make several passes on Sunday, making the two-day appearance of both aircraft even more noteworthy.
According to official public affairs personnel, the Naval Air Station Oceana Airshow returns in 2023 with the Blue Angels returning and the date of next year’s show set for the September, 16 – 17, 2023.
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