Category Archives: Airshows

Report: 2017 Aviation Nation Air and Space Expo Celebrates USAF 70th Anniversary at Nellis AFB

Expo Showcases USAF Heritage, Capabilities and Breaking Barriers in Military Aviation.

It is the premiere U.S. Air Force air show: the Aviation Nation Air and Space Expo at Nellis AFB outside Las Vegas, Nevada. This year’s Aviation Nation Air & Space Expo celebrates the 70th Anniversary of the U.S. Air Force with displays and demonstrations rarely seen at any other air show. The theme of the show is “Breaking Barriers” and showcases advances that have crossed gender and race in the U.S. Air Force.

Nellis Air Force Base is adjacent to the sprawling Nellis Range farther north. The range covers a total of 4,500 square miles. It is home of the Nevada Test and Training Range, Nevada National Security Site, Tonopah Test Range, Groom Range, Tikaboo Valley and the fabled “Area 51”. To the southwest is “Star Wars Canyon”, one of the premiere low-flying training areas in the world. It is one of the few places where lucky aviation photographers can photograph real world, low-level flight training- if they’re lucky.

Part of what differentiates Aviation Nation from other air expos and air shows around the world are the unique Air Force units that live at Nellis, and those units’ capability to demonstrate the air force mission better than anyone. While Aviation Nation only covers two days of the year, the capabilities and missions demonstrated during the expo are lived every day by the officers and airmen of Nellis.

One of the most unique and dynamic demonstrations at Aviation Nation is the USAF Warfighter Demo, a combined air and ground demo that showcases the unique Aggressor units and their capability to simulate opposing forces and tactics. The demo also highlights Air Force air superiority capabilities, close air support and Combat Search and Rescue missions and capabilities.

For the first time at an airshow the Lockheed F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter demonstrated its role in both close air support and also air superiority in a single mission. The F-35A flew in the Warfighter Demo alongside the A-10C Thunderbolt II. The demo reinforced the role of F-35A as a complementary asset to the A-10C, and an aircraft that can use its advanced capability to fill the role of the A-10C in addition to performing the air dominance mission.

The demo began with a simulated attack on Nellis Air Force Base performed by F-16s of the 64th Aggressor Squadron. F-15 Eagles on ready alert responded by taking off to contest the aggressors. A pair of F-35A Lighting IIs arrived and the Aggressors were quickly routed by the F-35s and F-15s.

A pair of F-15 Eagles leap off the runway at Nellis AFB during the Air Combat Demo. (All photos: Tom Demerly/TheAviationist)

Following the air combat phase of the demonstration a simulated rescue of a downed airman featured HH-60G rescue helicopters and A-10C Thunderbolt II aircraft providing close air support. The new component of the close air support demonstration was seeing the F-35As transition from their air superiority role in the first demo to the air support operation in the second phase of the demo, providing simulated close air support along with the A-10Cs during the rescue demo. The message in the demo was clear, the F-35A can perform the close air support mission. While this was only a demonstration, it did provide at least the visual insight that the F-35A can do close air support (CAS). The demo showed the low altitude, close support capability of the F-35A alongside the A-10C for the first time at Aviation Nation.

A pair of F-35As performed close air support (CAS) alongside A-10s in the Air Combat Demo.

Highlights of the veteran, military and media day at Aviation Nation on Friday, November 10, 2017 included a surprise visit by USAF Air Combat Command Commander, General James M. “Mike” Holmes. General Holmes inspected a specially painted F-15 Eagle honoring the city of Las Vegas in the wake of the tragic mass shooting on October 1, 2017.

General James M. “Mike” Holmes, Commander, Air Combat Command (right) inspects the special livery F-15 Eagle.

General James M. “Mike” Holmes with members of the team responsible for the special F-15 and surprise F-16.

There was the surprise unveiling of an F-16 Fighting Falcon (shown in the top image) also painted in a new, commemorative livery honoring Las Vegas and the memory of victims lost and survivors recovering from the October 1st mass shooting.

The Aviation Nation Air and Space Expo takes place this weekend, Saturday, November 11 and Sunday, November 12, 2017 at Nellis AFB outside Las Vegas, Nevada. Admission is free to the public.

Here Are The Highlights Of Malta International Airshow 2017

Once again, the traditional airshow brought several interesting visitors to Malta.

On Sept. 23 and 24, Malta hosted the yearly airshow over Smart City that gathered many interesting aircraft, including some exotic attendeeds, rarely seen at airshows around Europe.

Among them, one of the three Royal Canadian Air Force CF-188 Hornets of the 433 Squadron deployed to Solenzara airbase, Corse, to take part in Serpentex 2017 exercise alongside the RAF Tornado GR4s of the IX(B) Sqn deployed to Decimomannu, Sardinia (two of those took part in the static display at Malta Luqa airport).

Other interesting visitors were the “Turkish Stars” and accompanying A400M, the RAF Hawk T2, the “Saudi Hawks”, the German Navy P-3 and the Alpha Jet Solo Display.

