Prose & Photography: Nicholas Pascarella
When I was much younger, vintage warplanes were my muses. The Mustang, the Warhawk...Corsair, Zero, Spitfire, Lightning, 109 and 190...anything with a huge piston-pumping engine and machine guns perked my ears up. Inevitably, the wartime documentaries I digested as a child flowed into shows about modern combat aircraft as the Persian Gulf War raged on the other side of the globe. The sexy, sharp-edged fast jets that dominated the airwaves at that time were certainly interesting to me, but there was one jet that stood out.
Enter the Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II. She takes her name from the iconic WWII fighter-bomber juggernaut, the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt. With most P-47s armed with eight .50cal machine guns in addition to hardpoints for rockets and bombs, the "Jug," as she was called, was a formidable ground attack aircraft, functioning well enough to get pilots home after sustaining heavy battle damage. She was one of the heaviest single engine fighters of WWII due in part to the armor she wore. The A-10 Thunderbolt II not only improves these themes, but was built around them.
The running joke about this jet is about how ugly she is, eventually earning the nickname "Warthog" or just "Hawg" to the crew. In my twisted mind, there was nothing more beautiful for a warplane than building an airframe around a 30mm, 7 barrel autocannon. Everything about the jet is purposeful, and that makes her gorgeous to me; the low-mounted, wide, straight wings for slow speed maneuverability, the seemingly infinite hardpoints for munitions, the twin high-mounted TF-34 turbofans, the titanium bathtub protecting the pilot and other essential flight systems, the redundant hydraulic systems, a gun that fires 67 huge, depleted uranium, armor piercing rounds every second...absolutely everything was designed with close air support in mind.
The 'Hog first flew in 1972, with the 354th Tactical Fighter Wing at Myrtle Beach AFB being the first unit to achieve combat readiness in 1977. It was a long time after that until the A-10 was tested in combat, and until then, its very existence was controversial. After the Gulf War in 1991, even the biggest detractors of the aircraft heaped praise on its ability to loiter over the battle zone, provide support, absorb damage and still get the pilot home safe. It even scored air-to-air kills during the conflict, something the aircraft was not initially designed for.
To the friendly soldiers on the ground, the distinctive whine of the engines is a reassuring sound to hear. For the enemy, it is mortally terrifying. To airshow patrons, this sound has been sorely missed in recent years. This year, the A-10 Demonstration Team is shredding ozone across the United States once again. Full Disc photographers James Woodard, Ryan Kelly, Ryan Tykosh and I penciled in the closest performance to our geographic region and saddled up, hoping to catch the A-10 tearing up some New York skies.
Normally, the A-10 Demo Team pilot (along with the F-35, F-16 and F-22 Demo Teams when applicable) flies the 'Hog off the wing of a vintage warbird from yesteryear in a dissimilar formation for a series of elegant passes the Air Force calls the "Heritage Flight" in airshows across the country. In this case, the A-10 was slated to fly off the wing of a P-51 Mustang. The two aircraft fired up and taxied down the show line, Andrew McKenna and his polished silver 'Stang leading the way. Just past the show line, McKenna turned off the taxiway and headed towards the hangars.
Confused, we all listened to the radio chatter and realized sadly that the ceilings were too low for the Heritage Flight. Our frustration only lasted about until the A-10 turned onto the active runway and spooled up the TF-34s, as the A-10 demonstration was allowed to proceed. And boy, did it proceed. Captain Cody "ShIV" Wilton rocked a short field takeoff and climbed into the gloom before diving back into the show box to start his routine. He wrung out the jet over the pattern, and thanks to the poor weather, every turn yielded vapor; fluffing up on the wings and trailing ribbons from the wingtips.
During the demo, ShIV brings the jet down on mock strafing runs, pulling up violently at show center. When he does this, the jet makes an audible WHOOSH of noise as it flat-planes into the wind, squeezing clouds out of the air on the jet's topside and streaming tornadoes of vapor from the wingtips. This gutteral sound was heard even over the characteristic whine of the TF-34s as ShIV powered the jet into climbs and out of hard turns. It was just spectacular; an incredible treat decades in the making for me.
