F-117 Demonstration Team represents Holloman across globe

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Phil Ventura
  • 49th Fighter Wing Public Affairs office
They travel throughout North America and Europe living out of hotels, enjoying access to private parties, signing autographs and performing in front of crowds of thousands of people.

While the lifestyle of a member of Holloman's F-117 Demonstration Team may sound like that of a rock star, a closer examination reveals that, along with the perks, their days are often long, tiring and filled with unexpected challenges.

Now in its fifth season, the demo team consists of seven members from the 49th Maintenance Group who represent the 49th Fighter Wing and the F-117 Nighthawk to millions of attendees at air shows all over the world.

They are currently midway through their 2007 season. Last year they supported 86 unique events from 24 different air shows. Such an aggressive schedule means they spend roughly 150 days away from home every year.

The team tirelessly promotes the Air Force while representing one of the most unique aircraft in the service's inventory.

One of the most direct ways they do this is by always being near the static display of their jet to interact with the public. The team typically spends at least ten hours a day fielding questions from curious onlookers, ranging from, "Are you a pilot?" to "Why is the jet black?"

"We get to show families and children our jets, which is cool," said Senior Airman Jason Yeargin, one of the team's structural repair technicians. "Plus we get to see other aircraft at the shows."

But the time the crew spends talking with the public is just one portion of what they do on a daily basis.

The team stores the jets it takes to shows in a hangar every night. This requires them to transport it back and forth from the hangar to the flight line at the beginning and end of the day. They are also responsible for launching and turning the jets for flybys throughout the day and fixing them when something breaks.

"Learning what others do to maintain the jet is great," said Staff Sgt. Oscar Vega, an avionics specialist with the team. "Learning to service stuff, change tires... I had no idea what structural maintenance does, for instance, but now have a greater appreciation."

Given these challenges, it's not atypical for the F-117 demo team to be the first group to arrive at an air show in the morning and be the last to leave in the afternoon. This type of dedication is one of the factors in choosing members for the team, said Tech. Sgt. Nathan Knox, superintendent of the demo team.

"The people selected are true professionals and have broad backgrounds in maintenance and in public speaking," Tech. Sgt. Knox said. "We have accomplished four school visits so far this year and have spoken to 470 students about Air Force career opportunities, the F-117 and the importance of education. Hopefully we encouraged some young people to take an interest in an Air Force career."

While the hours are long and the schedule grueling, all members of the team say they are proud to represent the Air Force, Holloman and the F-117 across the world.

"We always get a great response from the crowds, people love our jet," said Staff Sgt. Santos Montalvo," one of the dedicated crew chiefs for the team.

So while they may not be rock stars, they are Holloman's most public face to millions of people across the world that come out to air shows to see, "the black jet." And for members of the team, that's more than enough incentive to continue doing what they do.