|Nellis AFB Aviation Nation 2016
|Location: Nellis AFB, Las Vegas, NV
|Admission: Free, Upgraded Chalet Seating Available
|Parking: Free, Off-Site at Las Vegas Motor Speedway
|Rating out of 10: 10
On the final weekend of air show season, Nellis Air Force Base hosted their 2016 Open House known as Aviation Nation celebrating 75 Years of Airpower. Highlighting the air show performers was the hometown U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds along with demonstrations by the F-22 Raptor, F-35 Lightning II, QF-4 Phantom II, F/A-18 Super Hornet, various warbirds, and multiple aircraft stationed at Nellis.
|Prior to aerial activities, the crowd got a chance to view nearly 100 static display aircraft including Nellis assets such as the F-22, F-35, F-16, and more. Others that were on display included one of the last active QF-4 Phantom II drones, an A-4 Skyhawk and L-39 Albatross from Draken International who participated in Green Flag during the week of the show, and the very rare Mi-24 Hind Russian helicopter. Admission onto the base was free and spectators could even upgrade to better seating in the chalet areas that were away from the busy crowds.
|Opening the flying portion of the show was the U.S. Air Force Academy "Wings of Blue" Parachute Team jumping to the National Anthem. The aircraft they jumped out of was a C-17 Globemaster III from the Hawaii Air National Guard based at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, which later returned to the sky for a solo performance as part of the Pacific Air Forces Demonstration Team. The solo demonstration by the C-17 showcased the tactical capabilities of the advanced transport.
The aerobatic performers at this show were very light but featured a nice lineup including Vicky Benzing in her Boeing Stearman biplane, the West Coast Ravens Formation Team flying roughly 24 different RV kit aircraft together, and Chuck Coleman in his Extra 300 aerobatic monoplane. Each of the three performers showcased the aerobatic capabilities of their aircraft before setting the stage for the upcoming warbirds and modern fighters. After the finish of the aerobatic part of the show, spectators got to witness a very special Nellis Heritage Parade which featured a wide variety of rare aircraft from the Commemorative Air Force and Planes of Fame Air Museum. The first phase of the parade featured a BT-13 Val Replica, P-40 Warhawk, T-6 Texan, B-25 Mitchell, one of only two flying P-39 Airacobras, and the only flying PB4Y Privateer in the world. The next round of aircraft included the P-51 Mustang, T-33 Shooting Star "Ace Maker II," F-86 Sabre, MiG-15 Fagot, and two T-28 Trojans. A MiG-21 Fishbed was originally scheduled to participate but had to cancel due to a fuel leak prior to departing for the show. Concluding the parade was a very rare performance by the QF-4 Phantom II based out of Tyndall AFB, FL. The QF-4 performed six passes for the crowd and showcased one of it's last public aerial demonstrations before going into retirement in December.
Once the Heritage Parade was finished, Gregory "Wired" Colyer flew his T-33 known as "Ace Maker II" to perform a solo routine. During his performance, he showcased the aerobatic capabilities of the T-33. Later, Colyer was joined by Bill Braack in the Smoke 'n' Thunder Jet Car for a race. Their race took place across the front runway and even featured the Wall of Fire in the end.
|Following a fantastic lineup of rare warbirds in the air, the air show shifted to modern day aircraft stationed at Nellis. Starting out the Nellis Capabilities Demonstration was the Air-to-Air simulation featuring two F-16 Fighting Falcon Aggressors featuring the Splinter and Arctic camouflage paint schemes, along with two F-15D Eagles. This demonstration featured a lot of incredible activity including flares and pyro. The jets came very close to the crowd and even showcased the tactical maneuvers that pilots would use in a dogfight. The second part of the act was the Air-to-Ground portion which featured two F-15E Strike Eagles and two A-10 Thunderbolt II's. During this part of the demonstration, spectators got to witness more pyro explosions as the F-15Es and A-10s performed simulated maneuvers that would depict close air support against enemy ground forces. After their routine two HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters flew over show center simulating a rescue mission of a pilot who was shot down in their aircraft.
|Another rare performer that flew at the show was the DC-10 Water Bomber aircraft. Joining the DC-10 was an OV-10 Bronco which left a smoke trail over the runway to depict the location to fly during a simulated fire fighting mission. The DC-10 came low over the runway and dropped 60,000 gallons of water mixed with retardant to showcase what its like to take out an actual fire in the mountains.
|Representing the U.S. Navy in this show was the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet of VFA-122 "Flying Eagles" part of the West Coast TAC Demo Team based out of NAS Lemoore, CA. The single-seat E model performed on Saturday while the twin-seat F model performed Sunday. Throughout the weekend the F/A-18 Demo Team showcased the special maneuvers of the aircraft in a stunning tactical demonstration.
