The Miramar Air Show, held annually at the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, is a three-day air show highly regarded as one of the best. It is the largest military air show in the United States – often considered the world’s best military air show – routinely drawing crowds of more than 700,000 people. In September, the annual event takes place at the air station and has been a regular occurrence for nearly seven decades.
If you’ve ever seen the 1986 movie “Top Gun” with Tom Cruise, you’re probably familiar with the legend of Miramar. The air station has been the proving ground for America’s best pilots since the latter half of the 20th century. The air show is the perfect opportunity to see these incredible pilots in action, maneuvering some of the finest aircraft in the world for your enjoyment. The Miramar Air Show is an ideal family-friendly event that is relaxing, thrilling, informational, and patriotic all rolled into one. It’s a tremendous outdoor activity for everyone, with perfect temperatures, bluebird skies, and plenty of fresh air.
The History of Miramar
The Marine Corps Air Station Miramar has gone by a few names over the years. Initially, it was called the Naval Auxiliary Air Station Miramar and later named the Naval Air Station Miramar. Whatever the moniker, it has been the home to the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, the aviation element of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. The air station is best known as the former location of the U.S. Navy Fighter Weapons School and its TOPGUN training program. Miramar subsequently earned the nickname “Fightertown U.S.A.” (The weapons school and program were relocated to western Nevada in 1996. “Top Gun” was filmed in the mid-1980s at Miramar.)
The base is in Miramar, located about 14 miles north of downtown San Diego. Since 1955, the airfield has been called Mitscher Field. It is named after a decorated World War II commander.
The Miramar Air Show has been canceled a few times over the years. In 2013, the air show was canceled due to a government shutdown. The 2020 and 2021 events were canceled because of public health concerns associated with the Covid-19 pandemic.
Miramar Air Show Static Displays
The Miramar Air Show includes several “static” (or non-flying) displays representing aircraft from the U.S. Armed Forces – Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines. The air show features more than 100 different aircraft. There are historic military aircraft decommissioned and no longer in service and cutting-edge contemporary aircraft fresh off the assembly line. There are also civilian aircraft, commercial vendors, flight organizations, and military recruiting stations to enjoy on-site. Most aircraft can be toured, and active-duty service personnel typically answer visitors’ questions.
The three-day event offers daily performances from military and civilian planes, jets, and helicopters. The highlight of the air show is usually a performance by the U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, known as the Blue Angels. Most years follow a regular schedule of daily routines, with civilian acts in the mornings followed by military and civilian shows in the afternoon. There is usually an extra twilight show on Saturday evening that includes performances and a fireworks display.
Highlights at the Miramar Air Show include Air Force transport planes and bombers, like the C-5 Galaxy, C-17 Globemaster, KC-135 Stratotanker, C-130 Hercules, and the B-52 Stratofortress. There are also fighters like the F-16 Falcon, F-15 Eagle, and F-22 Raptor.
“Squadron Row” is an area of booths to meet the public and sell merchandise to support squadron activities. There are also squadron aircraft on display, including fixed-wing vehicles like the F/A-18 Hornet and AV-8B Harriers, and rotor-wing aircraft like the AH-1 Cobra, MV-22 Osprey, and CH-53 Sea Stallion.
The “War Birds” section features aircraft from World War II, the Korean War, and Vietnam, including foreign and domestic vehicles. There are aircraft, support vehicles, artillery systems, and infantry weapons to browse.
Aerial Performers at the Miramar Air Show
The Blue Angels have been the undeniable star of the show since its formation in 1946. The team, composed of five Navy and one Marine Corps demonstration pilot, fly Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornets, painted in Navy blue and gold. The Blue Angels perform aerial displays in at least 60 shows annually at 30 locations throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Though centered mostly on Marine Corps and Navy possessions, the Miramar Air Show regularly includes U.S. Air Force vehicles, including the F-22 Raptor and other fighter aircraft, when available. The Navy’s F/A-18 Super Hornet and USMC AV-8B Harrier frequently fly demonstrations.
The U.S. Army Golden Knights Parachute Team often performs with a jump during the twilight show. For many years, a fan favorite has been the Navy Legacy Flight, where contemporary jets fly in formation with aircraft from bygone eras in celebration of military veterans and naval aviation history.
The show has several civilian performers from the U.S. air show circuit, showcasing many types of prop planes, jet aircraft, and gliders. There is even a selection of radio-controlled airplanes.
A significant element of each year’s show is a MAGTF demo, a simulated assault by Marine Corps units to explain the air, ground, and logistical aspects of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force. The demonstration is performed each day and features an array of fixed-wing, helicopter, and tilt-rotor aircraft in the air simultaneously. The demonstration includes ground and air maneuvers.
Vacation Rentals for the Miramar Air Show
San Diego Coast Rentals has terrific private homes and condos on the north side of downtown. Most are only a few minutes from the airbase and air show. Our private homes offer more space and improved décor than traditional hotel rooms. You’d be surprised how affordable a vacation rental can be, especially when you factor in all the perks that come with it. Enjoy privacy, a top-notch kitchen and master bathroom suite, along with functional outdoor spaces with a barbecue grill and hot tub so you can genuinely enjoy San Diego to its fullest!
Be a Maverick on your next getaway to San Diego, and take your vacation up a notch with a vacation rental through San Diego Coast Rentals. Browse our inventory and see what catches your eye, or give us a call and we can discuss the options based on your dates and interests. Call us at (858) 531-3247.