THROUGH THE LENS: 2017 Heritage Flight Training & Certification Course
Report by Steven Valinski
Photos by Paul Negri
February 20, 2016
Every year, Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, Arizona hosts the USAF’s Air Combat Command’s 2017 Heritage Flight Training & Certification Course. Taking advantage of Southern Arizona’s mild weather this time of year, the Heritage Flight Training offers an opportunity for civilian and military pilots to train and familiarize prior to the upcoming air show season.
For the USAF, the USAF Heritage Flight and solo demo teams are a way to showcase airpower past and present around the U.S. and, in some cases, internationally. Modern fighters such as the F-16 Fighting Falcon, F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter are seen flying alongside USAF airpower of the past such as the P-51 Mustang, P-38 Lightning, P-47 Thunderbolt and the F-86 Sabre. In addition, this year marks the return of the beloved A-10 Thunderbolt II “Warthog” as part of this year’s Heritage Flight team.
For Davis-Monthan AFB, this year’s Heritage Flight Training & Certification Course was special. As the training base for the A-10, the aircraft’s return has a special significance for the base. Also, 2017 marked the 20th anniversary of the training at the base.
The USAF Heritage Flight is a partnership between the Air Force Heritage Flight Foundation and the USAF. The foundation handles the civilian side, providing access to some of the best warbirds and warbird-rated pilots in the United States. The USAF supplies the modern aircraft along with designated demo pilots or teams. The USAF has the F-16 Viper, F-22 Raptor and F-35 Demo Teams. Since the A-10 will only be flying in the Heritage Flight, the USAF designated pilots for the flights. These pilots came from Davis-Monthan’s own 357th Fighter Squadron (357 FS) for the west coast flights and from Moody AFB for the east coast flights.
Throughout the weekend pilots work on familiarization and performing various formations with different combinations of aircraft. While this may appear to be easy for the experienced pilots, it is not. Having an F-22 slow down to fly alongside a P-51 and other warbirds takes the repetitive training the course provides throughout the weekend. It is always interesting to see the progression of the training throughout the weekend as by the last day of training, the formations are tight and with precision spacing.
The Heritage Flight Training and Certification Course will always be an important event for the USAF’s ACC to showcase airpower past and present as a way to bring the public in on what the USAF is about historically and present-day. It also provides an excellent tool for recruiting, as children of all ages can see the air superiority of the F-22 Raptor flying alongside a WWII classic like the P-51 Mustang. Davis-Monthan AFB will continue to be the important host for this event.
The 2017 Heritage Flight Training and Certification Course took place at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Feb. 9-12, with aircraft and personnel arriving Feb. 7-8 and departing Feb. 13.
Now we take a look at the 2017 Heritage Flight Training & Certification Course, THROUGH THE LENS…