We Interviewed An F-35A Pilot As JSF Visited Selfridge ANGB To Celebrate 100-Year Anniversary and Fly with Special Colored A-10

F-35A Mini-Heritage Flight and First Lightning II at Selfridge ANGB for 100th Anniversary.

The USAF F-35A Lightning II made history again this past weekend when it visited Selfridge Air National Guard Base for the first time during the 100th Anniversary Airshow in Mt. Clemens, Michigan near Detroit in the United States.

As a potential future base for the F-35A, Selfridge and the F-35As from Hill AFB put together an impressive airshow with several pleasant surprises.

The highlight was the special D-Day paint scheme A-10 from Selfridge joining a visiting Hill AFB F-35A for a Heritage Flight formation demo on Sunday.

Humid conditions and clear skies made for spectacular vapor trails under hard turns at Selfridge. (All photos: Author/TheAviationist.com)

The Aviationist.com spoke with F-35A Lightning II pilot, U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Dave DeAngelis who flew to Selfridge ANGB in one of two F-35As for the 100th anniversary show. Lt. Col. DeAngelis is a member of the 466th Fighter Squadron at Hill AFB, the nation’s first operational Air Force Reserve F-35A unit.

The 466th Fighter Squadron has been exceptionally busy since declaring Initial Operational Capability on the F-35A back in August 2016. The unit has already exceeded and met several milestones for the F-35A program. The Aviationist.com asked Lt. Col. DeAngelis how the Hill AFB, Utah F-35As have performed so well.

Lt. Col. Dave DeAngelis of the 466th Fighter Squadron from Hill AFB, Utah at Selfridge ANGB for the 100th Anniversary airshow.

“We’ve got great maintenance staff. I’d have to give those guys much of the credit. We made IOC (Initial Operating Capability) back in August 2016. The program has done much better than I anticipated. It has just been doing phenomenal, the month of August, this month, we are at 2% attrition rate. That is unheard of. Some unit attrition rates are at about 20%. If your name is on the flying schedule, you’re flying a jet. The jet is extremely maintainable.”

As testimony to Lt. Col. DeAngelis’ remarks about the F-35A’s maintainability we watched maintainers run checks and perform routine maintenance on both aircraft using fast, easy to use electronic diagnostic equipment plugged into the jet.ù

Maintenance crews ready a 466th Fighter Squadron F-35A for a flight at Selfridge on Sunday.

Lt. Col. DeAngelis, a former F-16 pilot, went on to tell us he was impressed with the F-35A’s operational combat capability during exercises that closely simulate the rigors of real-world combat.

“We just finished a Combat Archer and Combat Hammer and the results have been phenomenal. We were shooting live missiles, dropping live bombs out at the Utah test range last week. It has really taken off in the last year. These jets have just been performing great.”

The 466th Fighter Squadron and their F-35A’s made the news earlier this year when they deployed jets to the ETO (European Theater of Operations) in another operational milestone for the USAF’s contribution to the Joint Strike Fighter program.

“As part of our European response initiative we took eight aircraft to England, based out of Lakenheath for a couple of weeks and also did some trips through Europe. We brought some F-35s to Estonia, brought some F-35s to Bulgaria to reassure our European allies.”

Selfridge airshow spectators got a first-ever chance to see the F-35A maintainers at work during the demonstration weekend.

When we asked Lt. Col. DeAngelis about his transition training from F-16 to F-35A and his first flights he spoke with enthusiasm about the new jet.

“It flies pretty similar to an F-16. Maybe after 100 hours you’re pretty comfortable deploying it in combat. It’s a great aircraft overall.”

When pressed about why the Air Force F-35A’s have not flown aerobatic displays in the U.S. as seen this summer in Paris, France when an F-35A performed a demo with a company pilot, Lt. Col. DeAngelis told us, “Right now we are focused on combat capability. We’re an operational combat squadron. We’ll do Heritage Flights, but we’re focused on finding and destroying an enemy. The aerobatics, right now, Lockheed has that covered. But I think eventually as the program matures we’ll probably train up a demonstration pilot.”

One of each of the two F-35As flown into Selfridge were displayed under an aircraft shade for static viewing and on the hot ramp before and after demo flights providing great photo opportunities with both jets.

Selfridge ANGB Public Relations MSgt. David Kujawa provided us with access to flight crews for interviews. With strong public support for the F-35A being based at Selfridge and the economic benefits it will provide to the region if selected there was considerable excitement surrounding the first-ever arrival and flight of the F-35A at Selfridge.

The event brought another chapter to the long and impressive history of the 100-year old Selfridge ANGB.

Airshow crowds got a close look at a static F-35A in addition to seeing the flight profiles on both days at Selfridge.


