|Air show in two minutes|
An overview of the cool aircraft, a jet propelled car and a helicopter rescue demonstration at the 2011 MCAS Yuma Air Show.
|Harrier pilot wows the crowd|
A harrier pilot stationed at MCAS Yuma shows what his harrier can do during a demonstration at the annual air show.
|Veterans take flight|
World War II veterans Virgil Hengl, Tony Nader and Joseph Brumbach took a flight back in time Friday morning, flying in a vintage B-17G “Flying Fortress.” The plane is one that will be available for rides during the Yuma Air Show on Saturday.
|Yuma Air Show: MAGTF|
The Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) demo, the finale of the 2011 MCAS Yuma Air Show, featured Super Cobra attack and Sea Knight helicopters, AV-8B Harriers, V-22 Osprey tilt rotor aircraft and a massive refueling plane.
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Yuma Airshow delights young, old alike
As the Marine transport helicopter landed on the airstrip at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, a group of highly trained Marines hit the ground running, dove into the dirt and trained their weapons upon the horizon.
Up above two Super Cobra attack helicopters and a duo of AV-8B Harriers patrolled the area to provide intense close air support if the detachment on the ground was threatened.
While training as if they were in the thick of a war zone overseas, the group was participating in the Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) demonstration during the finale of the 2011 MCAS Yuma Air Show Saturday afternoon.
The exercise also included Sea Knight transport helicopters, two V-22 Osprey tilt rotor aircraft and a massive refueling plane.
Within minutes, dozens of Marines were dropped in the landing zone and quickly formed a perimeter.
Then a white pick-up truck, driving wildly, rushed onto the tarmac. Out jumped two “insurgents” armed with assault rifles who had hostages in tow that were handcuffed.
The insurgents then took cover behind the truck and traded gunfire with the advancing Marines. The “snap-crackle-pop” of dozens of Marines emptying their magazines echoed through the afternoon breeze.
The skirmish raged on as the Marines approached the vehicle on both of its flanks.
Then a Harrier strafed the tarmac with “bombs” causing explosions down field in a supporting role.
Both insurgents were “killed” and the hostages rescued.
The event highlighted tactics currently used in Afghanistan, explained Capt. Staci Reidinger, MCAS Yuma public affairs officer.
“This year we were able to get the Marine Air Ground Task Force Demonstration, and that is a combination of everything we try to put together when we deploy. Currently we have Marine Air Ground Task Forces working in sync in Afghanistan.”
The forces consist of boots on the ground, humvees and armored vehicles, support units, transport units and attack aircraft.
Saturday's exercise was as close to the real thing as civilians may ever see, Reidinger said.
“And you are getting it in one place. You would never see all of this happening in one moment and that is the best thing about having it in a demonstration, so we can show how we put it together.”
Between 20,000 and 30,000 eager spectators were estimated to have come out for the airshow, which also included skydiving, air rescue demos, static military displays, entertainment and food.
During one of the events a B-17 Flying Fortress, a B-25 Mitchell Bomber and several World War II Navy fighter aircraft had a dog fight with some Japanese Zeros.
Another demonstration included a race between a Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star jet aircraft and a ground car with a giant jet engine bolted to the back end which emitted giant clouds of white smoke enveloping the spectators down wind.
The weather was just right for the event, and while the breezy conditions did change it up for the pilots, it kept the crowd nice and cool under the unobstructed sun.
Eugene Beckstrom and his buddy Donald Willis brought their lawn chairs to watch the excitement. They loved the weather.
“It's been fantastic,” Willis said.
“It's great,” Beckstrom added. “You couldn't ask for anything better because of the breeze.”
The flying conditions are what makes MCAS Yuma such an important base of operations, Reidinger said.
“It is just a perfect weather event for this day. That is why Yuma is claimed as the best place in the world to fly. Today shows you that because of these blue skies.”
Earlier, to the delight of the spectators, a skilled AV-8B pilot had showed off the vertical take off and landing capabilities of his aircraft. He even performed a “moonwalk,” a maneuver where the Harrier actually moves backward while hovering.
Even though the Harrier is scheduled to be replaced by the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in the coming years, Reidinger said the Harriers will stick around to dazzle audiences at future MCAS Yuma Air Shows.
“It won't be phased out right away. As the Joint Strike Fighter moves in during 2012, we will still have all of our Harrier squadrons. Then, individually, some of the squadrons will start shutting down. But overall they will be here for years to come.”
However Reidinger is looking forward to demonstrations by the F-35 in coming years.
“We are excited, and hopefully next year, we'll have that Joint Strike Fighter out here for everybody to see.”
Another military highlight that might not be around for much longer – World War II veterans – were honored during the event.
“We had several World War II veterans who were out with us today,” Reidinger said.
“We don't know how much longer we are going to have them with us, and as we see them out here we try to offer them thanks for their service.”
Chris McDaniel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6849.