The 2023 Scott Air Force Base Airshow

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Story and photos by Scott Jankowski
It has been five long years since the 375th Air Mobility Wing and Scott Air Force Base hosted an airshow, the last one was in 2017, that changed this year. On May 13th and 14th 2023, Team Scott opened its base to public and hosted the 2023 Airshow and Stem Expo with the United States Navy Blue Angels as the headliner. Scott Air Force Base was established in 1917 as of one of thirty-two training camps after the United States entered World War One. The base is named in honor of Corporal Frank S. Scott, the first enlisted service member killed in an aviation crash. Corporal Scott was killed in 1912 when the aircraft he was piloting suffered an unexpected engine failure. The base is located approximately 17 miles east southeast of St. Louis Missouri and is the headquarters for Air Mobility Command and also the U.S. Transportation Command which coordinates transportation efforts across all services. There are approximately 5,000 active duty, 1,500 reserve, 1,100 guard and 5,300 civilian personnel assigned to the base which covers 3,589 acres of land.

Scott Air Force Base, like many bases around the country has an outdoor airpark with aircraft that represent the history of the base and Air Mobility Command. A total of 6 aircraft are on display and include examples of the Boeing KC-135E Stratotanker, Gates C-21A Learjet, Lockheed C-130E Hercules, Lockheed C-140 Jetstar, Lockheed C-141 Starlifter, and the McDonnell Douglas C-9A Nightingale. A total of three flying units are based at Scott which is a joint use facility with the bases sharing its 2 runways the 10,000-foot-long runway 14 left/32 right and 8,000-foot-long parallel runway 14 right/32 left with Mid America St Louis Airport (KBLV). These units are the 375th Air Mobility Wing, 932nd Airlift wing, and the 126th Aerial Refueling Wing.

The host wing for Scott is the 375th Air Mobility Wing flying the Bombardier Aerospace C-21A Learjet. Its primary mission is to transport senior military leaders with a secondary mission as an aeromedical evacuation aircraft. The C-21A entered service in 1984 and is based off the civilian Learjet 35A. The C-21A has a crew of 2 and can carry up to 8 passengers with a 2,300-mile range. The 375th Air Mobility Wing has a total of 14 C-21A’s based at Scott and is currently the only unit in the United States Air Force to fly this type.

The second Scott based unit is the United States Air Force Reserves 932ND Airlift Wing flying the Boeing C-40C Clipper. The Boeing C-40C is a version of the civilian Boeing 737-700/ Boeing Business Jet (BBJ) and is a VIP transport aircraft often used to carry members of the Cabinet and Congress. The C-40C can carry anywhere from 42 to 111 passengers at a maximum range of 5,800 miles. A total of 7 C-40C’s were built with four of them assigned to the 932nd Airlift Wing. The 932nd was formed back in 1963 and has been assigned to Scott since being formed.

The final unit to call Scott home is the Illinois Air National Guard’s 126th Aerial Refueling Wing with 8 Boeing KC-135R Stratotankers on strength. The 126th Aerial Refueling Wing moved to Scott Air Force Base from Chicago O’Hare International Airport in 1999 and has operated the KC-135 since 1976. The 126th Aerial Refueling Wing can trace its roots back to 1926 when the 108th Observation Squadron was formed and has participated in many of the most recent global conflicts.

As mentioned, the United States Navy Demonstration Team better known as the Blue Angels headlined the 2023 airshow with its Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and Fat Albert it’s Lockheed C-130J Super Hercules support aircraft. The Blue Angels along with all of the other airshow performers faced some challenging weather conditions all three days including low cloud ceilings on Friday and severe weather on both Saturday and Sunday, but they still managed to fly their demonstration routine with precision and discipline. The Blues transitioned to the Boeing F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet in 2020 which gave the team a more powerful and maneuverable aircraft over the Legacy F/A-18 A/B/C/D Hornets they flew since 1986 and were some of the oldest Hornets still flying. The Blues performed all of the maneuvers they are famous for including the Double Farvel, the Dirty Diamond Loop, Fortis, Section High Alpha Pass, the Diamond Burner 270, and the Fleur De Lis. Fat Albert also flew a series of passes and closed out its performance with a short field assault landing.

