JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS Va. —
Within nine months the 13-member U.S. Air Force Raptor Demonstration Team supported more than 20 air shows in four countries and 16 states; ending the 2017 season at the Aviation Nation Air and Space Expo at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.
The demonstration team exists to educate current and future generations on the long-term importance of the U.S. Air Force and its airpower, while also enhancing community and international relations. Additionally, the team honors the sacrifices of those currently serving as well as the sacrifices of those who served before them.
“It was such an honor to be a part of the 2017 demonstration team,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. James Fleming, F-22 Raptor Demo Team chief. “We are fortunate to showcase the best aircraft in the world to the public and showcase the awesome jobs we have in the Air Force.”
The team consists of, four dedicated crew chiefs, three avionics specialists, a weapons loader, aircrew flight equipment specialist, public affairs specialist, team chief, team superintendent and demonstration pilot.
“These last two years have been the best of my Air Force career,” said Staff Sgt. Robert Rodriguez, F-22 Raptor Demo Team AFE specialist. “Being able to travel the world and meet the different demonstration teams from the U.S. and overseas, was a great experience.”
During the 2017 season, the team showcased the fifth-generation aircraft in places it had never previously performed.
“It was awesome to see the reactions of people seeing the Raptor for the first time,” said Fleming. “I have been a part of the F-22 program for the last 12 years (as a dedicated crew chief). I have become used to being around Raptors. It makes me proud to see the ‘awe’ when people see the Raptor demo for the first time.”
The Raptor made an appearance for the second time at the Royal International Air Tattoo this year. The U.S. Air Force’s 70th Anniversary was highlighted during their time there by displaying its lineage and advancements in military aircraft with static displays and aerial demonstrations. However, the United Kingdom was not the only overseas trip the team made.
“My favorite part of the team was seeing and experiencing different places like Australia, South Korea and all over the states while showcasing the F-22 Raptor,” said Rodriguez. “If it wasn’t for the demo team I probably wouldn’t have had the chance to go to some of those places.”
While at the different shows, team members had the opportunity to interact with the public, through media outlets, community engagements or when they visited the team’s tent, where they learned about the Air Force and the F-22 Raptor.
“The team not only instills confidence in the Air Force,” said Fleming. “But makes the American public proud of their Armed Forces and what we are doing to protect freedom.
The team’s final show for the 2017 season is at the Nov. 11 and 12 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.