What I wasn't prepared for was the kindness of the team and their PAO, Staff Sergeant Betty Chevalier. As the sun sank to the mountains surrounding us after the show, we spent time chatting with McKenna, Chevalier and other members of the A-10 Demo Team ground crew near the hangars as McKenna's friend was going through checklists in the cockpit of his Mustang to take it back to its home. We all watched the P-51 cough to life, warm up and taxi out into the setting sun, the brilliant orange light reflecting off every polished surface of the aircraft. The sound of the engine faded as he taxied to the end of the runway and completed his magneto checks. It got quiet again and conversation resumed between the team, but as the Merlin wound up once more at the end of the runway, conversation ceased.
We all turned to watch the distant P-51 grow bigger and louder as the tail raised off the ground with the increasing speed. The Mustang finally lifted off halfway down the runway and climbed directly into a rainbow, likely called in by the A-10 ground crew. They didn't tell me how they called in rainbow support, but the team was kind enough to answer some of our other burning questions. Full Disc Aviation would like to sincerely thank each member of the A-10 Demo Team for their sacrifices and service to this country day in and day out to keep these jets flying.
Would you mind telling us a little about yourself? Name, background, hometown, years in the service, years working on the A-10, leisure activities, etc..open book!
Staff Sergeant Nicholas Reider: Yes of course, I am Nicholas Reider I was born in Denver, Colorado and graduated high school in Eaton, Colorado way out in the farm lands of Colorado. I enlisted right out of high school so I am starting on my seventh year in the service. I have been working on the A-10 for roughly 6-1/2 years now. I really enjoy anything outdoors, hunting, fishing, hiking, golfing and the list goes on. I also fly large scale model planes, it’s my way of flying until I get my actual pilots license.
Staff Sergeant Levi Barnes: I am SSgt Levi Barnes. I have been in the Air Force working on aircraft for eight years. I have been working on the A-10 for two years. I enjoy anything outdoors, such as boating, camping, and riding motocross. I also enjoy anything aviation related, and that is why I enjoy my job so much.
Staff Sergeant Tery’ance Horace: I’m SSgt Tery’ance Horace, a Dedicated Crew Chief with the A-10 Demonstration Team at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. I was born and raised in Groveton, Texas and I’ve served for 4 years now all on the A-10 and I’m one of the youngest guys, service wise, on the team. My leisure activities include, target shooting, Muay Thai, hunting, fishing, recreational sports, video games, and just trying new things.
Staff Sergeant Andre Gonzales: I’m SSgt Andre Gonzales. I’m an avionics craftsman with the 354th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, currently assigned to the A-10 Demonstration Team at Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, Arizona. I was born and raised in Denver, Colorado. I’ve been in the Air Force for 11 years and worked on A-10s my whole career. When I’m not at work I enjoy traveling, snowboarding and riding my motorcycle.
Senior Airman Joshua Dittman: My name is SrA Joshua Dittman. I lived in Moore, Oklahoma for 19 years and joined in the Air Force in August 2014. The A-10 is the only airframe I have worked and I have been doing that since arriving to Davis-Monthan in April 2015. While I’m not at work I enjoy golfing, riding my motorcycle, and hanging out with friends.
Staff Sergeant Betty Chevalier: I’m SSgt Betty Chevalier, public affairs lead for the A-10 Demonstration Team. I am originally from Pine, Idaho and joined the Air Force in 2012, so I have six years of service. My initially skill for the USAF is photojournalism, but working in Public Affairs, I have learned the additional PA skills of media relations and community engagement to complete the "PA triad”. I have been at Davis-Monthan AFB my entire career, so I have worked loosely with the A-10 my entire enlistment.
Technical Sergeant Hale Bradley: My name is Hale Bradley, I am a Technical sergeant in the USAF and a member of A-10 Thunderbolt II Demonstration Team. I am from Yuba City, California. I have been in the USAF for 15 years as an aerospace propulsions craftsman (jet engine mechanic).
