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Features in Flight

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Nathan Eckert
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

In less than two months, Team McConnell is opening their doors for the Frontiers in Flight Open House and Airshow scheduled for Sept. 24 – 25, 2022.

Since the event is the first of its kind since 2018, anticipation for the show is high. Through hard work, dedicated Airmen have secured a variety of performers to meet the anticipation challenge.

"We have been in the process of lining performers up since about November of last year," said Maj. Steven Zumwalde, Airshow Director. "We have 11 performers total, [and] the public can expect loops, high speed passes, formations, explosions and pure excitement."

First in the lineup is Misty Blues Skydiving, an all-female Jump team of 13 women with more than 15,000 jumps between them. Also, successful professionals with full-time careers, the Mistys represent the mere 15 percent of women skydivers out of 35,000 total in North America.

Next up is Bill Stein Airshows, one of the most colorful airshow performers anywhere. Bill pilots the Edge 540, providing unique aerobatics with a cutting-edge paint that continuously changes color based on the angle of the spectators, the aircraft and the light.

Following Bill will be Tom Larkin of Mini Jet Airshows. Larkin pilots a modified SubSonex Jet, an experimental jet that comes as a kit, weighs 500 pounds, goes up to 300 miles per hour and is fully aerobatic. Tom performs a cross-section of maneuvers he routinely used as a T-38 instructor and F-15C Eagle pilot supporting Operation Northern Watch and Provide Comfort during shows.

An acrobatic performance from the Commemorative Air Force's (CAF) Red Tail P-51C Mustang will honor one of the United States’ most historic military squadrons. The fighter is an authentic and fully-restored operational fighter that serves to educate young and old alike about the history of the Tuskegee Airmen. The aircraft saw service stateside as a trainer in 1945 and saw restoration to flying conditions in 2001.

Continuing to honor history, Tora Tora Tora returns to McConnell after performing in the previous airshow. The team performs low fly-bys utilizing Japanese aircraft from World War II paired with pyrotechnics to show how the Pearl Harbor attack on December 7, 1941, changed the course of U.S. history.

Shifting gears to the present and future, spectators will see flyovers from the KC-135R Stratotanker and KC-46A Pegasus. Both tankers execute the McConnell mission supporting joint force operations worldwide, with the Pegasus shaping the future of rapid global mobility.

Next is McConnell's own Brian Correll in his highly modified Pitts S2S biplane. Correll is a test pilot for Textron Aviation and an Air Force Reserve KC-46 instructor pilot with the 931st Air Refueling Wing. For airshows, the plane he flies, he modified and maintains himself as an FAA-certified mechanic.

The next performer continues both an airshow legacy and the legacy of the air capital. Matt Younkin is a third-generation pilot. His father, Bobby Younkin, is a legendary airshow pilot famous for his aerobatic prowess in the AT-6, Beech-18, Learjet 23, Samson, and most recently, the Super Decathlon. The Beech-18 Matt performs was built in 1943 by the Beechcraft Corporation in Wichita, Kansas.

A featured performer is Randy Ball in the infamous MiG-17. During the show, he routinely pulls 8 Gs and reaches speeds approaching 700 miles per hour while flying less than 100 feet off the ground. With 32 years of air show experience, Randy has more than 1,800 flying hours in Russian jet fighters.

A performer who paved his way in the air show community is Adam "Shakenbake" Baker of Playful Airshows. He flies the Extra-330, a single-seat, low-wing monoplane explicitly built for aerobatics. Adam is one of the few in the industry who didn't come from an airshow or aviation family. He likes to share his experience and excite and inspire the next generation of pilots, showing that anyone can succeed in any endeavor.

Finishing out our show is the Air Force Thunderbirds. The premier United States Air Force Demonstration team performs precision aerial maneuvers displaying Air Force high-performance aircraft to people worldwide. The show involves a mix of precision formation flying and intense solo routines demonstrating the capabilities of Air Force pilots and the F-16 Fighting Falcon.

"The purpose of the airshow is to give back to the community and show our appreciation for their support," Zumwalde added. "People can come out, have a good time, and enjoy [the opportunity] to be up close and personal with these amazing machines. [We want] to display the aviation industry and inspire people to be a part of it."

More info about the performers and the airshow as a whole can be found at www.frontiersinflight.com.