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Friday, June 2, 2023

A Great Idea

Somebody had a great idea.

Pocono Raceway – home to legendary motorsports events for more than five decades – boasts an immaculate grandstand and support facilities that run the length of the track’s 3740-foot front straightaway. The triangular speedway has no grandstand structures in the first and third turns – so a visionary realized that the front straightaway essentially mimics a flightline. And wouldn’t this be a fantastic venue for an airshow?

It is.

First held in 2019, The Great Pocono Raceway Airshow drew tens of thousands of people to the track this Memorial Day weekend. They were greeted by near-perfect weather and an array of aviators headlined by the USAF F-22 Raptor Demonstration Team and the U.S. Navy Blue Angels.

The packed schedule also included one of the most fascinating aircraft flying, a de Havilland Vampire flown by Jerry Conley. With development test flights taking place 80 years ago - in 1943 – the Vampire became the first Royal Air Force plane powered by a single jet engine.

Talented aerial acrobats were on hand as well. The skills and airplanes of Rick Volker and Rob Holland resulted in dizzying displays boasting seemingly impossible performances.

And the U.S. Coast Guard ably demonstrated the rescue capabilities of its agile Eurocopter MH-65 Dolphin.

The show proceeded as planned almost like clockwork, a characteristic common to airshows produced by David Schultz Airshows. The organization is on the verge of celebrating three decades in this unique business and their efforts make events like The Great Pocono Raceway Airshow a success for performers and attendees alike.


Click on photos for larger images. All photos: Frank Moriarty/Aerospace Perceptions

Pocono’s show kicked off with a heritage flight pairing a historic P-51 Mustang flown by Jim Beasley Jr. with the fully modern F-22 Raptor flown by Captain Samuel Larson.

The F-22 Raptor Demo Team presents stunning examples of this aircraft’s capabilities. The dual Pratt & Whitney jet engines are capable of making immense power, and the incredibly nimble flight control surfaces allow this jet to maneuver through the skies in ways that seem impossible.  


Rick Volker’s Sukhoi SU-26M is a remarkable plane that has a titanium and composite airframe that can withstand the forces of the pilot’s exciting show programs.

The U.S. Coast Guard’s Eurocopter MH-65 Dolphin is a helicopter that first went into service in 1985, now providing critical search and rescue capabilities.


Jerry Conley’s Vampire show makes it clear that even though this de Havilland has been in existence for eight decades, its speed is nearly shocking – especially during tree-top level (and below!) show passes.

Rob Holland began flying as a teenager, soon moving into the realm of aerobatics. His shows at the controls of his carbon-fiber MXS-RH are innovative and designed to, as Holland has said, “push the limits of what can be done.”

The U.S. Navy Blue Angels have become legendary. The team now flies Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornets, providing the pilots with the precision needed to amaze audiences with their intricate, fast-paced shows.