Thunder and Lightning over AZ

Photo Credit: Jack Taylor / Composite photo of A-10 “Warthog” and F-22

Jack Taylor/Photo Editor

Over the deserts of Arizona jets from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base roar all day and night. Once every two years the base opens to the public and puts on a spectacular show. With everything from A-10s and F-22s, to the comical Jelly Belly aircraft, this show has it all.

The Avion had a unique opportunity to cover the Thunder and Lightning airshow in Tucson, AZ. This unique show features several military aircraft and mission demonstrations that can’t be found at typical airshows.

The Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II “Warthog” stole the show again with its superior air to ground support demonstration. Two parachute jumpers representing downed pilots landed in the show box. A-10s immediately were on the scene to provide support to the pilots. The A-10 specializes in this field with its 30mm GAU-8/A Avenger Gatling-Type autocannon. Seven barrels of freedom pump out 4,200 rounds of depleted uranium core bullets every minute. The two A-10s strafe the runway with cannon fire and bombs keeping the pilots safe while backup arrives. A Sikorsky HH-60 Pave Hawk enters the protected scene and recovers the pilots. Once extracted, the A-10s escort the Pave Hawk to safety.

Other performances included a U.S. Customs and Border Protection mock chase where a UH-60 Black Hawk and a AS350 A-Star work together to capture a felon on the run.

Shifting the mood from operations to entertainment, Kent Pietsch in his Interstate Cadet performs a comedy routine. Pretending to have no flight experience, Kent flies his aircraft with hilarious results. Pietsch loses his aileron in the first minute of his witty routine and strikes his wing on the runway in an attempt to land by ‘reading his instruction book’. His second performance, Kent attempts to land his aircraft on a moving truck at 55mph and is successful on his third try. For his finale, Kent turns off is engine mid-flight and lands like a glider. He taxies his unpowered aircraft with incredible precision and places the nose of the prop right into the palm of a brave volunteer’s hand.