Thursday, August 4, 2011

Thunder Over Michigan 2011

Thunder is one of those airshows I've wanted to attend for years and yet my schedule always seemed to get in the way. This summer, the stars finally aligned. We were already up in Michigan for a surprise party for Gina's mom on Saturday, so I made plans to head down to Ypsi on Sunday to see the airshow with my best friend Rob.

Video of the Blue Angels' performance at the airshow

We got in as soon as the gates opened and spent a while walking through all the static displays. The usual assortment of aircraft were there along with an increased Navy presence, as is the case at most shows this year due to 2011 being the Centennial of Naval Aviation. Rob and I wandered around taking photos, talking with some crews of the aircraft on display, and enjoying that "airshow atmosphere" that both of us love.

1911 Ely-Curtiss Pusher replica

Grumman C-2A Greyhound
Grumman C-1 Trader

Boeing E-6 Mercury

Sikorsky MH-53E Sea Dragon

Goodyear FG-1D Corsair

The Corsair's wings were still wet with morning dew

Lockheed P-3C Orion

Sonobuoy launch tubes on the belly of the P-3C

North American SNJ-5C Texan

The pilot was busy preflighting his Texan prior to the airshow

Mitsubishi A6M3 Zero

Douglas A-4B Skyhawk

Fat Albert and the Blue Angels' F/A-18s

Precisely parked on the ramp, just as you'd expect from the Blues

Douglas SBD-5 Dauntless - note the dive flaps

The paint job on this Dauntless is absolutely beautiful!

Dive flaps on the Curtiss SB2C Helldiver

One neat thing that they do at Thunder that isn't so common at other airshows are full-on battle reenactments. First is a WWII European Theater battle, complete with ground troops and P-51s. Later on in the afternoon is a WWII Pacific Theater reenactment, which had Corsairs, Zeros, and ground troops. While we couldn't see much of the ground action from where we were standing the flying was awesome - one of the Zero pilots was definitely giving his Mitsubishi all it could handle.

Due to the aforementioned centennial, they had a very cool sequence in the middle of the show called the Legacy Parade. It lasted quite a while as a ton of Navy aircraft made passes along the crowd line - Corsairs, Texas, a Bearcat, Dauntless, Helldiver, Avenger, Catalina, and more. We were also treated to a mock dogfight between an A-4 and MiG-17.

Man O War - one of the Commemorative Air Force's P-51s

Gentleman Jim - a P-51 owned by Jack Roush

Another P-51 (blurred in the background) dives in for a simulated bomb run

Cutting it low and fast in front of the crowd

Low pass during the WWII European Theater battle reenactment

There's no better sound than a screaming Merlin engine

After the Mustangs flew, this Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey departed

Transitioning from vertical to horizontal flight

This is the only airworthy Helldiver in the world!

Grumman FM-2 Wildcat

Corsairs fly past the crowd in close formation

Lockheed PV-2 Harpoon

Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina

Grumman F8F-2 Bearcat in the Blue Angels paint scheme

Grumman TBM-3E Avenger

Douglas SBD-5 Dauntless

Grumman C-1 Trader

The modern side of the show had three acts - a couple passes from a B-1, a full F-16 demo from Viper East, and the US Navy Blue Angels. I'm always a fan of the noisy B-1 so it was nice to see and the Viper pilot did a great job tearing up the humid sky. The Blues never disappoint and today was no exception - they put on a great show and turned plenty of jet fuel into beautiful noise.

Viper East put on a great F-16 demo

Zooming past during the high speed pass

Flying along the crowd line at close to 600 mph

Knife edge with some great vapor on the F-16's delta wing

The humid air really helped the show out in terms of vapor

I'm definitely glad to have finally made it to Thunder Over Michigan. There was a little too much downtime during the show, but otherwise I really enjoyed the variety of aircraft and the flying. Rob and I always take in at least one airshow together every year so I'm glad we were able to keep that streak alive.


  1. Once again, great photos! I was at Thunder a few years ago and loved it. I love that you got the vapor on the F-16!

  2. Thanks - I managed a few good ones before my battery ran out!

    Of course, what I really need for better photos is a much nicer lens... but you know what that equals. $$$!