Old and Bold !
A Very American Airshow
Heritage flight at Luke AFB: the P-51D, F-35A, F-22A and A-10C
With airshows at NAF El Centro, MCAS Yuma and Luke AFB in March, the US Air Force, Navy and Marines heralded a summer of aviation fun. While the show at El Centro had to cope with clouds and even some rain, the shows at Yuma and Luke witnessed bright sunshine and blue skies. But all the three shows boasted of vigorous footfalls.
It should come as no surprise that the US Navy showed off their newest Hornets at El Centro, with no less than 16 VFA106 Gladiators performing a tactical demo with the F/A-18F Super Hornet. Two new EA-18G Growlers of NAS Whidbey Island based VAQ-129 and two F/A-18E Hornets of VFA-97 from NAS Lemoore were present at the static display. And of course, the world famous Blue Angels closed the flying programmes with their six F/A-18C’s, their first public display of 2018.
The main attraction at Yuma was the F- 35B Lightning II, which opened the flying display. Seeing a jet hanging still in the air remains a strange and impressive sight! Next to this modern hardware, a formation of four venerable F- 5Es in attractive ‘aggressor’ colours made their presence felt by making two passes in close formation. The F-5Es are part of Yuma based Marine Fighter Training Squadron 401 (VMFT-401). This squadron acts as the opposing force during simulated air combat. Away from the thundering noise of jets, a UH-1Y Venom and AH-1Z Viper flew a tactical demo, closely working together. And the older cousin of the Venom, a Yuma-based HH-1N Huey, showed its capabilities in Search and Rescue.
Luke is the home of dozens of F-16s and F-35s, so lots of those types could be seen both in the air and on the ground. For the Joint Airfield Assault Demo, Luke was temporarily transformed into an enemy airfield. In a display of jets, helicopters and transport aircraft, assisted by ground forces, this enemy airfield was quickly taken over by the US forces. Next was the famous Tora! Tora! Tora! display which included nine Japanese fighters recreating the attack on Pearl Harbour. A B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bomber managed a safe landing on the heavily damaged airfield while this was still under attack. Back to modern times, the F-22A Raptor and still-going-strong A-10C Thunderbolt II flew their demonstrations, with the USAF Heritage Flight closing this part of the show.
USAF Heritage Flight
During 50th anniversary of the United States Air Force celebrations at Nellis AFB in 1997, the first Heritage Flight was born. Now twenty years later, the
Air Force Heritage Flight is firmly embedded in many airshow programmes. The Heritage Flight formation is formed with active USAF fighter aircraft and privately owned veteran aircraft such as the P-51D Mustang, P-38M Lightning and the F-86F Sabre. The Heritage Flight Association was formed in 2010 to support and coordinate all these heritage flights within the United States and worldwide.
For two years now, Steve Hinton has been flying the F-86F for these heritage flights who commented: “We display the past and present for veterans. Every time we want to put on a display which is memorable for them.” At the MCAS Yuma airshow, Hinton flew his F-86F in formation with the F-22A Raptor from the Air Combat Command F-22 Raptor demo team. Prior to every show season, Hinton and the eight other selected heritage pilots fly and train together with the US Air Force pilots in a formal training environment at Davis-Monthan AFB. Here they set the boundaries and standards for the display. “I enjoy training, pulling Gs, lofting and zooming through the air with this 1952 jet. I am lucky to do this. But most important is honouring the past and the present” says Hinton.
The North American F- 86F Sabre that Hinton flies is a former USAF serial 52-5012 and Fuearza Aérea Argentina (Argentinian Air Force) serial C-127. The aircraft is now civil registered as NX186AM. It is painted in the colours of 335th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, part of the 4th Fighter-Interceptor Wing with serial 12834 coded FU-834. It is to represent the aircraft that was flown by Korean war ace Captain Clifford D. Jolley. It includes the nose art “Jollet Roger” and the 7 kills that Jolley scored during the Korean War. The aircraft is now owned and operated by the Planes of Fame Museum at Chino, California. Hinton is President of the Planes of Fame museum.
Old but still bold, F-5 formation break over Yuma