Scott AFB: One Hundred Years in the Making

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The time period is June 1917, the location Belleville Illinois, located roughly 25 miles to the East of St. Louis Missouri. Construction begins on the then-known Scott Field, named after Corporal Frank Scott, the first enlisted person killed in an aviation related crash in 1911. The flying mission at Scott would begin a few months later with pilot and mechanic training on the Curtis JN-4D Jenny type aircraft. It would be these early days of flying and the hazardous nature of such that would give birth to a mission Scott still fulfills today, Aeromedical Evacuation. The mission at Scott would change in the 1920’s and 1930’s with the base being designated a “Lighter Than Air” Station with Balloons and Dirigibles assigned. In 1939 with the clouds of war looming, the mission reverted to a training role, this time it would be communications training which would last until 1957. The United States Air Force would become a service in 1947, Scott Field was renamed to Scott Air Force Base. The 1950s brought about many unit changes and re-designations with Aeromedical Evacuation becoming even more important than it already was.

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The North American T-39 arrived in 1962, the military version of the Sabreliner business jet. 1968 would bring the McDonnell Douglas C-9A Nightingale to Scott, the only aircraft ever designed with Aeromedical Evacuation Duties in mind. The C-9A is based upon the very successful DC-9-30 Series commercial airliner. The balance of the 1960s through the 1990s would bring constant change with realignments and re-designations. The T-39s would leave the inventory in 1984, with the Gates C-21A Learjet being added in the same year. The C-21A is the military transport version of the popular Gates 35 Learjet. In 1998 KC-135s came to Scott in the form of the 126th ARW, when they moved from Chicago O’Hare International Airport to Scott. The C-9A was retired in 2003; the Boeing C-40C Clipper arrived in 2007. Today Scott is home to 30 tenant units including the Headquarters of Air Mobility Command. The 375th Airlift Wing, 932nd Airlift Wing, and the 126th Air Refueling Wing are all flying units. The base is rather unique as it shares its two runways (14R-32L and 14L-32R) with Mid-America St. Louis Airport. The entire airport covers seven thousand acres with the Scott portion covering four square miles. Mid-America is served by Ultra Low-Cost Carrier Allegiant Airlines with flights to six destinations. Scott has played a vital role in every major military operation or worldwide event since World War I.

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File Photos of C-9As and T-39.

It is the rich history that brings us to the Centennial Air Show held on June 10th and 11th. The United States Air Force Thunderbirds were on hand, plus VFA-122, the West Coast Super Hornet Demo Team, and the 15th Wing out of Hickam Air Force Base Hawaii flying the C-17A Globemaster III. The locally based C-21As, C-40Cs, and KC-135Rs opened the airshow each day. Warbirds were well represented with Greg Colyer flying his T-33 Ace Maker II, and Scott Yoak in the P-51 Mustang Quick Silver. The Commemorative Air Force group Tora, Tora, Tora flew its finely choreographed routine re-enacting the events on December 7th, 1941. The US Army Black Daggers jumped twice from a Little Rock – based C-130J and Kevin Coleman rounded out the air show performers. The aircraft that started it all, made an appearance as well. The Friends of Jenny had their JN-4 on hand but did not fly due to the high winds each day. A B-2 from the 509th Bomb Wing, Whiteman AFB Missouri made several flybys on Sunday.

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Complementing the fine aerial display was one of the better static displays I have seen in a long time. The statics included the following Fighter, Attack, and Bomber type aircraft: F-22, F-35, F-15, F-16, A-10, and the B-1B. Tankers, Trainers, and Transports were well represented with examples of the T-6A, T-38C, KC135R, KC-10A, C-130J, C-5M, C-20A, C-21A, C-40C, and an FAA CL-601 Challenger Jet. Warbirds were on hand with a TBM Avenger, B-25, C-1A, L-3E, AD4, and a C-47. The most unique aircraft included the E-3F, EC-130H, with the RAF bringing a virtually brand-new Airbus A-400M Atlas just delivered this past December. The A-400M is a Tactical Airlifter designed to replace older C-160s and C-130s. The A-400M has a fly-by-wire flight control system, a glass cockpit, and like all other Airbus products, side stick controllers. The A-400M has a maximum payload of 81,600 pounds, can carry one hundred sixteen fully equipped combat troops, or sixty-six patients in the Aeromedical Evacuation role. The French Air Force, Turkish Air Force, the Luftwaffe, and the Royal Air Force currently fly the A-400M.

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The crowd line was set up just to the west of Runway 14R/32L, with the sun angle perfect once the flying started. The weather was hot and sunny each day, perfect airshow weather. The Scott Air Force Base Airshow had a great lineup and a fantastic static display, it was a perfect way to help celebrate 100 Years of rich military history. Until next time, “Blue Skies to All!”

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