(June 12, 2016)—The 4th & 5th of June was Kirtland’s 2016 Air Show, and boy did it feature some incredible acts: 18 aerial and ground performers, including the FA-18 Hornet Demo Team, the 58 SOW Special Operations Capabilities Exercise, the B-2 Stealth Bomber, Billy Werth, Melissa Pemberton, Bob Carlton, and Man vs. Jumbo Jet Mark Kirsch! The essence of this event was miraculous as it gave opportunity for Team Kirtland to give back to its community and say special thanks for their infinite and continuous support of all Kirtland does.
Since the start of my stint working with the DoD at the 150th Special Operations Wing (AKA ‘The Tacos’), I’ve come to acquire an entirely new appreciation and understanding for the military and our nation’s civil servants. It truly takes a village to make all the workings at a military installation happen. The people who run it and the communities that make effort to support and be one with it all- they are the heart and soul of life experienced at a military installation, and it’s one that all can come to feel by attending military organized & hosted air shows. Kirtland’s 2016 Air Show was the product of such combined efforts and although I can say, through observance, that it definitely wasn’t an easy mission to accomplish, it has become one of the biggest highlights of my year- especially the moment I met the F18 Naval Aviator who totally kicked ass launching off at 4Gs in his F/A-18 Hornet.
The start of the air show kicked off with a free-fall and parachute performance by the USAF Wings of Blue cadet Airman Carter. He showcased precision free-fall and parachute procedures that are signature of the program. Flowing behind him were the red and white stripes of the United States flag. The Wings of Blue program is the only one of its kind in which a cadet’s first jump is absolutely solo. The bravery!
In static display was the Lockheed C-5 Galaxy; a monstrous aircraft and in fact the largest in military use today. The C-5 Super Galaxy is specially designed to provide world-wide massive strategic airlift and can hold up to two Blackhawks or two full-size school busses or over 125,000 pounds in payload carriage. Just walking up to this insane creation makes one feel ant-sized and powerless. To know that man envisioned this monster and built it from scratch and imagination absolutely blows my mind. According to the co-pilot with whom I had interesting conversation, the most difficult task in piloting the C-5 Galaxy is taxiing it, which as you can imagine requires a sixth sense in ‘seeing’ impalpable pivot points concerning a 222 ft. wingspan, 247 ft. length and 65 ft. height. Just wow!
Following were select 1940s aircraft models, relics of a distant past, but one that plays a tremendous role in all things American and military to-date. The North American B-25J Mitchell, for one, was like something from a wormhole vision, shiny clad in metal and decorated with a detailed painting of an a la riskay redhead pin up doll on its fuselage — this baby was a true treasure. The B-25 was the face of World War II aviation and served in every arena, retiring in 1979. A medium bomber, this American creation would serve the US Army Air Forces, Royal Air Force, Soviet Air Force, and US Marine Corps across a span of nearly four decades. Of the 9,816 ever built, only a handful remain today; this one, for example, which is privately operated at Arizona’s Mesa Falcon Field.
Also in static display was the Rockwell B-1 Lancer – a frightening bomber plane, aerodynamic, supersonic, jet powered, and one of the best heavy strategic bombers to date. Introduced in 1986, this guy is one of 100 ever built and was a favorite among Air Show patrons. A low-level penetrator, the B-1 Lancer has a Mach 1.25 speed capability and served in combat operation at Operation Desert Fox (1998) and alongside NATO action in Kosovo (1999). There appears to be no retirement for this winged devil in the near future, and most likely one will be at every Air Show to come because they really are that cool.
One of the most insane of insane flight performances I’ve ever seen was by American pilot Skip Stewart, a world famous aerobatic performer who flew in his mega modified and extreme custom Prometheus Biplane. Barrel roll after barrel roll, Skip amazed the crowd. I swear I didn’t see a single head looking away from the sky- all eyes were on him. His signature knife move cut colored rope one by one with such precision, it seemed alien. Most shocking was his steep climb to space and his sudden and unexpected fall back down – it looked as if he lost control, but such is the magic of Skip Stewart- controlled he was.
And so it ended, Kirtland’s 2016 Air Show, which by the way celebrates the base’s 75th birthday. It was magnetic, energetic, and an educational event that showcased the best of America’s most impossible feats. Gives thanks and appreciation to your local air force base by attending their air shows, I promise it will open your eyes to an entirely unique world of splendor and technical achievement.