Lightning in the Desert – Luke Days 2014

Lightning in the Desert – Luke Days 2014

Article and Photos by Steven Valinski

To begin with, I would like to apologize for not writing an article in quite some time. I have been very very busy. The good thing is I have been doing some great things, when it comes to military aviation, and, slowly, I will be sharing them with you. Issac did a great overview of Red Flag 14-2, so that is one experience I will not be sharing with you.

In mid-March the military airshow season kicked off in hectic fashion. On Saturday, March 15th, someone who lived in the far Southwestern U.S. could choose from the NAF El Centro, MCAS Yuma and the Luke AFB air shows. All three are top-notch shows with plenty of military representation. I chose to stay close to home and attend the Luke AFB airshow entitled: Lightning in the Desert – Luke Days 2014.

The Luke AFB show had a lot to offer in terms of historic significance. Earlier in the week, Luke AFB received it’s first F-35 in time for static display during the show. In addition, three F-35’s from Eglin AFB were flown in to provide an F-35 demo for the show. The festivities kicked off a day before the public show with the “official” unveiling of the first Luke F-35. The list of guests at this ceremony included:

– Brigadier General Michael Rothstein – Commander, 56th Fighter Wing
– General Robin Rand – Commander, Air Education and Training Command
– Lorraine Martin – Vice President and General Manager, F-35 Program, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics
– The Honorable Eric Fanning – Under Secretary of the Air Force
– The Honorable Trent Franks – United States Representative, 8th District, Arizona
– The Honorable Jan Brewer – Governor, Arizona

A pair of Generals

On Saturday, the public festivities began. The show did not disappoint. There were numerous great performers including:

Deer Valley Warbirds
SRT Viper vs. F-16 “Viper” race
Eagle 580, Matt Chapman Air Shows
Extra 330, Mike Goulian Aero Sports
F-16 close air support demonstration with USMC ground forces demonstration
F-86 Demo
Bremont Horsemen P-51 Demo
P-51 Red Tail Tuskegee demonstration
USAF Thunderbirds F-16 Demonstration Team
T-33 Ace Maker – Gregory Colyer
T-34, Julie Clark Air Shows
USMC MV-22 Osprey demo
USAF Wings of Blue Skydiving Team
USAF Heritage Flight
F-35 and P-38 Heritage Flight

Besides the highly anticipated first show of the season for the USAF Thunderbirds, the USAF Heritage flight offered something special for Luke AFB. The United State Air Force Heritage Flight program was created as a way to display the evolution of the USAF’s airpower throughout history. The Heritage Flight program accomplishes this through formation flights including vintage aircraft, flown by the USAF in past wars/conflicts, flying with the USAF’s modern airpower. A “non-typical” Heritage formation took place at the Luke AFB show when the “Twin Lightning” performance of the P-38 and F-35 heritage demonstration took place. The original Lockheed Lightning and the Lockheed-Martin Lightning II flying together was the first time these aircraft performed together in a Heritage Flight. This was a wonderful way for Luke AFB to mark an historical event such as receiving their first F-35.

Overall, it was a wonderful show and a great way to kick off the military air show season. Between great demonstrations of military and civilian aircraft, and great static displays, the Luke Air Show left me already anticipating the next Luke AFB airshow in a few years. Typically, Luke AFB and Davis-Monthan AFB alternate years for the show. Because Luke was cancelled last year due to sequestration, they were allowed to have one this year in addition to the Davis-Monthan show (April 12th & 13th). Technically, next year is Luke’s year to have a show…I could hope…



LUKE DAYS 3-2014

4 thoughts on “Lightning in the Desert – Luke Days 2014”

  1. Excellent article backed up with equally impressive pictures. It will no doubt be one of, if not the, best show of 2014. time for me to put Luke on my bucket list.

    Knowing that VFA-101 Grim Reapers is assigned to EG as the FRS for future F-35C drivers, and seeing how they participated in the formation flying, it makes me wonder if they will stand up as a future demo team. Oh, I can only hope so.