About Tom Demerly 516 Articles
Tom Demerly is a feature writer, journalist, photographer and editorialist who has written articles that are published around the world on TheAviationist.com, TACAIRNET.com, Outside magazine, Business Insider, We Are The Mighty, The Dearborn Press & Guide, National Interest, Russia’s government media outlet Sputnik, and many other publications. Demerly studied journalism at Henry Ford College in Dearborn, Michigan. Tom Demerly served in an intelligence gathering unit as a member of the U.S. Army and Michigan National Guard. His military experience includes being Honor Graduate from the U.S. Army Infantry School at Ft. Benning, Georgia (Cycle C-6-1) and as a Scout Observer in a reconnaissance unit, Company “F”, 425th INF (RANGER/AIRBORNE), Long Range Surveillance Unit (LRSU). Demerly is an experienced parachutist, holds advanced SCUBA certifications, has climbed the highest mountains on three continents and visited all seven continents and has flown several types of light aircraft.


  1. “The jet is extremely maintainable.”

    And another lie the F-35 haters put out about the plane, that it sat on tarmacs unable to fly due to maintenance issues – that lie bites the dust! The lie about it not being able to dogfight has already been discredited. Next to die? Cost. Just wait until the F-35A drops below $80M. But trust me – the anti-JSF crowd of liars will dream up something else. Half are paid by Russia and China, the other half are just plain stupid. Jealous too. I love it! : )

  2. “We just finished a Combat Archer and Combat Hammer and the results have been phenomenal. We were shooting live missiles, dropping live bombs out at the Utah test range last week. It has really taken off in the last year. These jets have just been performing great.”

    Oh surely this is propaganda! So say the dummies who have non-stop criticized the F-35. That’s OK. I await the plane’s introduction to combat. I hope its first victim is an Su-57 or Su-35, J-20. But any Russian or Chinese fighter will do. Like the F-15, F-35 will suffer zero combat losses. Yes, it’s that more advanced. Watch, you’ll see.

    • There never was a direct confrontation between the US and Russia. And that for good reason. Nobody wanted to start WW3. All the US forces have ever shot down were outdated Soviet planes used by countries that also could not put up big numbers. So brag about ratios as you like. It’s only proof hat US is the bully of the world. Not more. When was the last time the US or NATO really “won” a war since 1945 that has not resulted in chaos and instability afterwards? Destroying a country is easy. Building something from the rubble that lasts and makes everything better for the people who live there is not. And that is certainly not the strength or goal of the United States of America.

      • “All the US forces have ever shot down were outdated Soviet planes…”?

        Yugoslavia and Iraq flew WHAT?

        • The export versions of Soviet and Russian planes are never as capable as the ones the Soviet Union and Russia used/uses. But in the hands of German Luftwaffe pilots and properly maintained, the MiG-29 (inherited from East German JG-3) still was more than a match for western models in WVR combat (during training of course). Considering that the borders of European countries are close together and the distance is covered very fast, I think WVR combat is more likely than many would assume. And if the opponents clash in equal numbers, the outcome is far from certain.


          Quote: United States Air Force F-15s and F-16s flying mainly from Italian air force bases attacked the defending Yugoslav fighters; mainly MiG-29s, which were in poor condition, due to lack of spare parts and maintenance.”

          And besides that, the war against Yugoslavia was based on another lie. Kosovo is a failed state now. Ruled by the mafia. But NATO got one of the biggest bases there. What a coincidence!

          On a side note: http://awdnews.com/top-news/ex-cia-agent-we-got-millions-to-destroy-yugoslavia

          Geopolitical games. That’s what it is all about. The military is always just a tool and the goal is never to make anything better for the local population. That’s just what the press is telling us (has to).

          • $ spent on training is always a big part of the picture. That is the reason why USAF is the most powerful air force.

      • Somehow, when F-15’s were fighting against MiG-29’s in 80’s doesn’t count? Israel, Lebanon, Syria, remember? Then Desert Storm?

        PS: South Korea seems pretty stable to me!
        PPS: Interestingly, you seem to forget Russia’s hand on all those conflicts too…

    • its a human condition. Once they are set on something, they have too much pride to say that they were wrong

  3. This lemon flying brick is a black hole for tax payers money and is so typical of the military industrial complex
    The fact that it has little in the way of armaments, lacks any stealth capability, needs to be protected by other air superiority fighters, grossly overpriced, easily knocked out with EWS weapons and lacks any real BVR weapons makes this a flying brick coffin. God help the pilots who have to fly these deathtraps.

  4. Other aircraft that flew included a F-86, F-100, MiG-17, OV-1, T-33, A-10s, HH-65, KC-135, F-18, Great War Warbirds, Second World War Wards, and the Thunderbirds. Highlights on the ground were the two F-35s, two F-22s, F-15s, F-16Cs, and a C-17.

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