] To describe how incredible the Air Wing flyover was, is nearly impossible. Even through the photographs taken, it’s unlikely that someone can really experience the power and awe of that many aircraft in the air at one time, and the sound that filled the air. The massive flyover of the USS John C. Stennis Carrier Air Wing appears beneath the sun. -Photo by Britt Dietz
It was, not to be cliché, the sound of freedom, and what a beautiful sound it was. Leading the Air Wing were twenty-five F/A-18 Hornets and Super Hornets in 5x five-ship formations with 2x two-ship formations on the trailing edges. That alone was impressive enough, to see that many Hornets in formation at one time would make any jaw drop. But to follow up the Hornets was a set of three EA-6B Prowlers, two E-2 Hawkeyes, and finally a single C-2 Greyhound bringing the total to 31 aircraft, an entire Aircraft Carrier wing from the USS John C. Stennis. The massive formation glided overhead as a frenzy of cameras, everything from the most expensive Digital SLR camera to camera phones recorded the unbelievable sight. Sadly, just as quickly as the Air Wing had appeared, they were disappearing, heading over San Diego and the dots getting smaller and smaller. As soon as the dots were getting harder to see by the naked eye and the sound started to fade, the sound of clapping and excited laughter began to ring from the otherwise silent crowds. For those who had powerful zoom lenses, the small shapes of Super Hornets could still be seen in the distance rising up into the air, but it wasn’t long before the distant haze had swallowed up all the aircraft as they headed back to base.
With the departure of the Air Wing, the flying and main events of the Centennial Kick-Off had concluded. A rainbow appears in the water being tossed into the air by a US Navy LCAC Hovercraft. -Photo by Britt DietzWhile the party itself would continue on into the night with live music to accompany the static aircraft on display and all the vendors, the main spectacle had ended, meaning it was time for the annual dash for your car and leave. Knowing that there was only one bridge off the island, many of us decided to stay and hang out on the base in the media parking lot area waiting for the LCAC Hovercraft to fire back up and head home. It was rather entertaining to watch the surrounding escort boast that were of mixed agencies including the US Navy, Us Coast Guard, San Diego Police, and San Diego Harbor Patrol as they fended off any civilian craft that got too close. It took a white for the LCAC to rise up out of the water, but soon the patrol craft were speeding ahead clearing a path, and the LCAC was throwing water into the air as it sped away into the San Diego sunset. It was a fitting end to a wonderful look at Navy and Marine history and modern military power.
I’d like to thank the Naval Air Station North Island PAO, all the various Navy and Marine personnel volunteering their time for the event, and all others involved with the amazing event for their wonderful support and help with media access for this event. The show was a one of a kind event, and a great success. For more photos from the event, you can check out the photo gallery for the entire Centennial of Naval Aviation event on February 12, 2011 here on Warbird Photos.
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