Aviation Nation, Nellis AFB, Las Vegas Nevada
November 14th 2004


'The humidity of Florida was replaced by the dry desert heat of Nevada as we returned to fabulous Las Vegas and the ever special venue of Nellis Air Force Base, for the second show of our brief visit to the US in November 2004.

Again we were lucky with the weather as thunderstorms and flash-floods had affected the area just 24 hours before we arrived.
The concerns about hightened security were also unfounded here and we savoured a morning walk on the vast ramp for the first time since our inaugural US show in 1997! (See our Golden Air Tattoo feature for more on that trip!)

The backdrop of Sunrise Mountain was as impressive as ever, as was the variety of aircraft on static display.
The surprising thing to me was how close the suburbs of Las Vegas had got to the base perimeter in the 7 years since my last visit,
there is even some suggestion that Nellis will not be able to operate for much longer if this expansion continues.
That will indeed be a very sad day, as this is a truly fantastic place to stage an airshow.

Anyway, on with the show!  This was a very varied event and had the added bonus of containing a mini-Reno Air Race as part of the display!
I had always wanted to see the 'celebrities' of the Unlimited Air Racing World
 and was therefore really chuffed to witness 'Rare Bear', 'Dago Red' and 'Precious Metal' in action,as well as at rest in the 'pit' area!

  This segment of the show was sandwiched between warbird displays
complete with pyrotechnic special effects and the 'heavy metal' performers, which included two memorable moments.

The first was the debut demonstration of a US Air Force F-22 Raptor. Although by no means a full display,it did give a taster of just how powerful
this machine is and convinced us that it will definitely be a star performer at shows to come!
The second historic moment involved another brute of an aircraft, but this time one that was reaching the end of it's service life
the US Navy's awesome F-14 Tomcat!  This was to be the Big Cat's final performance at the end of it's final full display season
and it certainly pulled out all the stops to give an unforgettable demonstrationof raw power against the unique Nellis backdrop and gin-clear desert skies.

(The Tomcat did subsequently have one last 'fling' when it displayed at Oceana in 2005, which, if anything, was even more memorable.
We couldn't miss witnessing that, but that's another story....check out our Oceana 2005 feature!)

The day was rounded off by another immaculate Thunderbirds display, leaving us sunburnt,
happy and ready to explore the Las Vegas strip one last time before our long flight home.
(Text by Mark Preston)

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