BZ's SF Fleetweek '10 - Super Hornet

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The VFA-122 Super Hornet Demonstration Team made an appearance at the 2010 San Francisco Fleet Week air show, and flew a performance that was as close to the edge of the envelope as possible - and then some! They definitely left a lasting impression and lots of wonderful memories!
The Tactical Demonstration team flies a 2 seater F/A-18F Super Hornet - otherwise referred to as the Rhino, and they were up early on in the air show; right after the Coast Guard helicopter swimmer rescue.
- Bernard Zee

The opening pass by the Super Hornet was SPECTACULAR!
A thick layer of fog can be seen still hanging about the lower portions of the Golden Gate Bridge by the time of the Rhino Demo for the Sunday show.

Without warning, he screams pretty close to the waterfront, going eastward from the Golden Gate Bridge side at close to supersonic velocities!

With relatively high humidity that day, the Super Hornet generated lots of pretty vapor cones to the delight of the crowd.

He then makes a sharp turn North, pulling vapor all the way!

Honestly it took me completely by surprise on the Friday practice - and I was left scrambling to try and get a shot of it. Unfortunately, my camera was set for close focus, and wouldn't lock on before he was long past me! Good thing I got a rematch Sunday!

As he makes his way around the bay, the Super Hornet passes in front of the Golden Gate Bridge.

The F-18E/F Super Hornet is a derivative of the Hornet with modifications of a bigger wing, more powerful engines, and 2 seats instead of 1. The Rhino can carry much more weapons and fuel, and have a greater range when compared to the regular Hornet.

It doesn't really share many parts with the F/A-18 Hornet, and is really a new airplane model type. However, the F-18 designation was kept - in part to sell the project as low risk and low cost.

A distinction needs to be made on carriers between a legacy and Super Hornet because the much heavier Super Hornet needs to have different catalpult and arresting wire settings compared to the lighter Hornet (or bad things will happen!). The Super Hornet is thus referred as a Rhino, which name was probably derived from the longer nose.

This is his second high speed pass, and I have never seen an aircraft continuously generating so much vapor at Fleetweek!

The high speed dashes are in the transonic region, and never supersonic - well, almost always!

It's 'possible' that on this westward pass on sunday, that he may have briefly gone supersonic near the end of the pass. From my vantage point, I didn't hear anything unusual - but others further west reported experiencing a sonic boom.

Was it really a sonic boom, or some other artifact of the high speed pass which approximated it? I don't have a clear answer. At any rate, there was no harm done, and everyone loved it!

The Superbug of course, did other spectacular moves other than high speed dashes - but mostly it was too far away from me to be good pictuers. Here he is looping up and over, generating a vapor trail from his twin tails.

On the bay (in a boat), it's possible to be much closer to the action! The Rhino's distinctive squarish engine intakes can be seen in this head on view.

Zooming by close overhead with afterburners lit, it's prudent to have some hearing protection. Of course, I'm never one to be accused of being prudent!

Pulling up!

Turning before the GGB to set up for his 3rd high speed pass.

Hard to see, but I believe he has his afterburners lit.

Oh yeah, can't get enough of that vapor!

Another warm afterburner shot. :-)

This is actually the first Super Hornet demonstration I've attended. For some reason I was never able to catch it till now. Really liked it, and thought the pilot did an fantastic job!

Inspired by some pictures of multiple exposures I saw on Facebook, I just had to try it out. As you can see, I was having some issues tracking him as he overflew the boat I was on, but thought it'll make a nice composite image.

BZ SF Fleetweek 2010 Gallery Index