Airpower Over Hampton Roads 2023

May 6, 2023 - Joint Base Langley-Eustis

Chaz JT

5/27/20233 min read

I recently had the incredible opportunity to attend the USAF Thunderbirds airshow on May 6th, 2023, at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Hampton Roads, VA. As a long-time fan, this was a momentous occasion for me, marking my third time witnessing their awe-inspiring performances, but the first since the late 1990s. The airshow was nothing short of extraordinary. With the perfect blend of clear skies and favorable weather, the stage was set for an unforgettable experience. I took a coworker along for the show, and stayed at a hotel the previous night that was located in nearby Williamsburg, VA.

The static displays at the show created fantastic photo opportunities, featuring the F-22 Raptor, F-15 Eagle, F-16 Viper, T-38 Talon, P-51 Mustang, and B-52 Stratofortress on display for all to see. Additionally, the DC-3 aircraft known as 'Yukon Sourdough,' a mainstay of Mid-Atlantic region airshow lineups, was also in attendance.

The flying portion of the show began with a flight of two P-51 Mustangs, showcasing the glorious sounds of the Merlin engine that contributed to its status as the best dogfighter of World War II. The second act featured the F-18 Rhino Demonstration, highlighting an aircraft from nearby NAS Oceana. With a full demo flight, this performance was truly awe-inspiring. The subsequent parts of the show unfolded in quick succession, including the Heritage Flight, the hometown F-22 Raptor demonstration, the F-35 Lightning II display, an incredible acrobatic performance by Rob Holland and Matt Younkin, and the Warbird Thunder T-6 Texan duo from the Commemorative Air Force.

Prior to the main event, an extraordinary flight performance took place, one I had never seen before. Kyle and Liz Franklin of Franklin's Flying Circus presented a comedy skit that had the crowd in fits of laughter. Even the airshow commentator was part of the act, creating a believable beginning for the first few minutes before revealing the humorous intentions. Kyle Franklin's flying skills are simply amazing, and if you ever have the opportunity to witness him and his wife in action, don't miss it!

With the crowd as enthusiastic as ever, it was time for the main attraction: the USAF Thunderbirds! What more can be said about their flight demonstration that hasn't been said before? It was simply amazing, exhilarating, awe-inspiring, exciting, and thunderous. Numerous words could be used to describe it. The combination of their own announcer, captivating music, and the thunderous roar of their jets created about 45 minutes of pure joy for aviation buffs like myself. Since it had been so long since I last witnessed their flight demonstration at Joint Base Andrews back in the late '90s, I had forgotten about their famous sneak passes, which surprised me not once but twice during the show. After astounding the crowd with a stellar performance, the Thunderbirds concluded the show on a somber note, flying the missing man formation in honor of USAF Col. Zachary Hall, who tragically passed away from a heart attack at the young age of 44.

This show was a truly fantastic experience, and I will undoubtedly return for future shows.