Nellis Aviation Nation
Aviation Nation 2007 was announced as the capstone event of the US Air Forces's 60th anniversary and the largest Air Force event of the yearlong celebration. Under the theme "Heritage to Horizons" the Nellis AFB - Las Vegas Air Show commemorated that year 60 years of air & space power.
The airshow is held annually in November at the Nellis AFB near Las Vegas and also forms the final event for the North American airshow circuit combined with the homecoming of the Thunderbirds.
Where? Nellis AFB, Nevada
"Heritage to Horizons" draw a bow from WW I up to the operation of modern UAV's in the flight display, that was completed by an extensive static exhibition.
According to their website Aviation Nation did also "celebrate the history of American aviation and salute the recent accomplishments of America's military in operations around the globe" and "more than 100 military and civilian aircraft" were to be expected to be on display. With this advertising and the 50th anniversary airshow in mind that had flying displays of the Japanese "Blue Impulse" or of the since then retired SR-71 Blackbird to offer, the expectations for this week-end were high. The show was visited at the end of the trip to the south-western part of the USA.
Unfortunately these expectations could not be met as the "military operations around the globe" were clearly reflected in the reduced flying activities of USAF aircraft, as the main part of the flying until late afternoon was mainly completed by privately owned aircraft.
In retrospective of the USAF's history the flight displays followed a virtual timeline highlighting wars and special events during so called "re-enactments" or by showing video presentations.
At first the pre WW II era was reflected by replica World War I Aircraft Flybys and a Pre World War II Air Parade consisting out of the trainer aircraft Ryan PT-22 and a formation of T-6 Texan II that was also part of the Opening ceremony and flew when the National Anthem was played.
WW I & post-war displays
The WW II era was as a matter of course a bigger part and it was planned to start off with the American Volunteer Group (Flying Tigers) P-40 Warhawk vs. a Japanese Zero and the Pearl Harbor Remembrance with a P-40 and a Japanese Zero. Unfortunately the P-40 was not available and Zero had to fly together with the Spitfire... The Pacific Theatre would of course not have been complete without a Doolittle Raiders B-25 Reenactment. Another welcomed act for this era was also the appearnace of the recently restored and repainted B-24 Liberator of the CAF.
As a real B-29 Superfortress was also not available for the flying display, a B-29 Video Tribute was followed by a questionable "re-enactment of the atomic mushroom cloud" of August 6th, 1945 at Hiroshima and Nagasaki three days later, when some fuel barrels were brought to an explosion…
The Western front World War II Reenactment featuring a P-51 vs. Me 109 dogfight also had to be reduced due to the lack of availability of a 109 to a Mustang and a Spitfire.
World War II Reenactment
Bombers: B-24, B-17, B-25
Fighters: Mustang, Zero, Spitfire & a T-6
After the end of WW II in 1945 the first steps for the USAF as we know it today were settled and it was finally created in 1947 as a separate military service by decree of President Henry Truman. Another highlight in the USAF's history followed shortly afterwards with the Bell X-1 breaking the sound barrier on October 14th, 1947. The aircraft was piloted by Chuck Yeager, who also trained in a Lockheed T-33 later on. Subsequently, this aircraft appeared in the flying display during the Sound Barrier Tribute. The Berlin Airlift tribute featuring a C-47 did not take place.
Korean War Era
The next war in which the USAF was involved was the war in Korea. The Korean War Reenactment featured a MiG-15, F-86 and A-26 according to the plan, but an Invader was unfortunately not available. However, the formation fly-bys of the MiG and the Sabre were perfect! Very welcomed in this part were also two O-1s and T-28 flying as well as the perfect displays of the Fairey Firefly and the Sea Fury.
The more than 10 years of the Vietnam war were represented by a B-52, MiG-17 fly-by and the Vietnam Era Air Parade featuring Skyraiders, a A-37 and the (A)C-47 Gunship.
Vietnam War Reenactment
In the same timeframe of the displays the only foreign military of the show that came to congratulate the USAF performed: the Canadian Air Force CF-18 Demo with its 25th Anniversary special colored tails.
Canadian CF-18A Hornet Flight Display
The modern era chapter for 3,5 hours around noon was dominated by aerobatics. The Red Bull BO-105 Aerobatic Helo Demo with pilot Chuck Aaron and Sean D. Tucker and the Oracle Challenger, which had technical problems on Sunday, were followed by the USAF Thunderbirds demonstration. Whereas the 30 minutes ground show was only visible and interesting at the show center as it was directly visible there, the flight display during 45 minutes was really good, especially on Saturday under a clear blue sky.
The USAF Thunderbirds - Ground Show
Thunderbirds Flight Display
The 21st century Air Force section was actually the part of the show I was really looking for, as it featured the modern jet displays. Unfortunately after the first publication of the planned flight program this part shrunk more and more, leaving only two jet displays of the A-10 Thunderbolt and the F-22A Raptor, a UAV Parade featuring MQ-1 Predator/MQ-9 Reaper (not on Sunday) fly-bys and the USAF Heritage Flight. The participation of the UAVs was an unfamilar view at an airshow wen they suddenyl seemed to appear from nowhere, though the crowd saw their live coverage of the show for a very long time on the video screens - a very impressive of their capabilities and surely an outlook for the things to come...
The CV-22 demo had to be cancelled though an Osprey was parked on the display ramp. As a special treat the F-117A filled this gap performed some fly-bys, but not the full demo as the demo team was at Dubai the very same week-end.
Whereas though the full F-22A Raptor was incredible and caused yelling crowds it was very disappointing not to see a F-15 demonstration, no B-2 fly-by or any other of the USAF aircraft in the air, and the regular airshow visitor will even be amazed about the fact that there was no F-16 – besides the Thunderbirds ones, of course – in the air.
A-10A Thunderbolt II
QF-4E Phantom II
USAF Heritage Flight
The flying ended at 16h30 with some thundering sneak passes of the QF-4E, as its pilot had his last flight that day on the good old Phantom II after some years as a Heritage Flight pilot.
That end might seem quite early for a regular airshow, but in Nellis it already got dark at that time of the year. For the final fly-bys of the Phantom after the Heritage Flight for example the sun was already gone.
Aviation Nation 2007 clearly represented the "Heritage to Horizon" by presenting aerial displays from WWII, Korea and the Vietnam area together with the noticeable lack of modern aircraft that is most possible caused by the recent involvements in America's global war on Terrorism.
As I attended the show during three days and the weather was very unsettled a selection of the best photos taken this whole period was selected for this report. More information about the next show can surely be found on the website: http://www.aviationnation.org/
Below follows a selection of photos of the static display:
The Static Display
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