Master Sergeant Derek Allen: MSgt Derek Allen and I am from Akron, OH. I have been in the USAF for 14 years, and my time has been spent as a Crew Chief on F-16s and A-10s. I love spending my down time with my beautiful wife Ercilia and our 3 children Hailey, David and Noah. We are big foodies so when we travel we love to try what the locals eat, so being on the Demo Team has allowed me to try different types of cuisine from around the country.
What is the most challenging thing about working airshows?
SSgt Levi Barnes: The most challenging part about airshows is not having access to all the tools we have back at home. We have limited space in our travel pods, so we can only take the most necessary tools.
SSgt Andre Gonzales: In my experience with the airshows I’ve worked so far, I believe the hardest part about working them is the constant traveling. We work long hours and most weekends. Travel days can be especially long… And don’t forget to use sunscreen!
SrA Joshua Dittman: The most challenging thing about working airshows would be working with very little support equipment. At airshows we only have the tools we can fit in our travel pods and the AGE that the airshows provides us; Unlike being at home where we can walk into our support section and check out different tools we need to perform a job or call on the radio and have a specific piece of AGE brought to us.
SSgt Nicholas Reider: The most challenging thing about working airshows is the lack of support equipment and parts we have to work with compared to home station. The airshows work diligently to get us everything we need for general operations and are always willing to accommodate us in the case we need to perform more in-depth maintenance.
SSgt Tery’ance Horace: The most challenging thing about working airshows I would have to say would be my time away from home. My wife is currently enrolled into a nursing program and being away from her while she’s going through that is rough.
SSgt Betty Chevalier: I think the most challenging part of working air shows for me as the sole PA, is capturing every aspect of our team at the show. I’ve never been in a position like this before, so learning how to balance all aspects of PA instead of just one has been my biggest challenge.
MSgt Derek Allen: The most challenging part is time. Truly there is not enough time in the day to spend it with all the kids and families that just want to see the A-10 and talk with us and Capt Wilton. It really sucks when it is times for the gates to close and there are people that still want to talk with you.
How does the team travel from show to show apart from the jets?
MSgt Derek Allen: The team travels mostly commercial, but there have been times where we have had Mil-Air support from the Marines and Army Reserves. If the show site is within driving distance than we will drive; that makes things easier on a show that is only 5-6 hours away.
What is the biggest logistical challenge bringing the A-10 team from show to show?
MSgt Derek Allen: The biggest challenge would be making sure we have everything we need. This can be equipment that the show is going to provide or just parts and tools that we may not have on hand. We travel with a very small footprint, so we only take what can fit in our aircraft travel pods. So there are times where we have to reach back to DM and have parts and things sent to us simply because we do not travel with cargo.
How much experience do you have maintaining the A-10?
SSgt Levi Barnes: I have been working on the A-10 for two years.
SSgt Tery’ance Horace: 4 years.
SSgt Andre Gonzales: 11 years.
SrA Joshua Dittman: I have been working on the A-10 for a little over three years.
SSgt Nicholas Reider: I have been working on the A-10 for 7 years now and have gotten to experience a lot. For my time on the aircraft I feel like I have a good amount of experience, I have always tried to get into any maintenance I can while at work. I have taken specialty courses that allow me to delve into other technicians tasks which in turn help me to better understand my aircraft.
TSgt Hale Bradley: The last 13 years I have been on the A-10 at Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, AZ. I have been in three squadrons here at DM: the 355th Component Maintenance Squadron, where I was part of the Test Cell section, the 357th Fighter Squadron and the 354th Fighter Squadron. I have deployed four times with the A-10 in Operation Enduring Freedom, Atlantic Resolve and Inherent Resolve.
How many hours of maintenance does the jet need between performances?
TSgt Hale Bradley: Post flight, we have inspection work cards that must be performed. The inspection can take a single crew chief about three hours as long as no discrepancies are found. Typically we have two-three crew chiefs inspecting the aircraft after/between flights which can take less than half that time to complete.
SSgt Nicholas Reider: ...this inspection is extremely important for ensuring the aircraft is ready to fly again...during [the inspection] we are looking at anything from flight control surfaces to tire tread wear and servicing. We also will refuel the aircraft and service liquid oxygen.
Could you talk about your specialty a little? What are some of your specific challenges? How much time does it take to keep your systems functioning at 100%?
