North American jet teams converge on JFTB

Blue Angels, Thunderbirds and Snowbirds perform together for second time in history

Fighter jet in front of air traffic control tower.

Story and photos by Staff Sgt. Crystal Housman
California National Guard Public Affairs

Oct. 6, 2021

LOS ALAMITOS, Calif. – Nearly three dozen of the U.S. and Canadian military's showpiece aircraft filled the ramp at Los Alamitos Army Airfield, Sept. 30-Oct. 3, on Joint Forces Training Base, Los Alamitos, while staging to perform in the Pacific Airshow along the shore of nearby Huntington Beach.

"Today, the Pacific Airshow roars back into town welcoming not one, not two, but all three North American jet teams," said Kevin Elliott, the airshow's director, during a press conference on the airfield, Sept. 30.

Across the ramp, sun glistened from the canopies of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels' F/A-18E and the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds' F-16 fighter jets, and the Canadian Forces Snowbirds' CT-114 jet trainers.

"If you add them up, it’s six Blues, six Thunderbirds, and nine Snowbirds. You have 21 jets for 2021," Elliott said. "We’re calling this year the 21 jet salute."

It is only the second time that all three teams have performed in the same airshow, Elliott said.

The lineup included four additional U.S. military aerial demonstration teams and two military parachute teams.

The U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II, U.S. Navy F-35C, and U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey, and U.S. Navy EA-18 Growler Legacy Flight demonstration teams also staged on the base for their performances.

“That flight line represents over two billion dollars in American ingenuity, technology, intelligence and skill," Elliott said looking out at the airfield ramp and its two runways, which are each more than a mile long.

Elliott lauded the installation and commended U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Michael Leeney, Cal Guard's senior garrison commander, for the support of base staff during the planning and preparation for this year's show.

"This base is a true treasure of our community," Elliott said. "I know first hand."

Leeney addressed the crowd on behalf of the adjutant general.

"Two years ago we supported the show from JFTB with the military performers, as we’re doing this year, and then we all had a bit of a detour due to COVID last year," he said referring to the cancelled 2020 airshow.

"We’re very happy to once again provide the space needed for the execution of the show here at the base," Leeney said. "We’re extremely proud to support this endeavor and look forward to continuing successful support of this event in the foreseeable future."

After his remarks, Leeney led a short ceremony to administer the oath of enlistment to 21 new service members joining the U.S. Army, California Army National Guard, and California Air National Guard.

"We felt this would be an appropriate venue to recognize these new service members, and thank the show staff for supporting this," Leeney told the crowd. "We want to thank these new service members for choosing to commit to the country and their fellow citizens, especially during these challenging times."

Following the ceremony, members of the U.S. Army Golden Knights and U.S. Navy Leapfrogs demonstration teams parachuted onto the airfield to officially kick off the three-day airshow as demonstration teams began their practice flights from the base to the coast and back.

Performers continued their rehearsal flights on Friday, and on Saturday, an estimated 1.5 million people watched the airshow, event organizaers said in a statement citing confirmation from Huntington Beach public safety officials.

The event broke "every event attendance record in city's history," the statement said.

The airshow was cut short early Sunday morning as a 126,000 gallon oil spill three miles off the coast reached the Huntington Beach shore forcing city officials to close a large swath of its beaches and shorelines and cancel the show's final day.

"I think everyone understands that this cancellation was completely beyond our control," Elliott said. "We were all set for another record-breaking day when the call came in.”

Despite the public show and flight demonstrations being cancelled, the Thunderbirds continued their community engagement efforts and hosted a local scouting troop for a meet and greet Sunday afternoon on the base.

Originally founded in 1942 as Los Alamitos Naval Air Station, the airfield and base initially served to train Navy and Marine Corps pilots during World War II. It was transferred to the Army in the early 1970s and was later leased to the California Army National Guard, who manages it today.

Man speaks at podium.
People with their right hands up.
Two jets on flight line.
Two people lock legs while parachuting with two chutes.
Fighter jet takes off.
Jet formation.
Nine jet trainers taxi.
Teen talks to pilot.
Three Thunderbirds jets in formation.
People watch jets fly over a pier.
Jet with three vapor cones.