A January air show in Minneapolis sounds as crazy as a July air show in Yuma. But, the flight line in Yuma in February is heaven. Like the PGA, the winter air show circuit covers the sunbelt in the Southwest U.S. Not only do the Marines at MCAS Yuma get to thank their hometown hosts for all the hospitality in Yuma they also get to show their stuff to the large influx of winter visitors in the area that double the population of this desert oasis from October to April every year. This was the 44th Marine Corps Air Station, Yuma Airshow and it’s a tradition that is worth seeing. It is a real home town air show with a big hardware flight line where over 80 military and civilian aircraft were on static display.
Col.Ben Hancock, the current station commander atYuma, is no stranger to the air show business after a two year tour on the Blue Angles in the right wing position. He emphasized the need for his Marines to let the surrounding community visit the base and see what the Marine aviators are doing there with the F-5Es of the VMFT-401 Marine adversary squadron and the four squadrons of AV-8B, Harriers (VMA-211, VMA-214, VMA-311 and VMA-513). The people inYuma appreciated the opportunity with an estimated 31,000 spending the day at the air station.
Arguably, a deficiency of winter air shows is the lack of the Blue Angles or the Thunderbirds who are busy doing their off season work ups to break in new team members. However, John “Country” Mills, this year’s air show coordinator, did a good job of lining up the “usual suspects” for both civilian and military flight demos. John Collver flew his T-6 “War Dog”. Pitts demos included Jacquie Warda, Sonny Weller, and John Melby. Tim Weber flew his German built Extra 30 and Rob Harrison flew his Czch built Zlin 50. Greg Medford put on a solo demo in a Nanchang CJ-6A in concert with other pilots flying a 4-ship formation of CJ-6As. Chuck Hall brought his P-51D, “Six Shooter”, from Ramona to fly an Air Force Heritage flight formation with the Capt Dax Cornelius, the F-16 demo pilot from Hill AFB, UT who flew an F-16 demonstration prior to the heritage flight. The Air Force also sent the A-10 demo team from Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ with Capt Brian Willits as the pilot.
The Marines showed off their stuff with the always popular AV-8B Harrier vertical takeoff and landing show.
There’s an Army presence inSouthwest Arizona at the Yuma Proving Grounds so the Golden Knight Parachute team opened the day by delivering the ceremonial U.S. Flag to Maj. Gen Michael Lehnert, Commanding General for Marine Corps Installations, West Coast, who presided over the activities and welcomed Arizona Senator Jon Kyl. There was a good display of Army hardware as well.Yumais where the Golden Knights do their annual winter training before the full blown air show season kicks off. The Yuma Air Show is their first public performance of the season.
A unique performance team every year at the Yuma Airshow has nothing to do with aviation but is just as impressive. The U.S. Marine Drum and Bugle Corps also callsYumatheir winter home where they get ready for a busy summer schedule inWashington,DC. They perform the weekly Tuesday evening Sunset Parade at the Iwo Jima memorial and the traditional Friday evening Tattoo at the Marine Barracks.