By Mike Ullery
This year marks the 60th anniversary of the United States Air Force and the 10th anniversary of the popular Heritage Flight tribute program. At the 2007 Heritage Flight Conference, held March 2-4 at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base near Tucson, Ariz., Heritage Flight pilots met to prepare for another season.
The Heritage Flight Conference is held each year prior to the beginning of the spring and summer air show seasons to provide a forum for civilian and Air Combat Command demonstration pilots to train together in preparation for the upcoming season. The Federal Aviation Administration and ACC approve the participating civilian pilots to fly in formation with ACC demonstration team aircraft at air shows held throughout the United States and Canada.
As important as pilots are to Heritage Flights, the planes they fly are the real stars of the show. Parked on the ramp at Davis-Monthan was an interesting mix of old and new. The vintage aircraft included P-51 Mustangs, a P-47 Thunderbolt, and for the first time, an A-1 Skyraider. Modern military aircraft that comprise ACC’s demonstration teams include the A-10 Thunderbolt II, F-15 Eagle, F-15E Strike Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon. America’s newest fighter aircraft, the F-22A Raptor, joins the tribute flights this year.
A large part of the Air Force’s combat training relies on the lessons learned from past generations of fighter pilots. That’s the reason the planes were at Davis-Monthan AFB and why the Heritage Flight program exists. Knowing firsthand what pilots experienced flying in WWII, Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf helps current aviators relate to that history. At air shows, during Heritage Flights, the past, present and future flies together, to honor and commemorate Air Force heritage.