SrA Joshua Dittman: My specialty is Electrical and Environmental Systems which means I deal with power distribution, wires, lights, cockpit pressurization, and the environmental system. The environmental system is much like the A/C in your car, you can make the cockpit of the aircraft as hot or as cold as you wish. The environmental system also includes canopy defog and canopy seal inflation. A challenge with my specialty is anything to do with a wire being bad. If you have a broken or shorted wire sometimes you could tear apart half the jet just to repair one wire. Keeping up with my system entails timed inspections and part time changes and routine maintenance.
TSgt Hale Bradley: As an engine mechanic, I am responsible for maintaining the engines health and trending parameters. I interpret engine parameters from an onboard electronic processing unit that is downloaded to a computer program which is used in daily flight snapshots as well as recording the whole flight to help troubleshoot fault codes...it all depends on what kind of faults occur during flight. Some days there’s no faults and just a simple review of the data to make sure all parameters are in limits, maybe one reading could show that just an easy recalibration of a sensor is required, only taking less than an hour to do, or it could show a negative trend of a reading that would cause for a an in-depth test of a certain system involving part replacement and retesting which could lead to several hours or even a few days of maintenance.
How quickly could the team turn the jet around for combat?
SSgt Tery’ance Horace: Honestly that would all depend on when our load crews could load up the pylons.
SSgt Levi Barnes: All of our Demo aircraft are 100% mission capable. We do remove some pylons to help reduce drag on longer cross country flights as well as to aid in the maneuvering ability of the A-10.
SSgt Nicholas Reider: In the event that our aircraft would need to be used for combat there would be very little prep time. It would take roughly 4-5 hours of work and our aircraft would be ready to fight.
What would be required to prepare the jet for combat?
TSgt Hale Bradley: The engines have a set number of cycles when they are to be removed for overhaul. We would have to verify if the engines had sufficient amount of cycles to carry through the length of a deployment plus some extra time. This also applies for several other time change parts on the engine and the aircraft. This can be a daunting task involving all the maintainers in the squadron from the top down.
SSgt Tery’ance Horace: Our jets are fully mission capable so our weapons crew would just load the other 7 pylons up and it would be good to go.
SSgt Levi Barnes: [The weapons crew would] load the munitions on the pylons. The gun would also have to be loaded.
What challenges do you face while operating at different locations weekly while maintaining a small footprint?
SSgt Andre Gonzales: A challenge we face with operating at different locations every week is making sure we have all the equipment that will be required to maintain our aircraft. We are able to install cargo pods on our jets for traveling and we can load a small amount of tools and equipment to take to the shows but the larger items will have to be tracked down and sometimes delivered to the airshow site. That is up to our superintendent/NCOIC and the airshow coordinator to make sure we have all the equipment.
TSgt Hale Bradley: Keeping a small footprint is a challenge itself. We would like to be able to have more equipment with us and available to us. These aircraft have several maintainers at home to keep the squadron flying. Sometimes just knowing you are the only one in your career field on the road can be difficult. It’s always nice to be able to bounce troubleshooting ideas off a coworker or maybe just have another person around that already knows what needs to be completed.
Could you talk about your specialty a little? What are some of your specific challenges? How much time does it take to keep your systems functioning at 100%?
SSgt Andre Gonzales: As an avionics troop, I work on radio communications, navigation, pilot’s cockpit gauges and much more. There are many different computers that are constantly going through software and sometimes hardware upgrades. Finding the time between airshows to complete the upgrades or just general troubleshooting can be a challenge. It’s a full time job to keep all the systems operating to their full potential and a never ending task.
TSgt Hale Bradley: As an engine mechanic, I am responsible for maintaining the engines health and trending parameters. I interpret engine parameters from an onboard electronic processing unit that is downloaded to a computer program which is used in daily flight snapshots as well as recording the whole flight to help troubleshoot fault codes.
What goes wrong the most on these jets?
SSgt Levi Barnes: There is not [only] one thing that goes wrong on the aircraft. The most common part we change is the tires. This is because we cannot take tires on the road with us. We ensure that we have fresh tires on the aircraft before the shows, so we know they will last the whole time the aircraft is on the road.
