November was a crazy busy month with all of the excitement of more and bigger shows at DeepRockDrive, but I was able to get away for a weekend with Alex to go to Aviation Nation 2007 at Nellis AFB just outside of Vegas. This year is the 60th anniversary of the creation of the Air Force, so it looks like this was a bigger show than usual.
Any regular reader of Duffergeek will know that I go to the Blue Angels show in Seattle each year and take lots and lots of pictures of the planes, trying to get helmet shots - where you can actually see the pilot's helmets and, ideally, what they're looking at. I figured that Aviation Nation was a 2 day opportunity for helmet shots and I was not disappointed :)
In addition to two shows by the Air Force Thunderbirds,we saw some great performances featuring a number of aircraft spanning the history of the Air Force as well as the standard stunt spectaculars we've come to expect from great airshows.
The most amazing thing at the entire show, though, was the F22 Raptor. ZOMG this thing is incredible, performing maneuvers that I was pretty sure were not possible in a fixed wing aircraft, let alone an incredibly powerful jet fighter. Thanks to the vectored thrust on the F22, it can do incredibly tight turns and loops, in one case doing a full 360° loop IN PLACE. While I've seen biplanes do tail slides, where the plane flies vertically to a stall speed, then starts to slide down towards the ground backwards, doing this in a jet usually features one additional step known as "ejection". Not so with the F22 though. He slid backwards, did a flat spin, and then just headed forward into the wild blue yonder. Of course, it is also a supersonic fighter so when it wanted to, it would shake your guts as it flew by. Most air forces can't match our previous generation of fighters and this one is a whole new level. Too bad we don't fight air wars so much any more...
The Thunderbirds were, as usual, fantastic. All of the classic close formation flying, combined with two very nice Las Vegas days. I had never noticed before that Thunderbird 5 has its number painted upside down - funny since it does so many inverted maneuvers where it looks downright normal.
My full set of photos from the show are here and include some really fun shots of their fake bombing runs where a plane would fly by and they would blow stuff up on the ground and sometimes made smoke rings that would hang around for several minutes.