One of the most popular sights at any air show was always Heritage and Legacy flights, with military aviation past and present joining in the sky in symbolic formation spanning generations from WWII, Korea and Vietnam to the present day.
But over the last several years, one of the biggest questions you’ll hear at air shows across the U.S. is, “will Navy Legacy flights ever return?”
The Air Force has their Heritage program. The Navy used to do so with a Legacy program too, but they stopped several years ago. And they will remain stopped until the air show and aviation community helps, or the Navy decides to pay for it, which will not happen.
So the Navy Tailhook Legacy Flight Foundation (NTLFF) has launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise $20,000 to, “support flying warbird aircraft to and from mandatory formation training with the Navy’s TACDEMO teams,” says Bernie Conaway, President/Director of Operations at the NTLFF. “This training must be accomplished prior to the Navy approving the return of the Tailhook Legacy Flight program in 2018.”
For 15-20 minutes at various show sites each year, the Navy’s single ship F-18 Hornet and Super Hornet Tactical Demonstration teams from Strike Fighter Squadrons VFA-122 and VFA-106 shred the skies for spectators and show off some of the various capabilities of the jet and the men and women who crew them.
But from time to time, in past years at least, they were joined at the end of their demos by old Navy warbirds for something called a “Naval Aviation Tailhook Legacy Flight”, where the past and present of Naval aviation would come together in the sky.
Such a sight has virtually vanished due to budget issues over recent years though, and therefore are not officially back on air show rosters yet. The formations, however, are still flown on case by case basis on rare occasions, the most recent being at the Cleveland National Air Show Sep 2-4, 2017, when TAC DEMO took a hint from the Air Force Heritage Flights and wanted to fly some Legacy passes with the CAF Dixie Wing Corsair also performing at the show, and so they secured the necessary approvals to do it.
Although the Navy funds the training and execution of the active duty demos, due to the fiscal situation dating back to sequestration in 2013 they are currently unable to provide funding for the civilian side of the program.
Matter of fact, the TAC DEMO pilots in Cleveland weren’t even aware there used to be an official Legacy program, which speaks volumes to the length of the time Legacy flights have now been grounded.
For the program to return, warbird crews must train with the active duty TAC DEMO flight crews on each TAC DEMO team prior to the start of the air show season, but to accomplish this the warbird aircraft and their crews need to transit to either NAS Lemoore in California (VFA-122 Demo Team), or NAS Oceana in Virginia (VFA-106 Demo Team).
The costs to transit these warbirds and their Legacy trained crews to select TAC DEMO show sites to fly the Legacy Demos, is expected to cost at minimum $300,000 annually.
For this reason, the NTLFF was established in 2015 to raise the funding necessary to accomplish Tailhook Legacy training, and then execute Legacy flights at all the air shows on the TAC DEMO team’s schedule.
“Your support will provide the funding to fly these aircraft to training, and once training is complete, your support will provide for moving these warbirds to each show. Unlike the Air Force Heritage Flight Foundation, we’re not funded by a billionaire, we are Navy verterans who are trying to bring the program back,” added Conaway.
“Without support, the program will remain grounded and these majestic formation flights will not grace the skies,” he adds.
For more information on the grassroots civilian non-profit NTLFF organization, and to donate, please visit https://www.ntlff.org.
Don’t forget to LIKE them on Facebook too, https://www.facebook.com/NTLFF/.
With the support of the aviation community these powerfully symbolic Legacy flights can soon return.