By Zachary Daum
Severe storms hampered but did not stop Scott Air Force Base’s first air show in five years. After severe rain and thunderstorms left visitors to the event on Saturday, May 13 losing the chance to see the renowned U.S. Navy Blue Angels performance, a quickly revised Sunday schedule rushed the event, turning it into a spectacular show of professional speed and grace.
The gates opened at 9:00 AM both days, with the STEM expo and showing of air vehicles such as the C-130J, C-17, B-25 Mitchell and a Chinook Helicopter.
Saturday’s event led all the way up to the Blue Angel’s performance, but thunderstorms hit, canceling their show and briefly stranding many spectators inside the STEM expo hangar.
As a direct result of this and through weather radar results showing a return of poor weather on Sunday afternoon, a revised schedule led to a spitfire of performances starting at 10:30 from the MIG-17, Tora Tora Tora (featuring recreations of WWII Japanese planes that attacked Pearl Harbor), an F-22 Demonstration, the Red Bull Edge 540, followed by the finale at noon by the Blue Angels.
The crowd was dazzled and couldn’t keep their eyes off the skies as the show opened with the Cold War era MiG-17 as it zoomed around the airfield. The MiG-17 was a terror in the skies for the U.S. during the Cold War as it at the time outpaced our fastest planes. After the MiG-17’s flight, Tora Tora Tora recreated the attack on Pearl Harbor through a pyrotechnic display that shocked and awed the crowd. The heat from the pyro display, representing the bombs dropped at Pearl Harbor, could be felt by the crowd as the moment that changed our nation played out in front of them. After Tora Tora Tora, the F-22 Raptor rocked the audience with an incredibly impressive display of maneuverability and flew side by side with its World War II era equivalent, the P-51 Mustang. These planes, while massively different when compared, have both been used for similar operations.
After being wowed by the prowess of the F-22 Raptor, the Edge 540, piloted by Red Bull Air Pilot Kirby Chambliss, took flight. It made death defying turns, spins and stunts, shocking and amazing the crowd. After flying down, as if landing, Chambliss suddenly rose to the air again from the near landing for a final encore before settling down, allowing the U.S. Navy Blue Angels to prepare for the main event flight. A team of six pilots, consisting of CDR Alexander Armatas, LCDR Chris Kapuschansky, LT Amanda Lee, LT Scott Goossens, LCDR Julius Bratton and LCDR Griffin Stangel took flight, with Blue Angel member and narrator, LCDR Thomas Zimmerman explaining the details of each maneuver during the demonstration. Flying for roughly half an hour, the demonstration was full of surprises and showings of expert flight maneuvers.
The Blue Angels could be seen throughout Mascoutah overhead as well. Many of the aircrafts were visible in the skies in the days leading up to the air show. Although there was a significant change in scheduling, the 2023 Scott Air Force Base Air Show was considered a success.
Mascoutah Mayor Pat McMahan greatly enjoyed the air show. “The SAFB Air Show was fabulous, incredible! What a feat of planning, everything was done first class. The Blue Angels were of course great, but my favorite was the F-22 exhibition! Congratulations to 375th Commander Col Chris Robinson and all the staff of SAFB, well done!”