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CoNA at NAS Oceana 2011

Where? NAS Oceana, VA, USA
When? 23-25/09/2011

CoNA, the Centennial of Naval Aviation was the major theme for US Navy airshows in 2011. Amongst those events listed as "Tier 1" was also the show NAS Oceana, and with Oceana being the US Navy's 'Master Jet Base' on the East Coast there were many good reasons to go there and celebrate this event.

Unfortunately after all it must be said that the event was a quite a disappointment. Partly of course because the weather did not play ball and some hours on Friday afternoon during the rehearsal were in retrospective the best part of the week-end.
Whereas the USN Fleet Airpower Demonstration could be preformed as well as most of the other fast jet displays, the Blue Angels display had to be cut short after one fly-by as black clouds were coming in fast and only some minutes later the whole ramp was flooded by a heavy rain shower. Furtunately there were at least some sunny spells during the fly-in of some aircraft.

The weather from Friday was a herald for the rest of the week-end, and as the skies did not improve during the week-end, it is somehow no wonder that I have rarely attended a show with so few spectators as NAS Oceana 2011: the bleacher seats remained empty for the most part, and even later in the day it was possible to get a place along the fence line in order to get a view on the wet runway.
The low cloud ceiling on Saturday also only made it possible to bring the USAF F-16, USMC Harrier and an USN F/A-18 in the air, and with similar conditions on Sunday it was a long wait until the early afternoon when the program finally started.

However, after the Fleet Airpower Demonstration the whole flying was once again called to an end and after the rain showers stated again it was finally cancelled. As a result of this after three show days amongst other show acts also the USN Blue Angels never performed in front of the public during this year's Oceana Airshow.

Compared to recent years, and what could be seen during Friday's rehearsal of the airpower demo, this part of the program seemed to be scaled down as well. The E-2C Hawkeye demonstration was missing and though there were some 10+ Hornets and Super Hornets in the air, the mainly did only some level fly-bys and it somehow seemed that the key aspect of these demonstrations were the pyrotechnics on the ground. But maybe I am still spoiled by the impressions when this show was done with the F-14 Tomcat...

A very nice sight would have also been the fly-bys of the DC-9 and B737 (or C-9 and C-40 respectively), but there is nothing more you can offer under such conditions:

As already mentioned the flight program on Saturday was more or less cancelled, and Sunday was not that much better. Looking at the Warbirds the Corsair, Bearcat, Dauntless and Wildcat were not to be seen, but at least the Skyraider and Avenger were up in the air. This goes also for the A-4C Skyhawk, which was in my opinion the best display of the day. And the rarest sight as well! Due to the lack of Warbirds in the air the US Tailhook Legacy Flight was also not shown, as well as many of the civilian airshow acts.

So, should we blame the weatherman? Well, maybe not for everything... At least the damp conditions were good for some nice vapour clouds around the jets during their fast fly-by, even during the low shows.

And not only the look in the sky was appalling, but also the one in the static display. Many of the well-researched and created aircraft wearing CoNA schemes were missing, and with more than 100 Oceana-based F/A-18E/F Super Hornets it was more than remarkable that none of these jets was presented in the static display, missing as well as many other of the USN different aircraft types. The ideas of a Centennial Celebration are different for sure, and not everything that might be wished for or thought of is realizable, but leaving the big ramp so empty was in my opinion a missed chance to please the enthusiasts that travelled many miles – some even as far as from Japan - to come and see their favourite aircraft.

Oceana Airshow 2011 thus failed to live up to expectations, and I am not sure if it would have been that much better with glorious sunshine during the whole week-end. Considering to go back to the show in Oceana once again it might be a wise choice to wait until the Navy's worldwide obligations decline, leaving some more efforts and resources to provide for such a 3-day Event.

Some more photos are linked here and are availabel in higher resolution:

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