The New York International Air Show, 2019


The New York Stewart International Airport, to the north of New York City, once again played host to the prestigious New York International Air Show, on 24-25th August, 2019. I had decided, well in advance, to buy a VIP Pass to this event, and make the 3 hour drive from my home in Massachusetts. Partially, this was because the Royal Air Force Red Arrows would be appearing, along with the US Navy Blue Angels, but also because this would give me the chance to mingle with US enthusiasts and spread the word about The People’s Mosquito project, directly.

The VIP Pass gave access to, it said, a special entrance/exit lane, and special parking. However, as with all other air shows, ‘special’ turned out to be a relative term, and the slow crawl in was, indeed, matched by an equally slow crawl out. That being said, the rest of the VIP package was worth it, with unlimited cold drinks and beer, and a decent lunch table, too! Full marks to the organisers for that, and for the dining tables in the shade, as well as the padded seating facing the flight line. Despite the fact that I had not paid for a special Photographers Pit Pass, myself and a small group of photographers did not suffer for this, as you can see!

I suppose the highlights for me were the Red Arrows and the B-25J Mitchell, ‘Panchito’. I had seen the Reds perform their last U.K. display of the 2019 season at the Royal International Air Tattoo, RAF Fairford, in July, and was now to see how a New York State crowd reacted to them. Given the fact that it was likely that many of the spectators at this show had never even heard of the Red Arrows before, this was something of a test! I need not have worried; I have never seen a crowd stand up and applaud during a jet display team performance before – and this happened many times. There were even some favourable comments when the Reds were compared to their ‘home team’ of the Blue Angels, as they liked the way that RAFAT kept some formation elements in sight of the crowd lines at all times. There were no large intervals before the next formation arrived, some people said. A big thumbs up.

Before the display I had sought out some members of the Royal Air Force team and distributed TPM lapel badges and leaflets, and also brought them greetings from one of their former CO’s, Wing Commander Bill Ramsey, now retired and the Director of Operations for The People’s Mosquito. I did the same with the crew of the Royal Air Force Airbus A400M Atlas, which was there in support of the team. I think one of the A400M crew was rather startled when a British voice said, ‘I see you managed to get here from Brize, then?’ Just like old times…..

The B-25J Mitchell was one of the best preserved examples I have ever seen. As well as putting on a spirited display, with simulated pop-up bomb runs, the crew took bookings for pleasure flights, which took place in between display items!

There were many other displays, including a startling sequence by an Aviat-built Pitts S-1-11B flown by Mike Wiskus, and an Interstate Cadet which ‘lost’ the starboard aileron in flight (all planned, I assure you). One thing that was not planned however, was the fact that the GEICO Skytypers, a well-respected team of six N.A. SNJ-2 aircraft, lost a display member to a mechanical failure shortly after take off (don’t worry the aircraft landed back on, safely) and their display was naturally rather disjointed because of this.

Jet action was supplied by a privately-owned L-39 Albatros, and the brutal power of a USAF F-35A Lightning II, which was later paired with an immaculate P-51D Mustang to perform one of the now traditional Heritage Flight fly-bys – very well done.

Undoubtedly one of the most unusual display items I have ever seen came when Kent Pietsch took off in his Interstate Cadet, climbed to altitude, then switched the engine off. Kent performed a full sequence of aerobatic manoeuvers, made a fine dead-stick landing, turned off the runway, and came to a dead stop, with the propeller boss just touching the outstretched hand of the visiting British Consul-General, who was up from New York City to support the Red Arrows. An utterly stunning piece of flying.

All in all, despite the traffic problems, this is a show I would not have missed. Lots to enjoy and little to really complain about. Well done to the organizers! I would not hesitate to recommend this event to both enthusiasts, and families, in future years.

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