In this post you can find some of the most interesting aircraft that took part in the airshow, photographed by aviation photographer Estelle Calleja.

A Turkish Air Force A400 supported the deployment to Malta of the NF-5 of the Turkish Stars display team.

The AlphaJet Solo Display was one of the highlights of the show. The French Air Force brought back the Alpha Jet Solo Display, it shut down in 2012.

The AW.139 helicopter and the King Air B200 of the Armed Forces of Malta Air Wing.

The Leonardo AW.139 of the Guardia di Finanza (Custom Police) was the only Italian participant this year.

The Royal Canadian Air Force took part in the airshow with one CF-188 Hornet of the 433 Squadron deployed to Solenzara for the Serpentex 2017 exercise.

One of the two RAF British Aerospace Hawk T2 ZK022 of 4(R)Sqn based at Valley.

A P-3C Cup Orion of the Marineflieger about to land in Malta Luqa airport.

A U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon from VP-16 took part in the airshow. The aircraft is deployed to Sigonella airbase, Sicily, Italy, from where it conducts missions over the Black Sea and off Syria.

The Hawk Mk65 of the Saudi Hawks, the aerobatic team of the Royal Saudi Air Force.

A Tornado GR4 from IX Sqn. The unit was temporarily deployed to Decimomannu, Italy, to take part in Serpentex 2017.

One of the NF-5A Freedom Fighters of the Turkish Air Force aerobatic team “Turkish Stars”.

 

Image credit: Estelle Calleja

Here Are The Highlights Of Radom Air Show 2017 In Poland

Some Cool Photographs Of The Most Interesting Jets.

On Aug. 26 and 27, we attended the Radom International Air Show. Held biennially in Poland, the show has sparked a lot of controversy this year, due to the fact that the current MoD leadership in Warsaw has been changing its decisions concerning the organization of the event a couple of times. Nonetheless, ultimately, the Radom Air Show was organized, however the line-up was somewhat modest when compared to the previous editions. This may also have been caused by the fact that, on the very same dates, Slovakia organized the Slovak International Air Fest event at Sliac.

When it comes to the international dimension of the show, we could only witness a very modest set of dynamic displays. Among them, the one of the Romanian Air Force MiG-21 LanceR a type of fighter that is slowly approaching the end of its service in the military, and is being gradually replaced by second-hand F-16s.

The RoAF LanceR

The Ukrainian Su-27 Flanker aircraft seemed to be the star of the show, nonetheless the display routine presented by the pilot is “on the reserved side”, meaning that the maneuvers are being performed with a significant safety margin. Having attended MAKS a month before, the Flanker’s show was definitely not a highlight of the Radom event for us.

Austria sent its SAAB 105, Italy its M-346 Master which staged a good show, along with Typhoon for static. The Luftwaffe also sent its Eurofighter Typhoon for static display. Eurofighter GmbH is trying to pitch its fighter jet as a potential offer in the Harpia program, the goal of which would be to find a replacement of the MiG-29 and Su-22 jets used by the Polish Air Force.

The Leonardo M-346 during its aerial display.

The Polish Air Force showed off almost all of its assets in the dynamic display.

This included both of the Polish Aerobatic Teams – Orlik Team (flying the Orlik turboprop trainers) and White-Red Sparks (flying the TS-11 Iskra jets). MiG-29 demo also performed a dynamic display. The F-16 Tiger Demo Team’s displays were quite spectacular too; however on Sunday the jet  suffered from a systems failure, which forced Major “Zippity” Duda to interrupt the show.

The F-16 Tiger Demo Team releasing flares.

The Polish Su-22 role demo team staged an interesting, somewhat unique performance in Radom, as the Fitter is a rare sight to be seen in the international air show scene.

The Polish Air Force Su-22 Fitter role demo during their display.

One of the Fitters rolling inverted.

Finally, the Xtreme Sky Force Aerobatic Team, with Artur Kielak flying the XA-41/42 aircraft and Jacek Stolarek flying the MiG-29 (a unique, civil-military combo, the only team of this profile in Europe), performed an interesting display, portraying the differences between the two airframes.

The Xtreme Sky Force Aerobatic Team.

The United States sent two aircraft for the Radom show – the B-1B and the B-52. Both bombers performed solely two flypasts over the runway at the Radom Air Base. The runway itself is said to be too short to accommodate airframes this large.

The Buff takes part to the airshow with a low pass.

The civilian highlights of the show included a performance by the Latvian Baltic Bees Jet Team, very common on the European Air Show Scene, as well as participation of the Red Bull’s Austrian Flying Bulls – here the B-25 and the T-28 Trojan were, undoubtedly, the stars and highlights of the civilian portion of the Radom Show. Other aircraft presented included Bo-105 helicopters, aerobatic pilots flying Extras, civilian-owned TS-11 trainer and aerobatic teams, such as Cellfast, 3AT3 or the Żelazny Team.

