“Gator” narrates the flight step-by-step for the viewers to enjoy all the work and dedication behind the demo flights performed across the United States.
The U.S. Air Force A-10C Thunderbolt II demonstration team is the unit in charge of highlighting the A-10C’s capabilities during airshows across the United States and to recruit, retain and inspire the next generation of Airmen. For the 2022 airshow season, the team, assigned to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, is flying a special color A-10C which was unveiled last year for the 2021 season.
The Team said that the paint scheme was inspired by the F-105 Thunderchiefs that the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing (former designation of the current 355th Fighter Wing based at Davis-Monthan) flew during the Vietnam War. To honor the Prisoners of War, Missing in Action and Veterans, the starboard side of the A-10’s nose features the names of all the unit’s members who lost their lives or were captured during the conflict, accompanied by the National League of Families POW/MIA flag.
The upper surfaces of the A-10C have thus been painted with medium green, dark green and dark tan patches, while the lower surfaces have been painted with camouflage gray, in line with the same colors used by the US Air Force aircraft during the Vietnam conflict. On the fuselage the aircraft also shows the insignias of the 354th and 357th Tactical Fighter Squadrons, which have been redesignated 354th and 357th Fighter Squadrons in 1991.
Our friend Erik Johnston worked with the A-10C Demo Team during the Rose City Airfest at Tyler Pounds Regional Airport, Texas, bringing us an interesting video showing the entire demo routine narrated by the pilot, Maj. Haden “Gator” Fullam, from the preflight briefing to the shutdown at the end of the show. The video was shot over two days, showing both the standard gray and the camo A-10C at work.
After the preflight briefing with the entire team, the show begins, with “Gator” boarding the “Warthog”, preparing the cockpit for the flight. The startup sequence alternates both internal and external views, showing the pilot starting the jet as the ground crew perform the checks with precisely orchestrated movements. An interesting point during the startup is the rollover check, where Maj. Fullam explains that the A-10C does not have parking brakes so, whenever the chocks are removed, he needs to hold the brakes as the aircraft with the throttle at idle has enough power to taxi pretty fast.
After performing a low departure, with the A-10 leveled off at 20 ft above the runway, “Gator” performs a quick site survey to confirm all the references on the ground, before climbing all the way to the top of the reserved airspace to build some energy. The demo is flown almost entirely on max power, with few exceptions, so it is important that the aircraft climbs to get a lot of airspeed (thanks to the exchange between potential energy linked to the altitude and kinetic energy linked to the speed) as the demo has to be flown with whatever energy the A-10 can build up before it enters the show area.
After a quick G-warmup, Maj. Fullam begins a 45° nose low dive to the show center to get as close as possible to the A-10’s max speed, which is 450 kts or Mach 0.75. The show in fact takes the jet to its limits, both for the speed and G-force (for the latter the A-10 is rated at 7.33 G), as the pilot demonstrate the aircraft’s agility. Part of the demo is also dedicated to the tactical capabilities, simulating gun runs on the runway, often accompanied by pyrotechnics.
As we already mentioned, the video continues all the way to the shutdown procedure, showing as the maintenance crew meticulously check the aircraft for any faults before shutting down the engines. These checks are fundamental to guarantee the safety of the flight, making sure that the aircraft is in top shape before the next demo.