SSgt Andre Gonzales: It’s hard to pinpoint one particular thing that goes wrong with our aircraft. Computers go bad, actuators leak, latches and panels crack from stress. I would say we’ve spent the most time cleaning them and trying to make them look pretty.
SSgt Nicholas Reider: The aircraft are always kept in the best condition possible, but just as components wear out on your car, components wear out on the aircraft. During the show season tires are the quickest components to wear out, due mainly to the varying runways we go to.
SrA Joshua Dittman: I deal with more light issues than anything else on the jet. The majority of the time it is as simple as just replacing the bulb.
TSgt Hale Bradley: I would have to say fluid leaks. The dedicated iron we fly stresses the airframes on a more frequent basis then most of our aircraft in the squadron. This usually results in a loose fitting that is easily re-torqued to specifications.
What are the biggest challenges keeping the jet functioning at 100%?
SSgt Levi Barnes: The biggest challenge is not knowing what is going to go wrong with the aircraft. There is no way to predict what is going to go bad or stop working.
TSgt Hale Bradley: Since the A-10 is no longer being manufactured it would have to be part availability. On some occasions we may have to wait a couple of days to receive select parts.
SSgt Nicholas Reider: The biggest challenge keeping the aircraft in top shape is again the fact that we don’t have the ability to bring a large amount of parts and equipment with us. Rest assured, we will not allow our aircraft to perform unless it is in top condition; safety for the pilot and spectators is our top priority.
Was there additional training to join this team?
MSgt Derek Allen: There is definitely some additional training that comes with being a member of the Demo Team. I think the one that stands out the most was our Public Affairs training. I never would have thought that so much goes into it, but in the end it makes you a better public speaker.
SSgt Betty Chevalier: During the time on the team, we have all needed to learn different skills to be the best at our jobs. For example, everyone on the team does media interviews so we have made it a task for everyone to get media experience.
TSgt Hale Bradley: Yes, every member of a demonstration team is required to be trained on tasks that may be outside of their career field. For example, an avionics technician should also be able to replace a tire or troubleshoot a hydraulic issue with a certain level of knowledge...public speaking has always been a challenge for me. Being on the team some of our events have pushed me to speak in certain settings I would otherwise be extremely uncomfortable. I still get nervous but I am getting better.
SSgt Levi Barnes: ...Once on the team I have learned a lot more specialist’s tasks. Since we are a small team, we all work together to ensure the aircraft are ready to go, even if it does not include our career field.
SSgt Andre Gonzales: Being such a small crew we all knew that we would be helping our partners with daily tasks and when any issues would arise. I’ve learned so much about the way other careers outside of my specialty operate since I’ve been on the team.
SSgt Nicholas Reider: One has to have a wealth of experience in order to be hired. Due to the fact our team is in its first year after sequestration seven years ago, there were many things we had to learn as a team to bring it all together. For example, the entire launch sequence was started from scratch and put together as a team.
SSgt Tery’ance Horace: Only 8 maintenance members are on the team and 2 of them coordinate airshows and that’s an 8-10 hour day in itself. However, the 6 other maintenance members are responsible for the 3 jets we are assigned to. You gain experience like an avionics technician shooting wires or an electrical/environmental specialist troubleshooting a liquid oxygen converter. It's experience that I wouldn’t have the opportunity working back in my regular assignment.
What is your favorite part of working with the A-10 Demo Team?
SSgt Betty Chevalier: My favorite part of working with the team is really the team itself. We are a small knit unit and it takes all of us to make our mission happen. We all have a unique set of skills and we know that each member is valuable. The comradery that comes with being a part of the team really adds to the whole demo team as well. We travel and work with each other, probably more often than we are at our own homes, so being part of the team is liking having a second family.
SSgt Tery’ance Horace: My favorite part is the people that I work with and the people I get to meet on the shows. The amount of comradery that has been shown and the close knit community of the aviation world is so awesome.
SSgt Andre Gonzales: My favorite part about the Demo Team is getting to see new places. I really enjoy traveling so being able to do it as part of my job is awesome.