|Towards the end of the show, the Air Force brought in its most advanced aircraft when the F-22 Raptor Demo Team out of Langley AFB, VA. Taking to the skies, it showcased the super maneuverability of today's only operational 5th generation air superiority fighter. Piloting the F-22 was Maj. Dan "Rock" Dickinson, who performed the final show of the year for the team in front of the Nellis crowd. After the demonstration, Maj. Dickinson flew the F-22 in formation with an F-35A Lightning II piloted by Maj. Will "D-Rail" Andreotta, and an F-86 Sabre piloted by Steve Hinton Sr. for the Heritage Flight. The Heritage Flight is a rare opportunity for spectators to witness historic fighter aircraft fly in formation with ones of the modern day. This was also the final show for the F-35A Heritage Flight Team out of Luke AFB, AZ, and Maj. Andreotta was able to showcase a few afterburner passes before landing the jet.
|Concluding the air show was the hometown U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds Aerial Demonstration Team, flying their final public demonstration of the 2016 season in their Block 52 F-16CJ Fighting Falcons. The Thunderbirds showcased their various formations and tactical maneuvers to their home crowd in Nellis. After their aerial performance was complete, the team got to meet up with their family members and sign autographs at the crowd line. Each Thunderbirds officer stays with the team for two years and this weekend was the final show for Flight Leader Lt. Col. Christopher Hammond, Right Wingman Maj. Alexander Goldfein, and Lead Solo Maj. Nicholas Eberling. Returning to the team next year will be Left Wingman Capt. Ryan Bodenheimer, Slot Pilot Maj. Nick Krajicek, and Opposing Solo Maj. Alex Turner who will be transitioning to the Lead Solo position.
|After the aerial activities of the show were completed, attendees were able to continue visiting the different static aircraft and booths before being shuttled back to the Motor Speedway parking. The after show was a great opportunity for photographers to get pictures of aircraft on the ground while the sun was setting. Sunday evening was a great opportunity to catch a couple of aircraft departing the show including the Pacific Air Forces C-17, L-39 Albatross, and other various aircraft.
This year's 2016 Aviation Nation Open House was a huge success and one of the best shows that Nellis AFB has ever hosted. Special thanks to the volunteers, performers, spectators, and airmen of Nellis who made this event happen. Next year's show for 2017 is scheduled on November 11-12.
|For video of Gregory "Wired" Colyer T-33 Shooting Star "Ace Maker II" click on above image
|Air Show Performers:
U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds
F-22 Raptor Demonstration Team & Heritage Flight with F-35 & F-86
F/A-18E/F Super Hornet VFA-122 Tactical Demonstration
Nellis Air-to-Air Capabilities Demo (2x F-16C, 2x F-15D)
Nellis Air-to-Ground Capabilities Demo (2x F-15E, 2x A-10C, 2x HH-60, Ground Forces)
C-17 Globemaster III PACAF Demo Team
U.S. Air Force Academy Wings of Blue Parachute Team
Nellis Heritage Parade: QF-4E Phantom II, T-33 Shooting Star, F-86 Sabre, MiG-15 Fagot, P-51 Mustang, P-40 Warhawk, P-39 Airacobra, T-6 Texan, 2x T-28 Trojan, B-25 Mitchell, PB4Y Privateer, BT-13 Val Replica
Gregory "Wired" Colyer T-33 Shooting Star "Ace Maker II"
Bill Braack Smoke 'n' Thunder Jet Car
Douglas DC-10 & OV-10 Bronco Water Drop
Vicky Benzing Stearman Act
West Coast Ravens RV Formation Team
Chuck Coleman Extra 300 Aerobatics
F-22A, F-35A, F-16C, F-15E, F-16C, A-10C, HH-60 - Nellis Weapons School
F-16C Fighting Falcon Aggressors (Lizard/Splinter) - Nellis AFB
QF-4E Phantom II - Tyndall AFB
RNLAF F-35A Lightning II
EA-18G Growler - VAQ-138 "Yellow Jackets"
F-5N Tiger II - VFC-13 "Fighting Saints" TOPGUN
A-4 Skyhawk & L-39 Albatross - Draken International
B-1B Lancer - Dyess AFB
T-38 Talon - Beale AFB
C-5M Super Galaxy - Travis
KC-10 Extender - Travis AFB
RC-135 Rivet Joint - Offutt AFB
MV-22 Osprey - "007"
AH-64D Longbow - U.S. Army
Mi-24 Hind - Russian Helicopter
and several civilian owned Warbirds
Report and photography by Geoffrey Arnwine for