LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va. –
The F-15 East Coast Demonstration Team, one of seven single-ship demonstration teams assigned to Air Combat Command, concluded 27 years of performance history Dec. 1.
After averaging more than 30 air shows a year, in front of about four million people, in the four corners of the United States and everywhere in between, the 20-man demo team stood down in order to stand up the F-22 Raptor Demonstration Team.
"This transition is healthy for the Air Force, and it's exciting to pass the torch and conclude the history of the team and a 27-year era," said Maj. Jason "Bondo" Costello, the fifteenth and final F-15 East Coast Demonstration Team pilot at Langley.
Because there are now two full squadrons operating the Raptor and only one squadron to fly the F-15 mission, it would be difficult to sacrifice two F-15s each weekend to continue flying demonstrations, said Major Costello. Therefore, it only makes sense to embrace the new aircraft and highlight its capabilities worldwide.
Maj. Paul "Max" Moga will be the first pilot for the Raptor demo team. He is in the process of establishing a demonstration sketch for the Raptor demo team. Air Combat Command will unveil this sketch at air shows beginning in spring 2008.
Some of the highlights of the Raptor demonstrations could include a max performance takeoff, fast passes, vertical climbs, and high alpha loops with a horizontal turn then straight up and a back into a loop, said Major Costello.
Until then, the Raptor demo team will do small demonstrations, about five or six passes, around the United States to highlight some of the aircraft's capabilities.
"It's an honor to have the responsibility of bringing the Raptor to the public," Major Moga said.
To pay tribute to the F-15 demo teams' accomplishments, the demo team invited past and present demo team members, local civic leaders and media for one last air show.
Amongst the attendees was Gen. Frank Gorenc, former 1st Fighter Wing commander and F-15 demo team pilot.
"We flew just before the Gulf War and right after," General Gorenc said. "It was exciting because it was during this time that everyone appreciated us. Military power had become evident, and the F-15 was symbolic of that. Now, it's critical to get the Raptor out there for people to see because its speed will be valuable in the Global War on Terrorism."
During the show, Major Costello performed an aggressive tactical demonstration of the Eagle's precise aerobatic maneuvering, high- and low-speed passes, rapid rolls and maximum performance climbs and descents, as the crowd oohed and aahed.
Even as the skies opened up, with rain, all eyes remained on the sky as aviation history went on display with the U.S. Air Force Heritage Flight. A World War II era P-51 Mustang and a Korean era F-86 Sabre flew in close formation with the F-15 Eagle.
The air show was going to conclude with an aerial change of command, in which the F-22 would join the F-15 and then the F-15 would pass the lead of the formation to the F-22, symbolizing the change of command for the demo teams and the transition to an exciting future of Raptor demonstrations. However, torrential downpours ended the ceremony, and attendees exited the flightline toward shelter.
The ceremony continued at the 94th Fighter Squadron hangar, where retired Gen. Hal Hornburg, former ACC commander, and spoke on the importance of the Air Force heritage in light of the F-15 demo team's long-standing history.
"We are the air force our allies want to copy," General Hornburg said. "They have the privilege of jumping up and down and saying, 'We're number two! We're number two!'"
General Hornburg also addressed the changing state of the Air Force and the wealth of Airmen.
"You are wealthy because you have the privilege to serve," he said. "It's a noble undertaking. Guard it. Protect it and don't willingly give it up. Take care of each other along the way."
Following, was the deactivation of the F-15 demo team and the activation of the F-22 demo team by Majors Costello and Moga.
Note: F-15 demonstrations will continue out of Eglin AFB, Fla., with the F-15 West Coast Demonstration Team.