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Nellis AFB Aviation Nation Air Show '22

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I was fortunate enough to attend the Nellis AFB Air show near Vegas for the 10th time this past weekend, which was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen, especially since I love fighter jets.  Since just about every American fighter jet model lives there, you’re sure to get the sweet smell of burned kerosene and loud noise all day long.  One small disappointment is that there were almost no WWII Warbirds like there usually is, other than a P-51D Mustang.  As a result, 90% of my pics are of jets and hardly any props.  I took about 2,000 pics, deleted most of them as usual and wound up with about 325 which were good enough to keep.  Here are a few of them.



One of the reasons I attended this show was to see if I could get some reference pics for my next build, of a Block 32 F-16 Aggressor in the new “Ghost” scheme.  Not only was this jet there, but there were two of them, one on the tarmac (86-299)…






And my subject (84-220) in the air!









This should be a great reference for painting the bottom.









It even had an F-22 chasing its tail during a mock war game sequence






The Navy usually sends an F-18 Super Hornet, but this year there were 3 of them, with 2 F-18G Growlers






And an F-18F CAG bird


















There were several F-35A’s that flew, including this demo jet flown by Major Kristin “BEO” Wolfe, of Hill AFB, Utah.






Not her jet, but I include this pic because there is no mistaking that Nellis is a working AFB, with about a dozen F-16’s parked in the background.






Back to Kristin, who put on a terrific show









Pretty good water vapor on a tight turn, considering the dry desert air






Shortly after the F-35A demo, came the always super popular “Heritage Flight” of the F-35A, F-22 and P-51D Mustang


















The F-22 demo pilot was Major Joshua “CABO” Gunderson of Langley AFB, Virginia.  It turned out that this was his last airshow as the F-22 pilot, so he was looking maybe a little sad as he taxied down the runway.






As always, the F-22 demo was awesome.









Since it was his last demo, Major Gunderson was soaked with lots of water from water bottles and a few fire extinguishers as he left the cockpit.






After about 5 minutes of fun, the F-22 team posed for an official AF pic, which I took as well






There were lots of other acts of course, including this jet powered fire truck called “Shock Wave”.  Sadly, the other Shock Wave truck crashed and killed the driver only last July, so this act can be quite dangerous.  Although a bit gimmicky, I thought the fire truck was absolutely awesome, especially when it drove next to the spectators and let the Rolls Royce jet engines fly.






T-33’s are usually there, which are so beautiful in the air.






As always, the last act at Nellis was the Thunderbirds, where they are based.  Here’s a few random shots, although I’ve got about 75 more!










































For you photography buffs that might want to know, I used a Nikon Z-7 II camera and a Z 100-400 4.5/5.6 VR lens, which is a bit short for airshows and not as good as a 500mm+ prime lens.  However, I have trouble finding the aircraft in my viewfinder at 200mm as it is, so this lens works for me and with 46 MP, most of these pics were cropped a bit, but still showed decent resolution. Unfortunately, the airstrip is almost North/South and you stand on the West side, facing East and the bright sun for most of the day.  To compensate for this high contrast situation, I usually boost the exposure by about 1.7 stops so that the aircraft stand out from the sky a bit more.  For focus, I used Dynamic Area Autofocus and AF-C, which with this camera combination, seemed to grab the jets out of the sky fairly easily.  Shutter speeds were a bit high at 1/1,600- 2,000/sec for obvious reasons, but with the bright sky, this kept the aperture close to f5 while ISO was usually less than 200 and sometimes as low as 64.  Hope that helps- and I'm still learning!





Edited by chuck540z3
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Thanks for posting these amazing photos.  I've been waiting 3 years to attend this show, then on the day before I came down with a nasty bug.  At least I get to attend virtually now, which in some ways is even better since my eyes aren't as good as a high-end camera.  (Also, this way my feet don't hurt and I'm not sunburned.)

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STUNNING  Photographs  and impressive  photography. 


Very good action  photographs. 


And MY favorites  Thunderbirds are Amazing  to see.


(is that an ordinary Airliner in the skies  behind the Thunderbird in the penultimate  photo you took Chuck?mighty cool  :coolio:   ).

Post  other  75 if you have time ,

...Will love to see them..

Thank you  muchly. I Appreciate  it.


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4 hours ago, MARU5137 said:

(is that an ordinary Airliner in the skies  behind the Thunderbird in the penultimate  photo you took Chuck?mighty cool  :coolio:   ).

Post  other  75 if you have time ,

...Will love to see them..

Thank you  muchly. I Appreciate  it.


Thanks Maru and yes, that’s a civilian airliner in the background.  I really didn’t notice it until I downloaded that pic, but the military and civilian aircraft stay quite far apart all the time for obvious reasons.  As for the other 75 pics, I’m now out of town for 2 weeks, so I might post a few more when I return.




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What I wouldn't have given to be there for that show.  F-35A.  Your pictures as sublime as your builds Chuck!  Sure like that  pilot ("BEO")! 


But man - USAF says it is meant to replace "aging" F-16's, and also A-10's.  I don't know much about the Air Force's overall strategy, but how can a jet with a thrust-to-weight ratio of around 60% - 70%, and no Gatling gun, replace the better than 100% TW ratio F-16, and the incredible air-to-ground fire power of the A-10?  How much of the F-35's new-fangled systems are retrofittable onto F-16's and A-10's?  Outside of stealth, what has it got that I don't realize?   BTW - no VTOL capability.


I do recognize that both airframes are quite old, so "age" is indeed a factor.    

Edited by JayW
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1 hour ago, daveculp said:

Chuck, was the Vegas Strong F-15 on static display this year?


-- Dave

No Dave, it wasn’t.  My guess is that it’s a tired old F-15A that has probably been put out to pasture.




Edited by chuck540z3
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