Soaring with the birdsJul 01, 2021 01:54PM ● By Becky Ginos
An F-35A Lightning II shoots through the sky above Hill Air Force Base during a demonstration to kick off the airshow season. Photo by Roger V. Tuttle
HILL AIR FORCE BASE—Anyone who lives near the base has experienced the thundering of jets flying overhead. However, last week it wasn’t just the usual maneuvers, it was an F-35A Lightning II flying upside down doing flips, rolls and dives as the demo team showed off the jet’s capabilities.
“We’re bringing it out to kick off the airshow season,” said Major Kristin “BEO” Wolfe, pilot and commander of the F-35A Lightning II Demonstration Team, 388th Fighter Wing. “This is our second year at Hill. We go on the road to give people a flavor of what the F-35 can do with a high speed pass, loops and rolls.”
Last year’s airshow at Hill was canceled due to the pandemic. “We’ll do it next summer in 2022,” said Wolfe. “We usually do about 20 shows a year all over the country and internationally. Last year we did 14 air shows. We were on the road a ton.”
The $80 million 5th-generation multi-role stealth fighter can get closer to drop bombs before it’s detected by the enemy, she said. “We don’t modify the F-35 – it could go to war tomorrow. It’s ready to go at a moment’s notice.”
In addition to the F-35 the team also showcases the past and present of the Air Force’s service by flying with World War II, Korean and Vietnam War-era aircraft during formation heritage Flights.
Wolfe started her career 10 years ago. “My dad was an Air Force pilot,” she said. “I was in ROTC in college and decided on the Air Force and aviation is what that’s all about so I was inspired to be a pilot. When I step out of a plane I want to show little boys and girls that someone looks like them.”
During her first flight she said as soon as she grabbed the controls all air sickness went away. “The sounds and smells, it’s different. As soon as you take off it almost becomes robotic and you have someone sitting by you telling you what to do.”
Wolfe flew the F-35A effortlessly through the clouds leaving a vapor behind. “Air builds up in the front wings that turns into vapor,” said Capt. Kip Sumner, Public Affairs for the team. “This allows people to see the F-35 up close and personal. Most just see a jet out in the distance.”
One maneuver Wolfe performed was a slow pass where the jet almost hung in the air. “It’s actually going 100 knots or 100 mph but for a fighter jet that’s not very fast. People think we’re breaking the sound barrier but if we break the sound barrier you’d know it.”
“We’re excited to get on the road,” said Wolfe. “The people on the crowd line – that’s what fuels these guys.”