F-35 Demo Team Debuts with New Dynamic Aerobatic Routine at Davis-Monthan AFB

The new F-35A demo showcases the full performance envelope of the F-35A including extensive post-stall aerobatics and inverted flight. (All images: Author/The Aviationist).

First Look At F-35 Aerobatic Routine Challenges Critics, Showcases Air Force at Its Best.

The new U.S. Air Force Air Combat Command F-35A Demo Team debuted their first-ever solo demonstration routine at Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, Arizona last week from February 26-March 2, 2019 during the annual Heritage Flight Conference. Air Force pilot Capt. Andrew “Dojo” Olson, commander of the F-35A Demo Team, flew the historic first-ever solo demonstrations during the five-day event.

In addition to military and civilian certification of the ACC’s Heritage Flight demonstration pilots, the event also certifies the Air Combat Command’s solo demonstration teams including the F-16, F-22, A-10 and new F-35A Demo Teams. This was the first limited opportunity to see the F-35A’s new solo aerobatic routine during the non-public certification event.

The first ever F-35A Demo Team demonstration as seen during the Heritage Flight Certification at Davis- Monthan AFB in Tucson, Arizona.

After years of often ill-informed criticism of the F-35 program, the Air Force’s F-35A Demo Team shoulders a significant burden as the public-facing focal point of the program. Based on reaction from official observers inside Davis-Monthan and informed aviation observers outside the base watching the certification routine during the week, the F-35A Demo Team is set to recalibrate public opinion of the F-35 program worldwide and showcase the success of the F-35 program.

The F-35A demo routine included an open weapons bay pass similar to the F-22 demo.

Although the official certification event was closed to the public, aviation fans from around the world traveled to Tucson and ringed the dusty roads and overpasses outside Davis-Monthan AFB to witness aviation history as the F-35A Demo Team performed their routine for the first time in an airshow rehearsal setting.

“This is aviation history. It’s one of the biggest things we’ll see in our generation,” one photographer who traveled from Minnesota said from an observation point outside Davis-Monthan near the famous “Bone Yard” aviation and regeneration storage facility. Another observer watching the demo routine from outside Davis-Monthan told TheAviationist.com, “I was living here as a kid when they brought the old B-36s in. This is the next big thing.” Tucson, Arizona is a major hub of military and civilian aviation with an international F-16 training facility at Tucson International Airport, Davis-Monthan AFB and the Aviation Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) located here. Spectators from as far away as Japan were on hand to see the F-35A’s first demonstration routines at Davis-Monthan.

During an exclusive interview inside Davis-Monthan AFB during the demonstration debut and certification event, USAF Capt. Andrew “Dojo” Olson told TheAviationist.com:

“This year we’re going to fully unleash the full maneuvering envelope of the F-35. This airplane just takes the flight controls, and puts it on a whole different level. We’ll be able to do some similar maneuvers that [F-22] Raptor does, and without thrust vectoring, just with the advanced flight controls that put the aircraft into a post-stall flight regime and keep it fully controllable.”

Air Combat Command F-35A Demo Team pilot Capt. Andrew “Dojo” Olson hands down his helmet bag to ground crew as he prepares to taxi for a flight demo at Davis-Monthan AFB.

Capt. Olson went on to tell TheAviationist.com, “The stuff you see at the airshow is really awesome, but it doesn’t even touch the tip of the iceberg of what this airplane is. When you get out there and actually employ this airplane, you’re talking stealth, you’re talking sensor fusion, and then ‘information fusion’ is kind of another word we’ve been using recently. It’s fusing together information not only from itself, from sensor fusion, but also from all other different sources, coming in, and presenting it to the pilot to be able to make decisions not only for your own airplane, not only for your own wingman, but for the entire battle space, and its sharing that information for the whole battle space. So, the chief recently compared it to the quarterback on the field and I think that is a great analogy for what this airplane brings to the battle space. When we go out there we’ve got tons of gas, we can hang out for a long time and we can paint the battlespace for everybody and share that situational awareness with our fourth gen brothers and sisters and be a more effective fighting force.”

The new Air Combat Command F-35A Demo Team will perform at 17 airshows around the U.S. during 2019. The full schedule for the Demo Team’s appearances is here at the official website for the ACC F-35A Demo Team.

Thanks to USAF 2nd Lt. Lauren W. Gao, Chief of Media Relations, 355th Wing Public Affairs at Davis-Monthan AFB and USAF Capt. Andrew “Dojo” Olson, F-35A Lightning II Demonstration Team Commander and Pilot, 56th Fighter Wing, Luke Air Force Base, Arizona for their assistance and cooperation in this report. Additional thanks to Mr. Ryan Sundheimer of AirShowStuff.com.

About Tom Demerly
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.