By Victor G. Archer
The fifth annual Aviation Nation took place Nov. 11-12. Presented by the U.S. Air Force at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, Aviation Nation is the premier air show of the Air Force and one of the largest aviation events in North America. It’s considered one of the most diverse, entertaining and well run air shows in the United States.
Several military air demonstration teams, including one from Belgium, and some of the nation’s top civilian air performers, participated in the event. Aerial demonstrations were a salute to the past, present and future of American airpower. Demonstrations from present-day aircraft included two General Dynamics/Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcons, one in the Air Force display and the other in the Belgium air force demonstration. The Belgium F-16 showed an amazing display of brute strength; most of the maneuvers were performed with full afterburning power at high angles of attack, pulling both positive and negative Gs. While twisting and turning through the sky, the jet lived up to its nickname, the “Viper.”
Other present-day aircraft demonstrations included a McDonnell Douglas/Boeing F-15C Eagle and F/A-18F Super Hornet. A Lockheed F-117A Nighthawk performed a flyby.
A Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor and a Bell Helicopter Textron/Boeing CV-22 Osprey represented the future. A brief F-22 Raptor demonstration displayed its climbing and maneuvering abilities. The CV-22 Osprey is an amazing aircraft, starting with its vertical takeoff. Once airborne, the turboshaft engine on each wing rotates into a forward position, allowing the craft to then fly like an airplane. This versatile, self-deployable aircraft can do the jobs of both helicopter and aircraft.
Aircraft from the past included a North American TF-51 Mustang, F-86 Sabre and B-25 Mitchell bomber; a Chance Vought F4U Corsair; a Grumman F8F-2 Bearcat and F6F Hellcat; a Lockheed P-38 Lightning; and a Douglas AD Skyraider. A Hawker Sea Fury, a Fairey Firefly Mk. 5 and a Supermarine Spitfire represented the United Kingdom.
The Heritage, History and Legacy flights combined aircraft from different eras. The Air Force Heritage flight was the most diverse, with aircraft ranging from a 1940s P-51 Mustang to a modern-day F-22 Raptor. The U.S. Navy Legacy flight presentation included a Bearcat, a Hellcat, a Skyraider and a Super Hornet.
Some of the nation’s top civilian aerobatic pilots performed. Sean D. Tucker flew his custom-built Oracle Challenger biplane and Craig “Brute” Teft flew a Pitts S-2C biplane. Michael Hunter, the world’s only insulin-dependent air show pilot, performed aerobatics in a Laser 230, and Bill Reesman flew a Russian-built Red Bull MiG-17.
Each day closed with the Air Force’s premier demonstration team, the world famous Thunderbirds.
More than 100 military and civilian aircraft were on ground display. They including a Raptor, an Osprey, a Fairchild-Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II, a Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, a C-17 Globemaster III, a McDonnell Douglas KC-10 fueling tanker, a Boeing X-45 unmanned combat air vehicle, a Douglas DC-3, a P-51 Mustang and a North American T-28 Trojan.
Aviation Nation celebrates the history of American aviation and salutes the recent accomplishments of America’s military in operations around the globe. The show serves many purposes. It gives recruiters an opportunity to educate interested young men and women about a career in the Air Force and is an excellent opportunity to show what the Air Force and Nellis Air Force Base do for the local community and the nation. The air show also gives the Air Force and Nellis a chance to thank the public for its generous support.