5th Anniversary Melbourne Air and Space Show Recap

Residents from the Space Coast and beyond gathered at the Orlando Melbourne International Airport on March 24th and 25th to attend the 5th annual Melbourne Air and Space Show.  Both days of the show yielded beautiful clear skies and mild temperatures, making for ideal conditions to both fly and spectate. 

 

The show grounds featured several static displays including the WC-130J Hurricane Hunter Airplane, T-38 Talon training jet, E-2D Advanced Hawkeye, KC-135 Stratotanker, and MH-53E Sea Dragon heavy-lift helicopter. The show grounds also featured a C-130 Hercules and HH-60 Pave Hawk from Brevard’s own 920th rescue wing at Patrick Airforce Base. 

 

The show began with a demonstration from the SOCOM Para-Commandos, whose public performances represent the work of the US Special Operations Forces.  The Para-Commandos consist of soldiers from various Special Operators, including the Army Special Forces, Army Rangers, Navy SEALs, Air Force Combat Controllers, and Marine Raiders. In a unique performance tailored to the Melbourne Airport, three Para-commandos exited an airplane from several thousand feet in the sky above. With parachutes deployed, the three skydivers slowly descended towards show center. One Para-Commando wielded a large American flag, while the other two circled above and carried out skill-requiring parachute maneuvers. 

 

After the US National Anthem sounded and the Para-Commandos reached the ground, a solo pilot named Adam Baker took the sky in his Playful Extra 330 airplane. Adam completed an impressive array of maneuvers, pulling more than 9.5 positive g-forces without wearing any type of g-suit. 

 

While not an aircraft, an interesting performance featured the Shockwave Jet Truck. With three jet engines, 36,000 horsepower, and a top speed of 376 mph, the Shockwave easily claims the record for the world’s fastest and most powerful truck. The truck showed off its three thunderous jet engines in a frenzy of massive flames and plumes of smoke. The truck did one top speed run, requiring a parachute to slow the truck on the available runway

 

The next performer to take flight was John Black in his 8KCAB Super Decathlon. John, who carries the experience of over 3600 hours in an Air Force F-15, effortlessly performed many aerobatic moves that showed off his inspiring amount of skill and dedication. 

 

Following John Black, the crowd was introduced to a single-seat fighter and fighter-bomber known to many as a keystone of aerial combat during WWII and other past conflicts. The P-51 Mustang flew along show center, sounding a unique growl of a 1490 HP supercharged Rolls-Royce V-12 engine. The Mustang often provided escort to B-17 bombers during raids of Germany and utilized six .50 caliber AN Browning machine guns during missions lasting up until the Korean War.  

 

Following the P-51 Mustang was an aircraft that served in the same era and often the same missions as the P-51. The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress became a strategic part of WWII, dropping more bombs than any other US aircraft. This particular B-17 featured a livery with the name “Memphis Belle”. The original Memphis Belle became the first US Air Force plane to complete 25 missions with the safe return of its crew.  The success stories inspired the making of several movies, and the original airplane now rests at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.  

 

As the clock neared 1:45 pm on Saturday, the crowd became silent in anticipation of the next aircraft appearance. To honor the 5th Anniversary Air and Space Show, the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber was to make a rare and unique appearance to the public eye.  The crowd was informed that the B-2 was in route to MLB, and suddenly the distinct flying wing design became visible on the horizon. The B-2 Spirit made 3 breathtaking passes before heading on its way to complete a virtual bombing training mission and eventually return home to Whiteman AFB in Missouri. During the flyovers, the 2-man crew of the Stealth Bomber spoke to the crowd, explaining some details of their flight and life aboard a B-2 Stealth Bomber. As the bomber circled around the airport, it even crossed paths with the rising waxing crescent moon.  The B-2 Spirit is special in that it can go nearly invisible to enemy radar while carrying out missions. 

 

After an unforgettable B-2 experience, it was time for the Air Force Thunderbirds to perform their headlining show. The roar of six F-16 Fighting Falcons could be heard across Melbourne and the Beaches. The talented Air Force Pilots carried out numerous maneuvers, tight formations, and low flybys. Thunderbirds 5 and 6 demonstrated incredible close-call passes as the others flew in the iconic Thunderbird diamond formation. The Thunderbirds made a large smoke-trail heart above show center to pay respect to two airmen from Patrick AFB who recently lost their lives in a tragic Iraq helicopter crash. 

 

On the Thursday before the start of the air show, the media was invited to watch the Thunderbirds arrive at the Orlando Melbourne International Airport. The Thunderbirds performed a survey of the area before landing and parking. The press was given an incredible experience to walk around the F-16s as the pilots and support crew worked and prepared for the weekend. Special thanks must be given to those who were involved in organizing the air show and press-relations. Appreciation must also be extended to the Orlando Melbourne International Airport and the US Air Force Thunderbirds for their hospitality.

 

marcuscotephotography@gmail.com

Spaceflight Journalist, Freelance Photographer, 20-year-old college student

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