Photos and story by Scott Jankowski
Originally created on August 1st, 1907, and once part of the U.S. Army Signal Corps, was formally established as a separate branch of the U.S. Armed Forces on September 18th 1947. The U.S. Air Force of today comprises five core missions which include; Air Superiority, Global Integrated Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, Rapid Global Strike, and Command and Control. These missions are conducted by the major commands of the U.S. Air Force including; Air Combat Command (ACC) Air Education and Training Command (AETC), Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC), Air Force Material Command (AFMC), Air Force Reserve Command (AFRC), Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC), Air Mobility Command (AMC), Pacific Air Forces (PACAF), and the United States Air Force in Europe- Air Forces Africa (USAFE-AFAFRICA). Several of these commands were represented at AirVenture 2022 with frontline fighter, helicopter, tanker, transport, and trainer aircraft.
Frontline fighters were represented by the Republic Fairchild A-10C Thunderbolt II. Once again, this year the 122nd Fighter Wing based at Fort Wayne Air National Guard Station Indiana had a pair of aircraft at AirVenture. The 122nd is better known as “The Blacksnakes” and brought their spectacularly black painted A-10 named “Black Mamba”
Three Boeing F-15C Eagles were represented by the Louisiana Air National Guard’s 159th Fighter Wing based at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans. The 159th is also known as the Bayou Militia and has flown the twin engine, all weather, tactical fighter since 2006. One F-15 was on static display, and another pair made several low approaches on Saturday morning.
The Lockheed Martin General Dynamics F-16C Fighting Falcon or Viper was on static display and was from the Wisconsin based 115th Fighter Wing. The 115th Fighter Wing is based at the Truax Air National Guard Station Madison and is in the process of transitioning from the single seat multi-role fighter to the Fifth Generation Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II.
The Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II Demo Team flew in the daily airshow and highlighted just a very small portion of the unique capabilities of this Fifth Generation Fighter. The Lightning Demo team is part of the 388th Fighter Wing and is based at Hill Air Force Base Utah. The 2022 Demo Team Pilot and Commander, Major Kristin “Beo” Wolfe flew several high performance maneuvers that included the pedal turn where the aircraft drops in a tight turn at near zero forward speed, and the tactical pitch where the aircraft enters the airshow box at a high speed and then turns abruptly to literally skid across the sky. The F-35A also flew several “Heritage Flights” flying alongside a World War II vintage North American P-51 Mustangs.
One of the many anticipated airshow highlights was a flight demonstration by the single engine, high altitude reconnaissance Lockheed U-2, better known as the “Dragon Lady”. The current variant of the 1956 vintage aircraft, which saw extensive use during the Cold War, is the “S” model and is flown by the 9th Reconnaissance Wing based at Beale Air Force Base California. The U-2 can fly at an altitude of over 80,000 feet and has a range of over 7,000 miles. The U-2 made several passes and low approaches and ended its performance with a spiral climb to its cruising altitude.
As usual Tankers were to be found at AirVenture on Boeing Plaza and in the air and included the 60 plus year old Being KC-135R Stratotanker. The Milwaukee Wisconsin based 128TH Air Refueling Wing is an annual participant with its home base of General Mitchell International Airport a short 20-minute flight away. The 128th Air Refueling Wing has flown the KC-135 since 1977 and was the first Air National Guard or U.S. Air Force Reserve unit to transition to the “R” model.
The successor to the KC-135 was also at AirVenture 2022 in the form of another Boeing product the KC-46A Pegasus. The KC-46 airframe is based on the civilian Boeing 767-200 and first flew in 2015. This years Boeing KC-46A came from the McConnell Air Force based 924th Air Refueling Squadron, which was the first U.S. Air Force Reserve squadron to fly the KC-46A. The KC-46A provides the U.S. Air Force a greater refueling, cargo, and aeromedical evacuation capability compared to the KC-135.
Heavy lift transports were represented by the Boeing C-17A Globemaster III, two different units had aircraft at AirVenture this year. On static display was a Boeing C-17A flown by the 167th Airlift Wing based at Martinsburg West Virginia and is part of the West Virginia Air National Guard. The 167th Airlift Wing has a long history with the Airlift Mission has flown many different versions of the Lockheed C-130 Hercules and the Lockheed C-5 Galaxy.
The amazing capabilities of the Boeing C-17A were demonstrated by the Joint Base Lewis-McChord Washington based West Coast C-17 Demo Team. The team was formed in 2019 and flies approximately 12 airshows a year. The very spirited demo routine included a series minimum radius turns and the C-17’s short field landing capability. The C-17A is surprisingly nimble considering its empty weight of 282,500 pounds.
The Travis Air Force Based Lockheed C-5M Galaxy arrived on Thursday morning and is flown by the 349th Air Mobility Wing. The 349th is part of the U.S. Air Force Reserve and has flown the C-5 since 1972. The C-5M is the second largest aircraft in the world and has an amazing 281,000-pound maximum payload and a maximum takeoff weight of 840,000 pounds.
Air Education and Training Command had trainers on static display and included the Basic Pilot Trainer, the Raytheon Aircraft Company T-6A Texan II. A pair of T-6A’a from Sheppard Air force Base Texas and flown by the 89th Fighter Training Squadron and 97TH Fighter Training Squadron were parked on Boeing Plaza. Both units have flown the T-6A since 2008 and is responsible for training both US and NATO Pilots since 1973. Both of these aircraft wore special vintage colors to honor the heritage of the units. The 89th’s aircraft carried the name “Screaming Banshees” on the nose while the 90th’s aircraft carried the name “Devil Cat” on the nose.
A pair of 1959 vintage Northrop T-38C Talon advanced jet trainers were also part of AirVenture this year and are also based at Sheppard Air Force Base Texas. These T-38’s are both flown by the 469th Flying Training Squadron but carry very different color schemes. One T-38 wore the traditional grey colors, but aircraft 66-4343 wore a special Southeast Asia colors scheme, with a shark mouth nose, and silhouettes of all the aircraft they have flown since 1942.
There were several other T-38’s at AirVenture 2022, including a gloss black painted T-38C from the 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing based at Beale Air Force Base California. The 9th uses T-38’s to train and keep current the pilots that fly the U-2 Dragon Lady.
The 71st Flying Training Squadron based at Joint Base Langley-Eustis Virginia brought its specially painted T-38C to AirVenture. The paint scheme of this T-38 resembles one that the Russian SU-27 Flanker would wear. The primary mission of the 79th is to provide adversary training to the F-22A Raptor units based at Langley and is part of the 1st Fighter Wing.
The final pair of T-38C Talons on hand are based at Whitman Air Force Base and are part of the 509th Bomb Wing. The 509th uses the T-38C to keep the pilots that fly the Northrop B-2A Spirit current. The 509th has operated T-38 ‘s in this role since 1993.
The United States Air Forces Special Operations Command was represented by a Bell Boeing CV-22B Osprey flown by the 20th Special Operations Squadron and based down at Canon Air Force Base New Mexico. The 20th has flown the very unique tilt rotor Osprey since 2008 and can trace its history back to 1942. The V-22 was designed to combine the functionality of the conventional helicopter with the longer range and cruise speed of a turboprop aircraft.
The mission of the more than 689,000 personal of the U.S. Air Force is to “Aim High”, and to fly fight and win. This was well displayed and flown during the week of AirVenture 2022. Once again organizers pulled together a great selection of American Airpower. Until Next time, “Blue Skies to All!”