Does it ever get old? Such a cliche, but everyone feels this on a daily basis. What is that event that makes you go….. OMG, and you go back to that same event the following year, and perhaps, the next 50 years. Imagine that. Well, airshows do that to millions!

SOCOM Para-Commandos

The Para-Commandos opened the Air Show racing towards earth at 120 mph opening their black and gold canopies during precision parachute demonstrations at Orlando Melbourne International today. In an extraordinary display of timing, accuracy, and precision maneuvering, they exited the Cessna-172 at 12,500 feet over the beautiful Florida Coast landing in front of thousands of clapping, patriotic fans.

The Para-Commandos are comprised of U.S. Special Operations Command personnel headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla. Most are combat veteran special operators from the US Army Special Forces or Rangers, the US Air Force’s Special Tactics Squadrons, US Navy SEALs, or US Marine Corps Special Operations Raiders.

The United States Special Operations Command has approximately 70,000 Active Duty, Reserve and National Guard Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and DoD civilians assigned to the headquarters, its four components, and seven sub-unified commands. Every day, as many as 12,000 Special Operations Forces are deployed to more 70 countries worldwide.

Northrup Grumman B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber
B-2 Spirit Bomber

The Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber made a rare and unique appearance at the Melbourne Air & Space Show on Saturday, March 24, at approximately 1:45 p.m. to help commemorate the fifth anniversary of the event at Orlando Melbourne International Airport.

‘The B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber flew a multi-pass profile with a wide sweeping turn allowing spectators at the event site to see the aircraft from multiple angles including a partial head-on view.’

The B-2, also known as the Spirit, is a strategic multi-role bomber designed to penetrate deep into hostile territory undetected. The B-2 features stealth technology making it virtually invisible to enemy radar allowing it to pass by anti-aircraft defenses to deliver its payload and return to base.

The B-2 is a tailless flying wing design and carries a crew of two. It is capable of all-altitude missions up to 50,000 feet with a range of more than 6,000 miles on internal fuel and over 10,000 miles with one mid-air refueling.

Northrop Grumman built the B-2. It is the only aircraft that combines stealth technology and long-range strike capabilities with precision-guided munitions delivery. It was an Epic fly by!

Quick Facts on the B-2

B2 Spirit Stealth Bomber at Melbourne Air & Space Show
“It’s radar footprint is that of a squirrel”! Looks small, doesn’t it?

This Aircraft is:
A Flying Wing – No fuselage or tail.
Length-69 feet, just over two first downs.
Height-17′, a 5-yard penalty for offsides.
Wingspan-172’ a tad over half a football field.
A range of 6,900 miles.
Payload: 80 500lb JDAM GPS Bombs, or 16 2,400 lb B83 Nukes.
Can attack from 50,000 feet. (Altitude)
Crewed by two.
Top Speed 682 MPH. 140 MPH Minimum.
Entered service in 1997, 20 years ago.
Fleet: 20 for operations through 2032.
Built By: Northrup Grumman
Main Base of Operations: 509th Bomb Wing, Whiteman AFB, Missouri.

USAF Thunderbirds

F-16 Diamond Formation
F-16 Sole Maneuver

The featured event was the United States Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, the Thunderbirds, blew the lid off the taxi-way with precision maneuvers from these top-notched pilots and high-performance aircraft. This was the first show of the 2018 season for the Thunderbirds. Their performance included formation and solo flying, the four-jet diamond demonstrates the former while the solo’s highlight the extreme capabilities of the F-16. A total of 40 jaw-dropping acrobatic and precision maneuvers thrilled the crowd lined up on a tarmac at Melbourne International Airport.

They are now on to 69 air demonstrations in 34 cities. Activated in 1953, as the 3600th Air Demonstration Unit at Luke AFB, AZ. Nicknamed the “Stardusters” flying a straight-winged F-84G Thunderjet. The team moved to Nellis AFB, NE and grew into the F-16 in 1983. Many of the ‘solo’ passes came out of nowhere at almost supersonic speeds surprising the audience and with a powerful shattering sound at low altitude, it was amazing. The Thunderbirds put on a show for all ages. United States Air Force!

Super Decathlon
John Black
Adam Baker – Playful Extra 330

John Black, photo above, piloted the 180 Horsepower Super Decathlon performing amazing spins, rolls, loops and zero gravity mid-air dead stops and amazing stalls. Lt. Colonel John Black previously served in the Air Force and Florida Air National Guard racking up over 3,000 hours in the F-15.

Adam Baker flew what was the most colorful and marketing machine at this year’s show. His Extra 300 livery was a treat to photograph. This plane is one of the highest performance 2-seat aircraft in production today, according to the brochure a the show. Adam’s performance included 9.5 positive g-forces and 5.5 negative g-forces, wow this writer would have long passed out. Hitting speeds of 270 mph he can fly straight vertical and actually flies backward at 80 mph in the torque roll. Incredible performance Adam Baker.

P-51 Mustang

Over “20 variants” of the P-51 Mustang, above, were produced from 1940 til after the Korean War. Their first engines were Rolls Royce made producing 1,490 horsepower and cost $50,000 to manufacture and many call it the “war-winning” weapon of WWII. The final version was powered by a Packard V-1650-7 V-12. The Mustang’s sound is quite unique, much like how one clearly recognizes the sound of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

B-17 Flying Fortress – Memphis Belle

The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress was the Goddess of the show, taking enthusiasts for rides all weekend long. Having flown the skies over Germany during WWII this aircraft performs magnificently. Developed in 1930! for daylight strategic bombing campaigns against the German industrial and military complex often escorted by the P-51 Mustang. The B-17 dropped more bombs than any other United States aircraft during WWII. This United States Army Air Corps plane has been featured in two motion pictures, a documentary film in 1944 the  ‘Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress’, Memphis Belle produced in 1990. The original Memphis Belle is undergoing complete restoration at USAF Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio and scheduled for roll out May 17th, 2018. This air show model was used in the movie “Memphis Belle”. Five airworthy B-17s were used in filming the movie.

The static displays are always a crowd favorite as you can enter the planes from the cockpit to the fueling boom tail position.

C-130J Hercules
E-2D Advanced Hawkeye
HH–60 Pave Hawk 920th Space Wing
P-51 Mustang

One note about the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye is that is successfully received fuel from an F/A-18 Super Hornet for the first time. What an achievement by the U.S. Navy and Northrup Grumman.

Our local Air Force installation, Patrick AFB, is home to several of the static aircraft on display, including the HH-6 Pave Hawk built by Sikorsky. The unit on hand was the 920th Rescue Wing. A local favorite as they can be seen patrolling the beach from low altitude and for clearing the “Hot Box” for all the rocket launches at the space center.

Many Thanks to Chris for his hospitality and the incredible access to this event.

Chris Dirato, Director of Public Relations

Melbourne Air & Space Show

Jason Perrone and Scott Murray

An added fast action display involved the Shockwave Jet Truck and the P-51 Mustang racing down the runway. EPIC, loud, fast and furious.

Shockwave Jet Truck