Aviation Nation
 USAF 60th Anniversary Airshow

On Target reports from Aviation Nation at Nellis Air Force Base.

This years Aviation Nation was the capstone event of the USAF’s 60th anniversary celebrations. As the last major show in the western US for 2007, an estimated crowd of around 250,000 benefited from the free entry and visited the base to witness a memorable Veterans Day weekend tribute to the USAF - past, present and future.
On the ground, Saturday’s high temperatures and huge crowds resulted in long queues for drinks, with supplies temporarily running out at some vendors. Disappointingly, longer queues for the car parking shuttle buses after the show resulted in lengthy delays for the public leaving the show. Lessons must have been learnt from this, as the logistics appear to have run far more smoothly and efficiently for Sunday’s event.

As with any airshow, there were a number of no-shows; eagerly anticipated types such as the B-29, C-17 and Dutch F-16 cancelled their demos. The MV-22 Osprey, which had been scheduled to close the show, was affected by a fleet-wide grounding that came into effect during the Friday before the show.

Any disappointment over the cancellations, were quickly forgotten when the actual line up was reviewed. The static and flying displays were structured to present a chronological review of the US air services – not just the USAF, but also its Army Air Corps and Army Air Forces predecessors. The static displays contained everything from World War One replicas, to a sizeable number of piston and jet warbirds presenting the WWII, Korean War and Vietnam eras. At the far end of the ramp, almost every aircraft type currently in USAF service was presented, ranging from the dimutive T-6 to the incredible F-22 & F-117, via iconic types such as the B-52. Notable absentees were the B-2 and U-2, although the sight of other aircraft such as the QF-4 and UAE (albeit 162nd FW) F-16F Desert Falcon in the static more than made up for their loss.

The flying displays commenced with a morning long presentation through the Air Force’s long history. Indeed, many of the service’s most famous aircraft, such as the B-17, B-24, B-25, B-52, P-51, F-86, C-47, T-6, T-28 and T-33 were flown. Other participants, representing early aerial opponents included the Mitsubishi Zero, MiG-15, and MiG-17. Allied aircraft were displayed with zeal; these included a Spitfire, Fairey Firefly and Sea Fury. Well thought out set pieces recreated Jimmy Doolittle’s 1942 B-25 raid against Tokyo, dogfights in Korea’s "MiG Alley" and a Vietnam scenario including a pair of ‘Hueys’, C-47, Mig-17 and a B-52.


Other military highlights of the lengthy flying display included Captain "Crank" Gregoire in the specially marked Canadian Forces CF-18, and naturally the USAF Display team, the Thunderbirds, gave the hometown audience a polished flying display on both public days. The sight of an F-16 tearing round the Nellis tower against the backdrop of Sunrise Mountain was great, but the best was still to come…the 21st Century Air Force presentation opened with unique flypast's by examples of the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles). With the sun slowly sinking over the horizon, a gorgeous golden light appeared over the airfield. Major "Stitch" Willits of the A-10 West demo team provided a agile display of the A-10, but the pace moved up a couple of gears thanks to a simply awesome display by the F-22; flown by Major "Max" Moga, the F-22 was dramatically thrown around the sky with burners blazing, much to the vocal appreciation of those present. Your writer has seen many excellent fast jet displays, but was genuinely left awe struck by the capabilities of both the pilot and aircraft. A 'wish' for the 2008 display scene must be the F-22 and Typhoon displaying in the same programme.

The F-22 left the crowd wanting more; they didn’t have to wait long as the  Heritage Flight swept in, featuring the A-10, F-22, QF-4, and a P-51 – another memorable sight in the golden light.  

Finally, in the twilight the unmistakable shape of the F-1117 appeared overhead, the timing quite appropriate given the 'Stealth's' nocturnal attack mission. With the types retirement due during 2008 this may well have been the final airshow appearance of Lockheed’s 'Black Jet'.



The On Target staff offer their gratitude to the Nellis Public Affairs Office for their hospitality during Aviation Nation 2007.



Back to the top

© On Target Aviation 2008