The United States Air Force F-22 Raptor Demo Team was also part of the 2023 Airshow with the new Team Leader Captain Samuel “Razz” Larson displaying the amazing agility and maneuverability of the Fifth Generation Fighter. The 14-member team is part of Air Combat Command’s 1st Fighter Wing based at Joint Base Langley-Eustis Virginia and was formed in 2007. The F-22A Raptor is a single seat, twin engine, all weather tactical stealth fighter aircraft. The Raptor is powered by a pair of Pratt and Whitney F-119 afterburning augmented turbofan engines which incorporate thrust vectoring technology providing unrivaled maneuverability. Captain Larson flew an amazing solo routine and then joined with a 1944 vintage North American P-51D Mustang named “Happy Jacks Go Buggy” to perform the Heritage Flight. This beautifully restored P-51D Mustang is owned and operated by Mr. Bruce Winter of San Antonio Texas and is registered N74190. The Heritage Flight is performed at several airshows every year and showcases past and present United States Air Force assets.

Air Mobility Command’s West Coast C-17 Demo Team highlighted the agility of the Boeing C-17A Globemaster III during the airshow. The team is part of the 62nd Airlift Wing based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord Washington located outside of Tacoma Washington. The team was formed in 2019 and currently has 9 pilots and 6 loadmasters. The Boeing C-17A entered service in 1995 and performs tactical and strategic airlift missions and has secondary missions performing aeromedical evacuations and air drops. The Boeing C-17A has a maximum payload of pounds and features fly-by-wire technology. It is powered by four Pratt & Whitney F117-PW-100 turbofan engines which generate 40,400 pounds of thrust each, couple this with the fly by wire technology makes the C-17A a very nimble and agile aircraft for its size.

Several civilian performers also took the skies over Scott on airshow weekend and included the now fifty-year-old Commemorative Air Force Demo Group Tora! Tora! Tora! The group was formed in 1972 and is the longest continuously performing nonmilitary airshow act in the United States. The team fly’s replica Japanese Zero’s, Val’s, and Kate aircraft combined with pyrotechnics to reenact the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941.

One very welcome addition to the static display was the Boeing MQ-25 Stingray. The MQ-25 is an aerial refueling drone which first flew in 2019 and is still in the testing and development phase. The MQ-25 is powered by a single Rolls Royce AE-3700N turbofan engine and has a range of five hundred nautical miles while carrying 16,000 pounds of fuel. This refueling drone carries a pair of Cobham Aerial Refueling Stores on its 2 under wing stations. The MQ-25 has a planned production run of seventy-two aircraft with the first unit to stand up being Fleet Replacement Squadron VUQ-10 at Naval Air Station (NAS) Point Mugu California in 2021.

Several other military and civilian aircraft were on static display this weekend and included several examples of current Air Mobility Command assets. Static displays included examples of the Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker from the locally based 126th Aerial Refueling Wing, Boeing KC-46A Pegasus from the 56TH Air Refueling Squadron based at Altus Air Force Base Oklahoma, and Boeing KC-10A Extender from the 60th Air Mobility Wing based at Travis Air Force Base California refueling aircraft. Also on display were examples of the primary airlifters in the Air Force inventory and included 3 examples of the Lockheed C-130 Hercules. The first example is a Lockheed Martin C-130H Hercules from the 182nd Airlift Wing based at Peoria Illinois and 2 Lockheed Martin C-130J-30 Super Hercules from the 19th Airlift Wing based at Little Rock Air Force Base.

Several civilian warbirds were also on display and included the Topeka Kansas based C-47, N2805J. This C-47 is owned and operated by the American Flight Museum and was restored as an AC-47 Spooky Gunship and is painted like the one John Levitow earned the Medal of Honor on.

The operational mission of the 375th Air Mobility Wing is “To provide unrivaled air mobility operations through its fleet of C-21 aircraft and through its Total Force Integration partnerships with the Guard and Reserve in flying KC-135 and C-40 aircraft.” Despite very challenging weather conditions, the men and woman under the leadership of current Base Commander Chris Robinson displayed this mission perfectly. I would like to thank the entire 375th Air Mobility Command Public Relations Team for their support and assistance in making this article possible and for their hospitality. Until next time, “Blue Skies to All!”

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