Sunday, July 13, 2003

Precision flying teams will provide the 'wows'

Jim Knippenberg
Cincinnati Enquirer

It may have happened at some time in the past but as far as anyone can tell today, the Dayton Air Show is the first time all three North American jet teams are appearing in the same show.

The Navy's Blue Angels, the Air Force's Thunderbirds and the Canadian Forces Snowbirds will be flying all four days of the show. And, yeah, they're all jets given to precision flight, but there are differences in the routines. Read on ...

• Thunderbirds: Celebrating their 50th anniversary this year, the six Thunderbird pilots fly a mix of aircraft in precision formations while performing up to 30 maneuvers in the 75-minute show.

The four-aircraft diamond formation, always a crowd-pleaser because it looks like the wings are touching, is designed to show the training and precision of the pilots.

Solo moves - barrel rolls, dives, loops - show off the maximum capabilities of the Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon, a 49-foot-long plane (32-foot wing span) capable of speeds up to 1,500 mph or twice the speed of sound.

• Blue Angels: Formed in 1946, the Angels are six Navy and Marine pilots flying the sleek F/A-18 Hornets in a highly choreographed routine that includes a four-plane diamond formation similar to the Thunderbirds', as well as a six-plane delta formation.

The delta is an Angels trademark and considered the last word in precision flying. Locked in formation, the six aircraft perform a medley of acrobatic moves and loops, looking more like one big plane than six. They're that close. The one thing everyone talks about with these guys is how they fly so close to the ground that people sometimes actually duck.

• Canadian Forces Snowbirds: They up the ante from six jets to nine - all of them Canadair CT-114 Tutors painted bright red with red and white underbellies. One thing's for sure: You can't miss them.

Formed in 1971 and established as a permanent squadron in 1978, the Snowbirds love flying low and fast, but what most people remember is the finely tuned smoke-generating system when the planes are flying high.

Like the other two jet teams, the Snowbirds base their routine on precision flying spiked with flashy loops and barrel rolls from two solo pilots.


Here's when you can catch the precision moves of the show's three jet fighter teams:

Snowbirds: Noon Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 5 p.m. Sunday.

Blue Angels: 2:15 p.m. Thursday-Sunday.

Thunderbirds: 5 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, noon Sunday.

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