Five of the 13 members of the U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor demonstration team visited MTSU Friday, June 3, for a special presentation to the public about their responsibilities and experience with these amazing aircraft. The visit came in advance of the Great Tennessee Air Show June 4-5 in Smyrna, Tennessee.
U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor demonstration pilot DJ Foss, right, fields audience questions during the team's visit to MTSU June 3. Listening are fellow team members Kyara Johnson, Steven Davison and Jonathan Billie.
After listening and watching the U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor demonstration team discuss their careers and the power of the stealth aircraft, MTSU senior Mohammed Alzahrani called it "just impressive." The Raptor team will be a part of the Great Tennessee Air Show this Saturday and Sunday at the Smyrna-Rutherford County Airport. It was decided that the air show not be cancelled, but would be a tribute to Blue Angel Marine Captain James "Jeff" Kuss who died when his jet crash during a practice on Thursday. Officials announced that a portion of the proceeds would go to the Kush' family.
"Exciting" is how rising homeschooled senior Taylor Cowan of Murfreesboro labeled the more than one-hour presentation by five of the 13-member Raptor flight demonstration team Friday (June 3) at MTSU.
With about 100 people in attendance, including nearly 45 members of area Tennessee Wing Civil Air Patrol composite squadrons for teenagers, Raptor team members left quite an impression on adults and young people alike.
To view video from the appearance, visit https://youtu.be/zhJgkgRRF2o.
The Raptors, who spoke in the Business and Aerospace Building's State Farm Lecture Hall, are in Rutherford County for the 2016 Great Tennessee Airshow Saturday and Sunday, June 4-5, at Smyrna Airport.
The U.S. Navy Blue Angels were to appear at MTSU, but canceled all airshow-related appearances after the June 2 crash that killed U.S. Marine pilot and Capt. Jeff Kuss, a Durango, Colorado, native.
Before the Raptor presentation, a moment of silence was held to honor Kuss "for his service to our nation," said Andrew Oppmann, MTSU vice president of marketing and communications.
Attending Raptor members included Jonathan Billie, a technical sergeant and spokesman; Steven Davison, a staff sergeant and avionics specialist; DJ Foss, a demonstration pilot; Mahalia Frost, a public affairs officer; and Kyara Johnson, a senior airman and weapons specialist who grew up in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Raptor demo teams are known for preforming precision aerial maneuvers to demonstrate the unique capabilities of the world's only operational fifth-generation fighter aircraft capable at flying at great speeds and altitudes.
Video was shown of Dan Dickinson, the scheduled Smyrna airshow demonstration pilot, who was unable to attend because of air show commitments.
Dickinson said he has a "special spot in his heart for ROTC cadets. I encourage you to press forward. ... It's an awesome path and opportunity."
MTSU offers military science in the College of Basic and Applied Sciences and annually produces an outstanding group of ROTC cadets.
Alzahrani, 24, an aerospace professional pilot major from Jeddah, Saudia Arabia, said attending the presentation "has been a great experience ... to know about their lives, what everyone's duty is and learn about the air show this weekend."
Cowan, the home schooled student, is a member of the Civil Air Patrol Smyrna Composite Squadron and an aspiring pilot who will not be able to attend the air show because of an encampment activity.
"I'm definitely interested in flying, so being here has helped me learn more about it," Cowan said. "It was good to know their side of things and how much they enjoy it. It made me regret that I'm not going to make it to the air show.
Other composite squadrons attending included Murfreesboro and Music City (Nashville), and the Williamson County Cadet Squadron.
Foss told the captive audience that with combat-ready Raptors, enemy pilots usually don't detect them until it's too late.
"We see him long before he knows we are there," he said.
The team fielded questions from audience members. Billie, who said they enjoy Heritage Flights (pairing up with World War II-type aircraft), and his peers were amazed by several of the teenagers' questions.
MTSU is the presenting sponsor of the Raptor team's appearance at the airshow and the aerospace department will have an information booth and aircraft display set up at the Smyrna event.
Raptor air show demonstrations include the power loop, split and tail side as well as a high-speed pass and dedication pass. The maneuvers are based on those designed for combat operations, but performed at much lower altitudes than most pilots are certified to attain.