2011 Centennial of Naval Aviation Airshow - Naval Air Station North Island, San Diego, California
Boeing F/A-18E Super  Hornet - 2011 Centennial of Naval Aviation
Bell MV-22 Osprey - 2011 Centennial of Naval Aviation
 Marine Cobras   &  Hueys - 2011 Centennial of Naval Aviation
Bell AH-1W Super  Cobra - 2011 Centennial of Naval Aviation
Article and Photography by Britt Dietz | February 23, 2011
[CONTINUED] The aerial events were kicked off by the arrival of the US Navy Leap Frogs parachute team, bringing down the Stars and Stripes along with kicking off the opening with the National Anthem. As the Anthem reached it’s close, the first aircraft to appear in this two hour long Parade of Flight came in with a roar; none other than the US Navy ambassadors in blue, the US Navy Blue Angels. The United States Navy Blue Angels performing a delta formation pass opening the show - Photo by Britt DietzThe United States Navy Blue Angels performing a delta formation pass opening the show. -Photo by Britt Dietz The F/A-18 Hornet demonstration team has been practicing for their upcoming airshow season starting in mid-March at the near-by NAF El Centro base, so flying over to open the show was a quick hop for the Blues. Rounding the San Diego bay and banking right at where we all were, the Blues put on an impressive Delta Formation pass which gave everyone their first look at the new addition of ‘Fly Navy 100 Years’ painted on the jets. It was a nice addition for the year long celebration. After the Blue Angels roar had died down, it became time for the first in the two hour long parade of Military Aviation throughout history, starting with a Ryan PT-22 Recruit from the 1930s. The Naval version of the PT-22 was called a Ryan NR-1 during the early 1940s. Starting with this early monoplane trainer, history began to move forward quite rapidly and into the more famous aircraft from World War 2 including the N2S Texan, F4U Corsair, F6F Hellcat, TBM Avenger, and SBD Dauntless.

Not to leave out the Air Force entirely, the appearance of the famous B-17 Flying Fortress and B-25 Mitchell, both which played parts helping out the US Navy, along with a rare PV-2 Harpoon and all silver HU-16 Albatross. Moving into the Korean War era with the arrival of four T-28 Trojan trainers in a formation pass along with T-34 Mentors, the Leap Frogs returned to the skies once again for their main jump. A gaggle of US Marine helicopters including the new AH-1Z Viper and UH-1Y Venom - Photo by Britt DietzA gaggle of US Marine helicopters including the new AH-1Z Viper and UH-1Y Venom. -Photo by Britt Dietz Once they reached the group, the aircraft began to appear once again, starting with the first Jet of the day, a T-33 Shooting Star. A FJ-4 Fury and a T-2 Buckeye rounded out the start of fighter jets for the US Military, and soon the distant roar of the first modern military aircraft was heard as a dogfighting F-5 Tiger and F/A-18 Hornet screamed past bringing us in the arrival of the modern age. Two Harriers from MCAS Yuma screamed in followed by what appeared to be out of nowhere collection of Marine helicopters showcasing old and new with the original AH-1W Cobra and AH-1Z Venom along with the UH-1 Huey and the new UH-1Y Venom. Next up was a wonderful treat not often seen outside of the Marine Air Ground Task Force demonstration that is performed at the MCAS Miramar Airshows, a mid-air refueling demonstration with a C-130 Hercules and two CH-53 Super Stallions. At this point my camera was trying desperately to keep up with the amount of photos I was taking. Thankfully, with the one to two minute pause between the passes, the camera had a second to take a breath before being plunged into another round of photo taking.

The pace, up to this point, had been pretty quick, but now this would slow down as a few demonstrations were coming in. First up was an uncommon sight along the West Coast in recent years as two MV-22 Ospreys appeared in ‘hover mode’ with one transitioning into fast forward flight and the other coming to a slow stop over the water to perform a hover demonstration. It was at this point that all the media along the shoreline knew we had picked the best spot as the ‘show center’ location for the demos was catered to the special guests that were on board the Aircraft Carrier USS John C. Stennis. A MV-22 Osprey performs a hover demonstration over the San Diego Bay waters - Photo by Britt DietzA MV-22 Osprey performs a hover demonstration over the San Diego Bay waters. -Photo by Britt DietzThis meant that the normal general public would barely be able to see the demonstration taking place, while we had almost a front row seat for it. The Osprey’s demo was pretty quick, but enough to showcase the hovering capabilities of these amazing aircraft, and after it departed another vertical flying aircraft screamed in for the second time, but for a demo this time around. The two AV-8B Harriers appeared once again, doing pretty much the same thing as the Ospreys where one screamed past in flight mode and the other slowed to a stop to hover over the San Diego harbor. The water whipped around from the downward exhaust of the Harrier, and after performing a side to side and spin hover demo, it too transitioned into flight mode and departed. Returning back to the Parade of Flight, the two MV-22 Ospreys returned for a quick flyby, and the distant roar of helicopters began to echo throughout the area. Four little dots suddenly turned into eight as a gaggle mix of old and new Cobras and Hueys proudly roared past in an incredible four and four formation.

Following directly behind the impressive gaggle of Hueys and Cobras were rather plain C-12 and UC-35 Naval aircraft, which you almost had to feel sorry for them being placed in the middle of otherwise rather jaw dropping formations of military helicopter might. After their departure, it became time for one of the passes I was most looking forward to, and it was hard to even photograph the C-12 and UC-35 aircraft as the large dots started to multiply in the distance. Four CH-53E Super Stallions fly past in formation, one half of the eight that passed by - Photo by Britt DietzFour CH-53E Super Stallions fly past in formation, one half of the eight that passed by. -Photo by Britt Dietz Rounding the corner by the Aircraft Carrier came what seemed like out of a blockbuster military movie as eight giant CH-53E Super Stallions from MCAS Miramar nearly shook the ground from their incredible sound. Trying to remain focused on taking shots of this incredible sight and not just drool in amazement was a difficult thing to do. I nearly missed the two C-130 Hercules aircraft that flew over about the same time high into the air because of the sheer might of the Super Stallions in that big of numbers. Not really getting much time to admire the Stallions as they went off into the distance, two more C-130 Hercules appeared in formation to continue this now rapid pace of the flybys. The Parade of Flight was about half over now, and already the impressive amount of aircraft through history that had flown over this harbor was mind-boggling. Following the two Hercules, and not to be outdone by the Super Stallions, eight CH-46E Sea Knights also from MCAS Miramar roared into view in two different four ship formations. As the CH-46s passed in front of us, one of the trailing Sea Knights broke off from the group and spun around heading the opposite direction. But there wasn’t really any time to see what was going on as it was time to return to the jets.

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Author and photographer BRITT DIETZ has been attending airshows for as long as he can remember.  Growing up with the former Marine Corps Air Stations El Toro and Tustin in his backyard, he's been exposed to every type of modern military aircraft.  Britt began shooting photography at Airshows during the last El Toro airshow in 1997, shortly before the base closed. He soon found an intense passion for the aviation photography trade, and continued to harness this love traveling to airshows all over the West Coast. In 2003, Britt launched his first Aviation Photography website and company called Warbird Photos Aviation Photography, and has been shooting professional aviation photography ever since having been published in various magazines, newspapers, books, and calendars.