SSgt Nicholas Reider: My favorite part about being on the team is getting out in the community at the shows and interacting with the people. As a young kid I remember being at airshows and seeing the performers out there. I always looked up to them and thought it was the coolest thing, now I get the chance to be that person and I’m enjoying every second of it.
SSgt Levi Barnes: My favorite part of airshow is getting to travel all over the country. We are getting to see different areas of the country that we normally would not go. We get to meet so many interesting people at these shows and tell them why the A-10 is special and how it us used every day.
SrA Joshua Dittman: My favorite part of working with the team is all the different jobs I get to learn. Being a specialist I don’t get to normally launch out the jet or perform different inspections that are required to fly. Being on the team I was able to learn different things like these.
MSgt Derek Allen: My favorite part would be the interaction with the high school students. When you’re talking with a senior class about the Air Force and what it has done for you and you see theirs eyes light up. It is like you just showed them a different path that they could take, and it is awesome to be part of the recruitment of the next generation of Airmen, they may be me some day.
Has anyone had a notable interaction with airshow fans?
MSgt Derek Allen: Getting to show kids with special needs around our jets always stands out to me and hold a special place in my heart. My oldest son, David, has autism, so when we travel I make it a point to make sure I make that air show the time of their lives. A lot of shows will use the Friday practice day to bring out the kids and their families; it helps with sensory issues, and I love it because they have so much passion and just want to be there.
SSgt Levi Barnes: At the Planes of Fame Museum in Chino, CA, I got to meet Dick Cole. He is the last living of the Doolittle Raiders, and was General Doolittle’s Co-Pilot.
SSgt Andre Gonzales: It’s always a great experience when we are able to talk to any veterans at the airshows. I find it humbling when talking to combat vets that have experienced the A-10 first hand while in combat. They really show their appreciation for the aircraft, pilot, and maintainers.
SSgt Betty Chevalier: My most notable interaction I had with a fan was actually very emotional. During our demonstration, I was taking photos near the back of the crowd. As we started the Heritage Flight, a gentleman walked over to me with tears streaming down his face and all he wanted to do was thank me and the team for bringing the A-10 to the show. He had served overseas and the A-10 was one of the reasons he came home from combat. Just to see the Hawg fly was everything to him. It’s a moment I’ll never forget.
What is the selection process for crew for the demo team?
TSgt Hale Bradley: It starts with a simple application form with some pertinent info then a few basic questions i.e…. experience/skill level, why you would like to be a part of the team. Then the interviews start where we would go a little more in-depth of personal goals and different reasons why they would like to be a part of the team.
SSgt Levi Barnes: ...then there is a face to face interview with the team leadership. After the leadership talks it over, they decide who would be best fit for the team.
What is the most rewarding thing about doing airshows?
SSgt Tery’ance Horace: The most rewarding thing about doing airshows is the people you meet and knowing the little boy or girl you gave a sticker to might one day do the same thing that you do or even fly the aircraft that I work on. The amount of comradery that has been shown and the close knit community of the aviation world is so awesome.
TSgt Hale Bradley: Being able to show the public what we do as part of the aircraft maintenance career fields. It’s one thing to see our pilot showcase the awesome capabilities of the premier close air support aircraft, but it’s another to show the skill set and training of the men and women on the ground who keep these and many other aircraft types flying.
SSgt Nicholas Reider: The most rewarding part of being on the team for myself is getting out and talking with the youth. Whether it’s that 16 year old that’s considering joining the armed forces or that six year old seeing aircraft up close for the first time.
SrA Joshua Dittman: The most rewarding thing about airshows is seeing the reactions of the fans when they see the jet fly and seeing how excited they are when they come over to talk with us. Being able to brighten someone’s day makes your day just that much better.
SSgt Betty Chevalier: The most rewarding thing about airshows is really the crowd interactions. To see the awe in children’s faces when they watch the performers is inspiring, even to grown adults. To talk to kids, see and hear their excitement, knowing in that moment, you are a hero to them is really just indescribable. Additionally, with the A-10, we hear so many stories from veterans of all branches and even our allied armed forces veterans. To bring the A-10 out to these veterans, give them a chance to just tell their story and enjoy the moment with the A-10 is extremely rewarding and something we probably won’t experience to this extent anywhere but airshows.
