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Raptor stars at Avalon

written by Paul Sadler | March 3, 2017

Making its second appearance at the Australian International Airshow, the United States Air Force’s F-22 Raptor demonstration team display is a definite show favourite with its thrust-vectored handling display.

However, with Friday’s arrival of the Royal Australian Air Force’s first pair of F-35 Lightning IIs, the Raptor may be upstaged and relegated to second prize in the most popular at show stakes.

Major Dan ‘Rock’ Dickinson, commander of the USAF F-22 demonstration team based at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, talked up his display routine with the Raptor when he spoke with Australian Aviation ahead of his Friday afternoon display as part of the first public performances at this year’s Avalon Airshow.

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“The team is excited to be here supporting the United States Air Force at Avalon 2017 with the F-22 Raptor,” said MAJ Dickinson. “We brought three of them down from RAAF Base Tindal from where they deployed to exercise with the Royal Australian Air Force.”

The Raptors at Avalon are from the 90th Fighter Squadron based at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, and flew into Avalon directly from RAAF Base Tindal, Northern Territory last week.

MAJ Dickinson first flew at Avalon on the Sunday prior to the opening of the trade show to practice his routine.

“Prior to every airshow or trade show we get a practice flight in,” said MAJ Dickinson. “That’s a great chance for myself and the rest of the team to make sure we’re all on the same page and for me to check out my reference markers on the ground so we can conduct everything as safely as we can for the crowd.”

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MAJ Dickinson said there’s a lot of preparation that goes into a display before flying the jet in front of a crowd.

“Beyond flying the manoeuvres in the simulator and doing a number of syllabus rides to get checked out, I’ll also look at some satellite imagery of the airfield to get a real lay of the land with what the airport looks like, where the water is. And I’ll also do that when I get airborne too, to get eyes on those markers based on what I’m expecting to see. Safety is paramount for us.”

An F-22 display pilot spends around four months conducting work up training to take over from the incumbent pilot.

“You take over the position as the team commander and demonstration pilot and on the way out of the job you train the in-coming demo pilot to make sure they’re full up and ready to go. It’s probably the best assignment I’ve had in the Air Force.”

An F-22 display pilot is a two-year assignment. Now into his final year showing off the Raptor, MAJ Dickinson said the display is almost more of a presentation.

“The flying is about 75 per cent of it, but we are trying to choreograph it with the narration and the music to make it an awesome demonstration for the crowd from all aspects.” Said MAJ Dickinson. “Doing the narration is not an easy job – I don’t envy him. It’s a lot of work to keep the crowd motivated and get everyone fired up. It’s a team effort to make that the display happen.”

Earlier in the week, MAJ Dickinson had to cut his display short on Tuesday after the jet he was flying experienced a technical problem.

“I had a minor issue with a recirculation valve,” said Dickinson. “It was nothing major, but it’s one of those things where I’m not going to continue flying. We’re not in combat here, so when that warning alert comes on we knock off the display, go and check it out away from the airfield before coming back in to land to get one of our maintenance teams we have, who are the best, to took care of it.”

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19 Comments

  • Paul

    says:

    And what a demo it is.Congrats guys.

  • Daryl

    says:

    Do the F-35’s use ferry tanks for long haul deployments like the Raptor.?

  • Mike B

    says:

    Saw it on Wednesday; Awesome…. defies the laws of physics.

  • Addax-S

    says:

    Nice of the USAF to show their second class fighter which can’t detect Thai Gripen Cs until they have come within gun range with their guns.

  • Gary

    says:

    Addax-S,

    You seem to be sprouting a lot. Can you list some sources please?

  • Harry

    says:

    Huh? Where did you get that the F-22s can’t see Gripen Cs? Got a link?

  • Paul

    says:

    Addax-s,please mate.What next,a Cessna can shoot down the Raptor?

  • Gary

    says:

    A bit quiet on the Addax-s front. Wouldn’t think it would be that hard to post a link or two!

  • COTG

    says:

    (please replace my last post with this, thank you)
    Thai Gripen do have great capabilities.
    For your refrence, less than a year ago, Chinese sent their SUs to exercise with Thai Airforce, 6 fighters come back with 4-0, rest 2 planes were called back (able to escape).. Guess who scored 4? This thread was exposed on Chinese own military forum, saying their pilots not proiciency enough of the new type to bring up the full protential of the SUs.

    It;s a pitty that AUS only look at what U.S. have and believe it will be the best. Like you have ever shop only at Woolies.

  • Gary

    says:

    COTG

    No-one is saying the Gripen does not have excellent abilities; however, when Addax-s makes the comment that he posted on 4 Mar, more than a few of us would like to see some documentary evidence.

  • Mick181

    says:

    COTG
    The ADF does look at European equipment all the time, we brought European tactical Helicopters last decade in the Tiger & NH-90, hows that going? We can’t get spare parts for the Tigers in peacetime, how would we go in a war.

  • Stocks

    says:

    Can anybody help me with the name of the American fighter pilot on Saturday he was very giving of his time and was very friendly to all with great answers to inquisitive questions thank you for a great show

  • QUOTE: It’s a lot of work to keep the crowd motivated and get everyone fired up

    Actually, the “crowd that wants to be motivated and fired up” are primarily the breeders with their uninterested brats – the actual aviation enthusiasts in the crowd would like to like to watch (and hear) the aircraft without some guy sprouting all the information about the aircraft and what it is doing (which they already know) while suffering the obligatory dumbass music blaring through a hundred giant speakers!

    I went to Avalon once – I respectfully asked if the music could be turned down so I could hear the Spitfire and Mustang engines and the girl at the enquiries counter (who probably thinks that a Mustang is a US car) gave me a funny look and said “I’ll pass that on” – nothing happened.

    As far as I can see, airshows are presented to make money by attracting and ‘entertaining’ the multitudes – the only way I’d go anywhere near one is if I could sit on a hill nearby with a comfortable, shady seat in the breeze…and a well stocked Esky close at hand – now THAT is Gold Class!!!

  • Paul

    says:

    I had the pleasure of having lunch with Rock and personal photos with him on the combat jet Tarmac.

  • had

    says:

    I have to agree with everything Boleropilot said.

  • thanks had – I probably sound like a crusty old bastard but I honestly don’t believe airshows are a happy place for aviation enthusiasts
    I’m just sayin’…

  • Addax-S

    says:

    Nice that I got my first post, posted. I got a bunch of questions from others. I answered them but I didnt get the answer posted.

    Good to know how biased AA are in favour of the American aircraft industry.

  • PAUL

    says:

    Yeah get rid of that silly music Its an Airshow not a party, I was at Paris 05 and they played sweet home Alabama while the US Super Hornet flew around & as a result most people became more interested in the 2 young French girls dancing out front. RIAT & Farnborough have it sorted… Also forget trying to queue for a look in Aircraft cockpits as kids seem to have a priority even though they have no clue what their looking at- 2 lines please!

  • Gary

    says:

    Addax-S

    Perhaps you might want to revisit your draft response and re-submit. I for one am certainly interested in reading your factual information to substantiate your claim re the F-22 v Gripen. By the way, your comment in the final line of your response above is a little childish. It is a known fact that each time we have purchased a Europena sourced platform it has caused us no amount of issues. You might mention the KC30 as an exmaple against the trend; however, you are looking at a tried and proven commercial airframe subsequently modified for military use. Now about the mods on the KC30, they were not straight forward were they!

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