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A Grand Phinale at Holloman AFB

QF-4E_74-1638_Elvis_9778 Lt. Col. Ron “Elvis” King taxies QF-4E 74-1638 back to the ramp

The U.S. Air Force retired its final McDonnell Douglas/Boeing QF-4 Phantom IIs on December 21, 2016. The jets were the last of the line… more than four thousand airframes of various versions were manufactured for the Air Force. The first version flew in 1963, and for more than half a century, the jets and their crews performed air defense, attack, reconnaissance, Wild Weasel, and ultimately remote control drone service. The final QF-4Es in service were operated by Detachment 1, 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron, based at Holloman AFB in New Mexico. The 82 ATRS reports to the 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group at Tyndall AFB, FL. Holloman AFB sits close to the White Sands Missile Range, where live fire exercises against unmanned drone aircraft are routinely accomplished. The final unmanned Full Scale Aerial Target (FSAT) mission was flown there on August 17, 2016, although manned missions, carrying various test payloads, lasted into December of that year.

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Classic Colors, RIAT Tiger Meet Participants 1997

f5 1Twenty years ago, the Royal International Air Tattoo was fortunate to assemble a quantity of NATO aircraft which were participants in that year's annual Tiger Meet.  The NATO Tiger Association is a group of squadrons which feature cats, usually the "big cat" family of tigers, panthers, cheetahs, etc. in their heraldry, crests, and/or unit names and logos. They gather to swap information about tactics and training, as well as to boost morale within the NATO ranks. Usually, one or two aircraft from each unit is emblazoned with some special color scheme to emulate the "big cat" prowess as hunters, or leaders of the pack. A motto of the group is "Hard to be Humble", and their aircraft markings sometimes make full use of the bravado it carries!

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There are some 24 squadrons worldwide who are full members, with a number of honorary members too. Other memberships have ended, normally when a squadron has been disbanded. The organization can trace its roots back to a 1960 meeting between a USAF and RAF squadron, although the official website of the NATO Tigers casts some doubt upon the early years' story. Read more »

On the Road to Oceana!


OK, it's September and you're planning to head down to NAS Oceana in Virginia Beach for their big Air Show. There must be more to do than just driving down US-13 on the DelMarVa peninsula to get to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge by 6 PM. Well, actually there is a lot of fun stuff to do along the way before you hit the bridge, and a lot of it is aviation stuff, if you leave a little early and allow some recon time! Read more »

Valiant Air Command’s TICO Air Show Reaches Forty!

l39 Air shows are a driving force behind the public’s interest in aviation. I’ve chosen a handful of long-running events to preview in 2017, and offer some of the venues’ history too. The Valiant Air Command’s Fortieth TICO Airshow is just around the corner! The Space Coast Regional Airport (TICO comes from the Titusville – Cocoa Airport Authority name) sits across the Indian River from Cape Canaveral, Florida’s historic rocket launching and Space Shuttle landing facility. A few years before the Shuttles began to fly, the Valiant Air Command, a warbird museum that operated several flying and static aircraft, began a series of annual air shows. Drawing from the awesome Florida, Georgia and other nearby warbird communities, their spring air shows occurred a bit before the big Sun N Fun convention. The Florida warmth attracted many spectators, pilots and planes to bask in the sunshine and partake in the flying after a long, cold winter to the north - along the Atlantic seaboard. In many circles, this was the first air show of the calendar year. Read more »