F-16s featured in Dominican Republic air show

  • Published
  • By Capt. Sarah Schwennesen
  • 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern)
U.S. Airmen and Coast Guardsmen joined their Dominican counterparts Feb. 16 and 17 to commemorate the 60th Anniversary of the Dominican air force with an air show.

Aviation fans from this small island nation welcomed the Air Force active duty, Reserve and Air National Guard aircraft and personnel who participated in the show with many dignitaries, civilian performers and members of the Dominican air force.

"The U.S. Air Force is here to demonstrate our friendship and strong relationship with the Dominican air force," said Lt. Gen. Norman Seip, commander of 12th Air Force - Air Forces Southern. "Both of our histories go back 60 years and our relationship is founded on trust and friendship, and this air show is an expression of our great mil-to-mil relationship."

Under the watch of Dr. Leonel Fernandez, the Dominican president, the F-16 Fighting Falcon Viper West Demonstration Team awed the crowd with a dramatic performance. The 388th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, is home to the demonstration team.

"I feel terrific about the air show," said Maj. Gen. Pedro Peña, the chief of staff of the Dominican air force. "This is the first time that we have such an amount of fighters from the U.S. here and I think that the general public is enjoying it very much. This is a special way to bring our country's bonds closer and to work together."

Units from as far north as Michigan joined with Airmen from Florida to Arizona in the air show. Static displays consisted of a C-130 Hercules from the 179th Air Wing out of Mansfield, Ohio; four F-16s from the 127th Wing from Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich.; four F-16s from the 149th Fighter Wing at Lackland AFB, Texas; a KC-135 Stratotanker from the 161st Air Refueling Wing at Phoenix, Ariz.; and two Viper West Demonstration Team F-16s from the 388th FW. Active duty and Reserve Airmen from U.S. Air Forces Southern and U.S. Southern Command also participated in the air show.

Air Force personnel teamed up with U.S. Coast Guardmen from Air Station Borinquen, Puerto Rico, and from Air Station Clearwater, Fla.; who brought two helicopters, an HH-65C Dauphin and an HH-60 Jayhawk, to serve as static displays and perform for the crowd. This was not the first time the units had visited the Dominican Republic as they have supported search and rescue missions here, as well as humanitarian relief missions after Tropical Storm Noel last October.

Starting the show with a record-breaking jump, 60 parachutists from various countries descended from the sky over San Isidro Air Base. This performance was followed up with flybys by Dominican air force helicopters, including Casa-212s, UH-1 Huey IIs, T-35 Pillans, OH-58A Kiowas and the S-333 Enstrom. Brazil aviators joined the air show with a demonstration of the Super Tucano aircraft and a static display of the same.

"It is an honor to be here and to have our two nations united in the celebration of airpower," said Capt. Russ Piggott, a Viper West Demonstration Team pilot.

Dominican 2nd Lt. Jean Paul Pion agreed.

"It's great to get together with other countries," he said.

Lieutenant Pion and six of his classmates received their wings earlier in the day from the president, as they officially graduated from pilot training.

For many Airmen, this was their first time in the Dominican Republic and they were pleasantly surprised by the warm welcome that they received.

"It's beautiful here and it's a pleasure that they considered us to be a part of their program. We feel honored to share in this," said Coast Guard Aviation Electrical Technician Dion Purcell.

Many civilian performers also wowed the crowds with fancy aerobatics and formation flying. The Pitts S2C and P-51D Mustang flown by Fred Cabanas pleased the crowd, as well as Curt Arnspinger's SAETA German aircraft. The Aerostars performed with three Yak-52's, the Firebirds spun around in their Extra-300's and Rob Holland's MX-2 show impressed the crowd.