Golden Air Tattoo
Nellis April 1997,
In 1996 it became clear that a good week of spotting with some
interesting air show became a possibility in the USA. In April of 1997 the USAF
would celebrate its 50th Anniversary with a show at Nellis in the same
period there where shows at Fallon and El Torro so a trip was born.
The Golden Air Tattoo, to celebrate 50 years of USAF, was promoted as
the show of the century so
expectations where very high. On arrival for the press day it became
obvious that the rumours where
indeed rumours but still there was more then enough to see at the show
The static contained most of the type's current in service at that time,
alongside a collection historic USAF
The amount of highlight was big with aircraft like the B-2 on the static
and on the other side of the
envelope the oldest airplane still in service a NT33A from CALSPAN,
making its last public appearance
before final retirement to the museum at Wright Patterson AFB.
Being on the base on the arrival and practice day gave a lot of photo
opportunities that are not possible on the show day it self. Like taking
pictures of the static, in Europe we are complaining about fences and
wires around the aircraft. Well in the US it is normal to sit under
every aircraft and watch the show from there, and yes you can sit
underneath a T-33.
The Air Force participants on the static where from all the trades of
the air force. All the present bombers where present as where the
bombers of WWII except from the B-29 FIFI. In the transport section the small
C-12 was present as well as the C-5 and C-141, whilst one area of the
static could boast seven variants of the C-130 Hercules.
Interesting planes on the static included a NASA YF-15, F-4 Phantoms in
a freshly applied Vietnam style camouflage scheme, and a variety of
trainers and local aircraft from Nellis AFB
From the trainers almost every type of trainer used by the air force was
present, trainers really do well as a warbird.
Other interesting static participants included a E-8 and a EF-111.
Parked next to the EF-111 was a EA-6 from the Navy, at that moment there
where planes to us them for the air force from the moment the EF-111
Representative of the 57 wing where spread over the static, those
aggressor F-16's due look nice. Even the future type for 57 Wing was
present in the form off a F-22. This was one of two
YF22A prototypes built and was displayed carrying the false serial
‘86022’. The true identity was actually 870700, which was the aircraft
that crash landed at Edwards AFB in 1992, and was subsequently rebuilt
to static display standard only.
Before the start of a Korean War tribute involving four beautifully
restored Sabres, three F86Fs and a Canadair CL13B, which together
outnumbered the ‘opposition’, which was represented by an equally
immaculate Chinese built Mig15.
We had the opportunity to photograph
retired Brigadier General Steve Ritchie, a veteran pilot ace, with five
confirmed kills to his credit, all Mig21s whilst flying the F4 over
Vietnam in front of a F-4 decorated with the 5 kills.
Being the only U.S. Air Force pilot ace
of the Vietnam War, Steve Ritchie, then a captain, shot down his fifth
MiG-21 on Aug. 28, 1972, making him the only U.S. Air Force pilot ace in
the Vietnam War, but his most thrilling aerial dogfight took place
nearly two months earlier, when he shot down two MiGs with three
missiles in 1 minute, 29 seconds - not bad, considering a bone
specialist told him as a highschooler he'd never play football nor
anything else that strenuous
These are the kills he made during this period.
Ritchie joined Navy Cmdr. Randy
Cunningham as the only pilots among the five American aces during the
Vietnam War. The other three were WSOs , Capt. Charles B. "Chuck"
DeBellevue (air force), LTJG William P. Driscoll (navy) and Capt. Jeff
Feinstein (air force)
One very interesting trio from 475 WEG, included a E-9 A type
never seen outside the USA and two targets.
A QF-4E and a QF-106A which was still sporting some interesting artwork
and titles from its previous owner when it was in service with the New
Jersey ANG’s 177 FIG. Interestingly this was one of the aircraft we
pictured in a visit to the New Jersey ANG’s 177 FIG in 1987 the last
year of the operational life of the F-106.
As far as foreign static participation was concerned, this was confined
to a pair of RAF Tornado off 31 Squadron and 617 Squadron, alongside
their support tanker, a VC-10 from 101 Squadron. Whilst immediately
behind the RAF contingent was a RAAF F-111C from 6 Squadron. Further
down the static was a Chilean Boeing 707 and a Hercules from Brazil Both
in support of there countries display team.
The flying display itself opened with what we now call the heritage
flights. This comprised of A-10 and P-40 Warhawk, F-15 and P-38L
Lightning, and finally F-16 and P-51 Mustang. The display then followed
a set pattern of themed flypasts like a transport group and displays.
There were a total of five display teams in attendance, one of which,
not surprisingly, was the resident Thunderbirds. The remainder comprised
of the Halcones from Chile (Extra 300), Esquadrilha da Fumaça or Smoke
Squadron from Brazil (T27 Tucano), the Snowbirds from Canada (CT114
Tutor), and Blue Impulse from Japan (Kawasaki T4). The Japanese team was
especially welcome as it was making its display debut outside Japan. The
aircraft had actually been dismantled and shipped to San Diego, and then
reassembled and flown out from North Island NAS.
This was also not the first time we had seen the Thunderbirds display
and experienced their style of doing a display. Not at all the style of
the European teams.
Of all the historic types in the static,
there two that made a big impression on us the EC-121 Warning Star
operated by the Global Aeronautical Foundation, and the MATS C-121 this
magnificent silver aircraft was most impressive on the ground but even
more during is aerial display.
The Air Tattoo itself lived up to all
expectations, the weather was glorious and the variety of aircraft was
good . Highlights included a airworthy Lockheed Constellations, passes
of a B-2 and F-117, and of course the
aircraft flowing by legends as Chuck Yeager and Bud Anderson. They flew
P-51 Mustangs restored in the colours of those flown by them. And Steve
Ritchie displaying a F-4 Phantom.
|We would like to thank the people
of the Public Relations at Nellis AFB for there time and effort in arranging
during the show.