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MCAS Yuma Airshow a crowd pleaser

By Joe Letourneau | March 14, 2023

Estimated reading time 5 minutes, 17 seconds.

Established in the late 1920s, the airfield in Yuma, Arizona, has a long and storied aviation history.

Starting as a civilian airfield in 1928, the airport has evolved to serve the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1942 before returning to civilian use after the Second World War. The airfield then served the U.S. Air Force (USAF) in 1954, and the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) in 1959. It is now a mixed-use civilian and military airport, with civilian and commercial flight operations sharing the runways and control tower in a long-standing arrangement.

Yuma was also one of the first sites to host and test the new Marine Corp version of the F-35B short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) aircraft, and hosted the first operational unit in 2012. Joe Letourneau Photo

Situated in the southwest corner of Arizona, not far from the Mexican border, Yuma’s climate provides excellent weather for all-season flying, an arid environment for equipment testing, and large tracts of dedicated land for operational training and testing.

Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Yuma has the honor of hosting the Weapons and Tactics Instructor (WTI) course — the Marine’s equivalent of Top Gun — to show instructor pilots how to train other pilots in systems and tactics. The only USMC adversary squadron flying the F-5N Tigers calls Yuma home in support of WTI and other operational training missions.

Yuma was also one of the first sites to host and test the new Marine Corp version of the F-35B short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) aircraft, and hosted the first operational unit in 2012.

The MCAS Yuma 2023 airshow, the first since 2019, was an intimate event held on March 11 with a small static display area consisting mainly of USMC assets and other contractor and community outreach displays under shade shelters.

The flying portion of the show consisted of para jumpers launching out of a V-22 Osprey. Joe Letourneau

The flying portion of the show consisted of para jumpers launching out of a V-22 Osprey, and a Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) parade of flight consisting of a CH-53 Sea Stallion, AH-1Z Viper, and UH-1Y Huey, along with a second wave consisting of an MV-22B Osprey, F/A-18C Legacy Hornet and F-35B Lightning II.

The first USAF F-35A demonstration of the season was performed by Maj. Kristin “Beo” Wolfe, now in her third season as a demo pilot and team commander. As well, the USAF Heritage Flight took place with Steve Hinton Jr. and the venerable P-51D Mustang, performing a close-knit formation flight with the F-35A.

The MV-22B Osprey displayed its capabilities as a fast-flying aircraft and converting to vertical flight mode before the audience — but not before racing the jet fire truck, AfterShock, much to the audience’s pleasure.

The USAF Heritage Flight took place with Steve Hinton Jr. and the venerable P-51D Mustang, performing a close-knit formation flight with the F-35A. Joe Letourneau Photo

The USMC F-35B STOVL was a hometown crowd pleaser demonstrating all aspects of the B model’s capabilities, culminating in a vertical landing at show center.

Demonstrating the Marine Corps capabilities, the airshow was the first one hosted in four years. It was a well-organized and efficient show, wrapping up early in the afternoon before the heat of the day and allowing for the best lighting.

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