SSgt Levi Barnes: The most rewarding thing about airshows is getting to talk to kids and get them interested in aviation. I enjoy seeing the looks on their faces as they see the A-10 performing maneuvers.
SSgt Andre Gonzales: It’s very rewarding interacting with children. I like when they are interested in the aircraft and military and I might be able to help influence their decision to join someday.
MSgt Derek Allen: Getting to watch the Airmen on the team grow has been the most meaningful to me. Their development in the Air Force is huge as they prepare to take on roles and grow as Non-Commissioned Officers.
Where has been your favorite place to demo the jet? Why?
SSgt Betty Chevalier: My favorite place we have done a demo this year is probably Wings Over Northern Michigan, in Gaylord, MI. This wasn’t a huge show, but the small town feel and interaction with the community really stuck with me. They lineup for the show was awesome and they really made everyone welcome.
SSgt Andre Gonzales: I’ve enjoyed all the shows that I’ve been to so far but Chino, CA and Gaylord, MI stand out to me. Everybody from the airshow coordinators to the airshow fans all treated us great and hopefully we can go back to both airshows next year.
SSgt Nicholas Reider: So far my favorite location has been at the Thunder over Louisville air show. This show is unique in so many ways. For starters, it takes place over the Ohio River which allows people from both sides to line the banks and see an incredible display. Also, the entire airshow is ran from the top floors of a hotel along the Ohio River.
SSgt Tery’ance Horace: Gaylord, Michigan for the Wings over Northern Michigan was possibly my favorite show. Just because of how everyone from the fans to the people running the air show were all very welcoming.
TSgt Hale Bradley: Thunder over Louisville was a favorite for me. The show takes place over the Ohio River which is also the border of Indiana and Kentucky, not to mention one of the largest fireworks displays in the U.S., but to see all of the people along both sides of the river banks and all the people on the surrounding hotel balconies was an amazing sight.
SSgt Levi Barnes: My favorite place I have been is Chino, CA. The Planes of Fame Museum put on an awesome show. The hospitality was amazing. Everyone there did everything they could to help us and ensure we had everything we needed.
MSgt Derek Allen: We got to do the Thunder Over Louisville this year, which was our first show over water. So you might think that is enough to be cool, but the water was the Ohio River, a huge bonus for just a kid from Akron. Getting to hear my voice echo up and down the river valley as Capt Wilton ripped it up; man it doesn’t get any better than that.
What is next for you?
SSgt Levi Barnes: I am planning on applying for OTS and hoping to become a pilot for the USAF.
SSgt Betty Chevalier: I’m not really sure what come next for me. I’m scheduled to do this through next season so I don’t know where I will go. I am hoping to PCS to a different base and work on increasing my public affairs knowledge and skill.
SSgt Nicholas Reider: After leaving the team I plan on continuing my education. Once that is completed, I will get my private pilot’s license and work on getting my hours up.
SrA Joshua Dittman: I am not really sure what is next for me. I would like to go to Sheppard AFB and be an instructor for my specialty sometime in my career, but for after the team I am unsure of where I will be.
SSgt Andre Gonzales: I have been fortunate enough to be selected to do a second year on the team so that is what I have in store for me next year. By the end of next season I hope to have been promoted to Technical Sergeant and that will open up a lot of career opportunities for me. Other duty stations will be available to me so maybe I will pursue that route. If stay at Davis-Monthan I can try to work for Quality Assurance or go back to the flightline as an expeditor.
TSgt Hale Bradley: I would really like to go back to my flight section and work with the rest of the men and women of our squadron, but I also feel like I could be a benefit as an instructor in a Field Training Detachment or technical school instructor.
SSgt Tery’ance Horace: I do believe I am only doing a year after that I am told I am going to Aircraft Recovery which has been a place I’ve always wanted to go to get even more experience.
MSgt Derek Allen: Honestly I do not know what I will be doing after the Demo Team. I still have the 2019 season as the Superintendent so we will see what the 355 AMXS/CC has planned for me then, until then I will be part of the best single-ship demonstration team that ACC has to offer.