The 2017 airshow season is starting, and this editor is already on the road. I am in California, where I will attend the China Lake Air Show on March 18 and 19 and the Los Angeles County Airshow at Fox Field, Lancaster on March 25 and 26. In mid-June I will be with my colleagues at the Paris Air Show, where we will produce and distribute four printed copies of AIN Paris Airshow News. In mid-July the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT)—the world’s largest military airshow—beckons at Fairford airbase in the UK.
The China Lake event is a rare opportunity to witness the work of the Naval Air Weapons Center (NAWC) in static displays. But like most airshows on American military bases, there won’t be much flying by operational aircraft. The Pentagon prefers to fund—handsomely—some dedicated military aerial demonstration teams and let the operational squadrons concentrate on the “sharp” end of the business. But this does create space for a variety of innovative and entertaining civilian airshow acts.
At China Lake, therefore, the excellent U.S. Navy Blue Angels in their six F/A-18 Hornets will be joined by a Spitfire, a Bearcat, a Pitts biplane and other performers. However, two of the NAWC’s own Super Hornets will be flying, and the U.S. Army’s special operations parachute team will be demonstrating. On the ground, I will be looking forward to seeing the F-35C naval variant of the Joint Strike Fighter for the first time. And don’t miss the Tornado being shown by the UK Royal Air Force, toward the end of its long and effective career as a strike jet.
The following weekend, I expect that the LA County Airshow will once again entertain the aerospace-minded citizens of the Antelope Valley, and many thousands from farther afield, especially from Los Angeles. They used to flock to the Edwards AFB Open House, causing enormous tailbacks on the approaching highways. But Edwards has not opened its gates for some years, and a non-profit corporation has been created to fill the gap. Its mission is to promote the importance of aviation for continued economic growth and encourage young people into the industry.
Fox Field is a large but under-used airfield, not far from the even-larger Palmdale airport, home to the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works and many other defense-related aerospace activities. Lockheed Martin is the headline sponsor of the LA County Airshow. The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds with their F-16s will be a star attraction, but there will also be an A-10 flying, and solo aerobatic shows by civilians, World War II vintage fighters and bombers. NASA’s Palmdale-based ER-2 version of the U-2 spyplane will do flybys. There will be plenty to see and do on the ground, including an F-35 static display, and a most interesting series of seminars featuring some fliers who are legends in their own lifetime.