Aviation Nation 2011 – Review
Aviation Nation 2011 turned out to be the best show I have attend in many years. Being held the second week of November usually is hit or miss with the weather normally cold and wet. Having it on Veteran’s Day weekend is risky as Vegas turns cold the week following Halloween but this year proved to be different. We attended the practice show on Friday and the day started with gray and overcast skies which never really improved. We did enjoy it, as the crowd was a lot smaller than what we knew would be there for the free show on Saturday and Sunday.
This years show was titled “70 years of air power in Las Vegas”. They must have planed something new as late Friday afternoon we witnessed something new to our eyes. The show had a new routine called ”Present Day Air-to-Air Demonstration” an F-15C vs. F-16C Aggressor Capabilities Demonstration. The Aggressor’s 64th launched four aircraft followed by F-15C’s and F-15 Strike Eagles and they went up and did a scenario where there were good guys and bad guys. The F-16’s and F-15’s chased each other around and then they started popping flares. This took every one by surprise as this was the first time any one had seen flares used at a U.S. Show in a very long time. Seems now all the talk about the show centers around this act.
Saturday started with clear skies and warm temperatures. This turned out to be a wonderful change from years gone by. Usually you’d get on day that is good and another day that is cold rainy. It’s a crap shoot in Vegas with the weather. But this year we had nice weather both days.
This year also seemed to have a different feel with the crowd and the performers. We attended as media and that afforded us special access to some of the ”Hot Pits”. We met some very nice performers and we were asked to help out some of the teams with ”Team Photos”. This marks the last Air Show of the year for most of the Military Teams and we provided photographic services for these teams. The A-10 West Demo Team from Davis-Monthan was changing and Captain Joe ”Rifle” Shetterly was stepping down. The newest Demo Team pilot is Major John ”Beercan” Collier who was a member of this year’s team as A-10 pilot Safety Officer.
We also met with Captain Brad Lang who is involved with the CAF Red Tail Squadron and the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit. Brad is a Captain for Delta Airlines in regular life. Brad is on the road with the CAF Red Tail as he is the only Mustang type-rated African-American pilot in North America. Special guest was Michael Dorn of Star Track fame.
The RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit is one-of-a-kind. It is housed in a 53’ long customized trailer with sides that slide out to create a 30-seat climate-controlled movie theater with a 180-degree screen. The exciting original movie, “RISE ABOVE” is certain to entertain as well as educate viewers.
The exhibit is sponsored by the Texas Flying Legends Museum based in Houston, TX. Like the CAF Red Tail Squadron, the Texas Flying Legends Museum uses aviation and history as educational tools. Visit with them here.. http://www.redtail.org/
There were a lot of local services displays from the local community. Las Vegas Metro Police Dept. had their Search and Rescue Unit there. L.A.P.D had their air unit there as the Nevada Highway Patrol out with a Mobile Command Unit and cruiser.
Nellis AFB also rolled out a nice line-up of local aircraft. There were aircraft from the local units. These comprised of A-10 Thunderbolt II, F-15 Eagle, F-15E Strike, Eagle F-16 Fighting Falcon, F-22A Raptor, HH-60G Pave Hawk, and a MQ-1B Predator MQ-9 Reaper. There was a B-2 on static display from Whiteman AFB ”The Spirit of Nebraska”. The U. S. navy showed up with a pair of Super Hornets as well.
Aviation Nation was the first airshow back for the C-17 Demo Team from March following the crash of an aircraft up in Alaska.
The newest members of the show were the two newly painted Aggressor aircraft in two new distinct paint schemes!! One from the 64th Aggressors was an Arctic scheme painted Black White and gray F-16. This aircraft we were told had been out of the paint shop for a mere 4 days. The other aircraft a F-15C from the 65th Aggressor squadron was a new Blue Splinter scheme on aircraft 509. These really grabbed our attention and we ended up talking with Aggressor pilots for over two hours. Thanks for the info!!
Attending Fridays show was extra special as the Thunderbird hangar and museum were open for two hours after the show. We had toured these last year when we attended the ISAP convention held in Las Vegas. It’s always a treat. But this time we got to visit with the Thunderbird personal and we got to drink a cold one at their bar called ”The Perch”.
But the highlight of the weekend for me was being invited by the F-4 Demo Team pilot Lt. Col. Patrick ”Ichi” Karg to visit in the cockpit of the Phantom!! My father had been an F-4 Phantom mechanic during the Vietnam era and to be able to climb up and sit in the drivers seat in this magnificent machine was a dream come true!!
The weather held out all weekend making for some dry parched throats, by the time the show ended Sunday afternoon. We had had a blast and this year and we didn’t want the show to end. The Military Police started their sweep line just before sunset and there were a lot of people that had a hard time heading for the buses. We only wished we had more time to take in this event. We had attended three days and still had energy left…if only they had a Monday show!!
I have to give the planners of this event their just recognition!! They event was blessed with good weather and the line-up changes made for a wonderful show. We had met old friends and we have made a few new friends. We left the show not wanting to go and now we can’t wait for next years show!!! So to all involved….a huge “Job Well Done!!”
A Special Thanks to the Nellis Public Affairs Office!!!