Avaition Nation 2014

By: Category: Airshows

raptor-approaching What do you get when you combine sunshine, fast jets, ageless warbirds, and a large enthusiastic crowd?  That’s right…Aviation Nation!   The weekend of Nov 8-9, also known as the homecoming weekend for the USAF Thunderbirds aerial demonstration team, brought together many talented acts as well as over 130,000 aviation enthusiasts and curious spectators to the ramp at Nellis Air Force Base just north of Las Vegas, NV.  This is one show that PHXSpotters never misses, and we were there in full force to take in all the action. The day started off with the color guard performing the national anthem immediately culminating with the fly-over of an F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II in formation and break for landing.  Immediately after the anthem and fly-over the skies were full of WW II era warbirds such as a P-51 Mustang, F-4U Corsair and B-25 Mitchell and Korean War era fighters such as F-86 Sabers and a MiG-15 simulating dog fights and passes for the crowds.   We can’t forget about the “Ace Maker” T-33 which paired up in formation with the MiG-15 for a great photo pass in front of the crowd. While not one of the major acts, one that seemed to be a crowd favorite was the L-39 sponsored by Bitcoin.com, which performed a few high speed passes as well as breathtaking maneuvers for the crowd.  As the L-39 performance wrapped up, the aircraft participating in the modern combat and ground attack demonstration took to the skies.  This demonstration included 2 Aggressor F-16s, 4 F-15s, 2 A-10s and 2 UH-60 helicopters as well as some ground vehicles.  During this demonstration, there was plenty of pyrotechnics to simulate gun fire and explosions on the ground and as always the F-15s were more than happy to light off the flares as they passed the flight line.  I would have to say that the only disappointing thing about this demonstration was how distant the aircraft stayed from the crowd, flying at higher altitudes than the other acts, but all in all a good display of the tactical capabilities of our combat pilots. By far the best demonstration of the day was that of the F-22 Raptor Demo Team.  The lone Raptor piloted by a highly skilled airman pushed the limits of the jet on just about every pass and maneuver he made.  From performing a controlled flat spin to practically having the jet hover in a vertical position, this jet proved why it is the most advanced fighter in the skies today. The Raptor demo was followed after a short break by the main attraction and headlining act, the United States Air Force Thunderbirds Aerial Demonstration Team.  At shortly after 2:45pm, their program kicked off with the pilots climbing into their respective cockpits and being prepped by their trusty crews.  Once all the t-birds were given the go signal, they made their way to the runway, passing by as the eagerly waiting crowd waved and clapped for them.  Soon after, ships 1 thru 4 took off in formation followed shortly behind by the number 5 and number 6 ships. The main act was now in full swing with Thunderbirds 1 thru 4 making passes in tight formation not missing a beat as they passed the crowd and soared high into the skies.  The opposing solos made many high speed passes crossing each other with precision at show center.  There were many cheers from the crowd as they watched and exclaimed many “oos” and “ahhs” during the Thunderbirds exciting maneuvers, especially the sneak pass which almost always startles the crowd when they least expect it. Even the brief pause in their show on Saturday (apparently due to a vehicle moving inside the aerobatic box) didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd as the team regained their composure and got back into the routine.  One minor drawback however, was the overuse of smoke during the demonstration which at times made it nearly impossible to see the thunderbirds.  Otherwise, the Thunderbirds put on a thrilling performance that wowed the spectators from start to finish. Let’s not forget that there was plenty more to see than just what was in the air.  There were plenty of static displays to see, touch and even sit in in some cases.  The static ramp at Aviation Nation is one of the best ramps of the entire airshow season.  It’s size allows for a large quantity of static aircraft as well as vendors to be setup making for a great variety of aircraft to see.  With a C-5 Galaxy and B-52 Stratofortress, Aviation Nation includes two of the largest aircraft in the world on their static ramp along with the ever popular “Bone” or B-1 Lancer.  Heavy lift cargo or long range bombers not your thing?  Well, they also had plenty of fighters on display from A-10s and F-18s to the new F-35 on display.  This year also brought in two foreign birds with the Panavia Tornado and Eurofighter Typhoon.  Still not interested?  Well, let’s not forget about the tankers and airborne command and control aircraft. All together this show is a must see for any airshow fan and well worth the trip from any part of the country to attend.  There is plenty of things to see and do on the ground and plenty of action in the sky all day to entertain anyone from 4 to 104.  When not at the airshow, the city of Las Vegas also offers a variety of things to do and a variety of places to lay your head down.  Whether it’s just you, or the whole family, rest assured you will be able to find something to pass the time in between the deafening sounds of freedom.  So be on the lookout for the dates of the next show, and come see us in fabulous Las Vegas!    

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