It’s a story of aviation history and heritage, yet no words need to be said.
In a single flight, generations are bridged between past and present and a showcase of aerial evolution unfolds before the eyes of thousands of spectators.
As part of Air Combat Command’s Heritage Flight program, an F-16 Viper and P-51 Mustang will fly side by side May 3 and 4 for the 2014 “Thunder Over Solano” Air Expo and Open House.
The Heritage Flight program is a presentation of the evolution of Air Force air power by flying today’s state-of-the-art fighter aircraft in close formation with vintage fighter aircraft.
“The unique part of this flight is that we don’t have to use words to tell this story,” said Maj. Mark Whisler, ACC Heritage Flight F-16 pilot. “We are able to get two, three and sometimes four aircraft airborne and fly them in formation together to paint a living, breathing picture of the aircraft that have been built, maintained and flown through the years.
“This picture is able to describe in ways no words can, the differences in sound, size, speed and maneuvering capabilities. Even more important, it showcases that even though the planes change dramatically throughout the years, the pilots of these tremendous machines, whether they be fighter, bomber or cargo pilots, stay the same.”
With only eight F-16 heritage flights scheduled for 2014, Travis will be one of the few to witness this aerial demonstration in 2014.
“The patrons of Travis can look forward to seeing aircraft that have served our country well fly together, showcasing our past and present capabilities in air power,” Whisler said. “I have never been to Travis Air Force Base, but I am excited to come out and visit. I have heard great things, not only about the base, but about the community that surrounds it.
“My goal is to represent the Air Force in a way similar to how the Airmen from Travis do every day of the week … but maybe make a little bit more noise while doing it.”
For Whisler, to serve as both an active-duty fighter pilot at Seymour Johnson AFB, N.C., as well as participate as an ACC Heritage Flight pilot, provides a rare opportunity few Airmen ever experience.
“I get to take off and rejoin the aircraft that my grandfather flew during World War II,” he said. “This is one of the biggest honors I have ever had, and probably ever will. The part that I enjoy the most, though, is seeing the look on the proud American faces in the crowd as they watch all the flying at an air show.
“I absolutely love seeing the children look to the sky the exact same way that I did as a child and know that the dream hasn’t died.”
Along with Whisler and his F-16 Fighting Falcon is Charles “Tuna” Hainline, a retired Air Force officer and F-117 Stealth Fighter pilot, who will fly by his side in a vintage P-51 Mustang.
During his career, Hainline flew multiple combat missions during Operation Allied Force, where he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for action over Belgrade, Serbia. After the F-117, he flew the F-4F with the German Replacement Training Unit at Holloman AFB, N.M., before finishing his career flying the QF-4, and becoming the first F-4 West Heritage pilot.
Just like the aircraft these individuals fly, both past and present, Hainline and Whisler serve as stewards who carry the Air Force tradition from one generation to the next.
“We all have a love of country and have dedicated our lives to the service of the United States of America so that Americans across the country can rest easy at night,” Whisler said. “We need to increase the public knowledge of what we do as Airmen and, more importantly, we need to keep the pride in our service and country alive for the future generations to take the torch from us and run.”
For more information about this year’s Travis Open House/Air Expo, visit the official Facebook page at www.facebook.com/TravisOpenHouse or website at www.travisfss.com/openhouse.