CREECH AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. --
Eleven aircrew, intelligence and maintenance Airmen from Creech AFB, showcased the MQ-9 Reaper at the Wings Over Solano air show May 6-7, 2017, at Travis AFB, Calif., making it the first time the MQ-9 model has been to the West Coast.
During the airshow, Creech Airmen spoke with thousands of attendees to provide information about the Reaper enterprise.
"We were out here to help educate the attendees by answering questions and interacting with them," said 1st Lt. Tre, 489th Attack Squadron MQ-9 pilot. "We wanted to show that these aircraft aren't robots in the sky. There are skilled Airmen involved at all times."
The MQ-9 model, designed to eliminate man hours on assembly time and reduce security concerns, drew considerable crowds during the two-day air show.
"We were able to correct misconceptions and educate a lot of people who were confused on what we really do," Tre said. "They know the endgame, but don't know how we actually get the mission done."
While the attendees had a plethora of questions, many started with one. Is this a drone? Reaper flight members explained that while the MQ-9 is called a drone in the news, they are actually remotely piloted aircraft because there is a skilled aircrew in control of the aircraft at all times following specific aviation guidance and deliberate rules of engagement consistent with the law of armed conflict.
"Going to these air shows and showcasing the aircraft is important so we can highlight the MQ-9 mission to tens of thousands of people to spread knowledge and understanding to the public."
For one spectator, seeing the MQ-9 Reaper up close and dispelling rumors was the highlight of his day.
"We've come so far in aviation from 1909, it’s hard to believe it can carry so many weapons and can be so precise to take out enemies while preserving friendly lives," said Larry Winters, a California native and Vietnam War veteran. "My son is in the Army and what these [RPA] guys do helps keep him safe. I like that."
The 432nd Wing partnered with the 60th Air Mobility Wing at Travis AFB to help transport the aircraft within the U.S. because RPAs such as the Reaper do not operate in civilian airspace. The RPA community often partners with mobility aircraft for transport to enable persistent attack and reconnaissance for the combatant commanders in the theater.
While the MQ-9 was a very popular attraction, the airshow also included static displays of the B-52 Stratofortress, A-10 Thunderbolt II and C-5M Supergalaxy, and performances by the U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute team and the Air Force Thunderbirds.
"Overall the event went well and people were very interested in learning about what we do," Tre said. “This was a good opportunity to educate the community about how we operate."
The air show attracted more than 100,000 guests and the 432nd Wing is committed to outreach efforts so be on the lookout for an MQ-9 display at an air show near you.