This year’s edition of the Radom Air Show was very modest, however the rumor is that next year the Polish Air Force is to organize a 100. Anniversary Event. The location is still unknown, as the former leadership of the MoD pinpointed Poznan as a place where the potential show should be held – after all the Polish aviation was born there.

 

The Polish Fulcrum during its solo display.

Airshow Insider: Behind The Scenes with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds.

A Lot Goes Into Making a USAF Thunderbirds Flight Demo Happen; Here is Some of the Advanced Preparation.

Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Mt. Clemens, Michigan in the U.S. celebrated their 100th Anniversary with the Team Selfridge Open House and Air Show on Aug. 19 and 20. As a major U.S. airshow the event featured displays celebrating both U.S. Air Force history that showcased current and future operations at Selfridge and throughout the Air Force. As with many important airshows at Air Force facilities throughout the season the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds were the headlining performers at the show.

We got an insider’s look at the U.S. Air Force Flight Demonstration Team, The Thunderbirds, arrival and preparation for the big weekend prior to the show. Selfridge Air National Guard Base Public Affairs team, including USAF MSgt. David Kujawa, worked hard to get TheAviationist.com access to the Thunderbirds and a unique, behind-the-scenes look at their support team days before the airshow.

Thunderbird ground crew closes up on the jets prior to more rain on the Thursday before show weekend at Selfridge.

The Thunderbird’s arrival at Selfridge ANGB on Thursday, Aug. 17, two days before the show was unique since the team faced the combined challenges of flying all the way from their home base at Nellis AFB outside Las Vegas, Nevada and arriving at Selfridge ANGB in bad weather.

Thunderstorms and high winds buffeted the base and airshow venue early on arrival day. A KC-135T Stratotanker from the 171st Air Refueling Squadron at Selfridge ANGB launched early on Thursday from Michigan to support the Thunderbirds flight from Nevada to Michigan. After their rendezvous over the western U.S. the Michigan based tanker crew conducted three midair refuelings for each of the five Thunderbird F-16’s on their way to Selfridge. The sixth aircraft was already on station at Selfridge.

Thursday was a combined media day for the Thunderbirds and Selfridge along with crew orientation to the venue; rehearsal and planning for the numerous appearances and activities the Thunderbirds participate in while at a demonstration venue.

Traveling with a massive amount of parts and equipment to insure the show launches all aircraft in a high state of readiness, Thunderbird team members discuss the maintenance schedule.

One mission of the Thunderbirds during their visit to Selfridge was a Hometown Hero flight with Dr. Brian Smith of Detroit, Michigan. Dr. Smith was chosen for a Thunderbird Hometown Hero flight for his unselfish service to community and his lifelong commitment to education. He has received Congressional recognition for his efforts to steer young people to a career in aviation. Dr. Smith is the First African American to get a Ph.D in biomedical engineering from Wayne State University in Detroit. He also studied the effects of IEDs on soldiers in conflict zones and the effects of aircraft ejection on pilots. Smith’s family has a long history of selfless service to the U.S. military. His father served in World War II including spending time in a prisoner of war camp.

“I was up all night, couldn’t sleep, I am so excited.” Dr. Smith told us. “I tried to take a nap earlier today. No luck. I just want to get up there. I’m hoping they let me control the aircraft briefly. I’m a licensed pilot. Maybe I can experience the high roll rate of the aircraft myself.”

Dr. Brian Smith of Detroit, Michigan was fortunate enough to be selected as a Thunderbird “Hometown Hero” and flew with the team on Saturday after Thursday’s flight was weathered out.

Dr. Smith’s flight was scrubbed on Thursday due to bad weather but he did fly on Saturday morning with the Thunderbirds.

During the ground rehearsal for the weekend’s demonstrations the Thunderbirds would be parked across the field from the show line and spectators at Selfridge. TSgt. William Russell, a Thunderbird Crew Chief from Burlington, Vermont, told TheAviationist.com, “We’re going through the grey launch process rehearsal. It’s what we use to prepare aircraft for arriving at or leaving a show state.

TSgt William Russell, a Crew Chief on swing shift for the Thunderbirds, from Burlington, Vermont helps prepare the team by going through the grey launch process. (Photo: TheAviationist.com)

A significant amount of time on Thursday was spent with Thunderbird crews drilling on the ground demonstration portion of their show. The choreography and precision you see with the ground crew is difficult to achieve and requires frequent practice to maintain, so Thunderbird personnel are constantly training the procedures that are more regimented versions of the same launch protocols used for a combat F-16 unit in the Air Force.

Thunderbirds rehearse the precision drill and ceremony launch procedure of their show constantly.

A Thunderbird team member stows pilot gear for the team as the rain approaches.

The day was quiet as weather moved in and the Thunderbirds closed up their aircraft after performing regular maintenance and their training on the tarmac. Pilots in ready rooms held meetings for the flight demo and made plans for interfacing with the public throughout the demanding show weekend. It was an interesting look inside the process of the team getting ready for a typical Thunderbird airshow weekend.

H/T to Lance Riegle for the help with the video

 

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.