Tag Archives: Air Show

Airman shows skills as F-22 demo pilot

 by Airman 1st Class Austin Harvill
633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

1/2/2013 – LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va. (AFNS) — (This feature is part of the “Through Airmen’s Eyes” series on AF.mil. These stories focus on a single Airman, highlighting their Air Force story.)

The serenity of a sleepy, morning sky broke as a dark form rose from the ground and blotted out the sun. An F-22 Raptor maneuvered through the dawn, banking and rolling, rising and falling at impossible angles. Through the cockpit window, a faceless visor disguised the pilot’s exertion.

He angled the jet into a vertical climb as the engines roared to defy gravity. His plane leveled out, and he slowly spun to the earth.

Such complex maneuvers become routine for one pilot at Langley Air Force Base, Va.

Capt. Patrick Williams, the new Air Force F-22 Raptor demonstration pilot, practiced these maneuvers to give crowds worldwide a taste of both the Raptor’s, and the Air Force’s, capabilities.

“People typically see the Air Force on the news, and that’s it,” said Williams. “The air show is the best way we can say ‘Hey America, look at this awesome airplane you’ve given us. This is why we are so successful at what we do.'”

Before taking the controls of the world’s premier, fifth-generation jet fighter, Williams honed his skills in the back-country skies of Idaho at the age of five.

“I still remember my very first log-book entry,” said Williams. “My dad let me sit on his lap during a flight, so he wrote down the entry. It said ‘we saw horses and cows in the Salmon River valley.'”

After speaking with his father about the future of flying as a career, Williams embraced his desire to fly fighters by joining the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Co., as a prospective pilot.

During his tenure at the academy, Williams participated in the glider program, became a cadet instructor and graduated with a degree in Astronautical Engineering. Upon completion of his academy training, he travelled to Mississippi to begin basic fighter training, after which he began training to fly the F-15C Eagle.

Williams was assigned to the 12th Fighter Squadron in Alaska, and then transferred to the Raptor once the 90th Fighter Squadron stood up. After showing his skills in the cockpit at both Alaska and Hawaii, the Air Force selected him to become the next Raptor demo pilot.

With the new Raptor demo season quickly approaching, Williams said he was excited to show the world the power of the jet. The demo team plans to tour across the country and hopes to make some international stops as well.

As a demo pilot, Williams said he is honored to be the face of both the Raptor and the Air Force.

“I have to pinch myself every time I get out of the jet,” said Williams. “You land, look back and think ‘I can’t believe I get to fly that airplane.'”

Williams shares his passion for flying with the awestruck audience each time he hops into the cockpit to perform. His life in the sky inspires those watching to reach up and grab their own goals, even if they are small boys from Idaho.

“Hometown Hero” flight during AF Week Salt Lake City

There’s more to the mission of the Air Force Thunderbirds than performance, precision and indescribable skill.  Recruitment and retention are at the core of their operation, and with that comes participation in the community as well.

While the Thunderbirds are the center of attention at air shows, they like to share the spotlight with citizens of the communities that support them through their “Hometown Heroes” program. Ogden-area resident Megan Funk was one such local hero to be honored by the Thunderbirds team during Air Force Week Salt Lake City June 4.

Megan recently completed her first year as a second grade teacher. It’s early in her career as an educator, but she’s been around long enough to provide infinite life lessons to her seven- and eight-year-old students, namely “teaching young kids about giving to others.” It was this theme that brought Megan into the back seat of Thunderbird #7.

While the media hype may surround the Thunderbirds the moment they land, this particular flight was to recognize Megan as a Hometown Hero.

“You run the ride,” Thunderbird #7, “Taz,” told Megan before he briefed her on what to expect during her F-16 flight. Their signature diamond formation, the delta, rolls, turns and pulling Gs… she would experience it all.

“You’ll do what everyone will see this weekend,” he said.

Like his fellow pilots, Taz boasts an impressive flying resume, illustrated by a few notable numbers. His flying career started with the F-15 in Japan and Florida, and his F-16 career followed in Nevada where he flew with the National Guard. Taz’ flight times are no small feat: he has spent over 1500 hours in F-15 and 700 hours in the F-16.

An amusing connection was made between pilot and copilot during their pre-flight briefing, Megan mentioned that her and her husband, Curtis, had their first viewing of Top Gun the night before her flight. Taz smiled and reminisced that Top Gun was the movie he took his wife to on their first date in 1986. Megan was born just one year prior.

The Thunderbirds’ aircraft are the most mission-capable, mechanically-sound F-16s in the fleet. The maintainers and support crew are the cream of the crop: they are perfectionists in all they do, from their support to their sharp uniforms. They are primo representatives of who we are as a United States Air Force, supporting a vast mission through excellence in all they do.

Thanks to 2nd Lt. Shannon Laubenthal for writing this post and Alex Lloyd for providing the photos.