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Airmen bring earthquake relief, F-22 Raptor to Chile air show

  • Published
  • By Capt. Nathan D. Broshear
  • Twelfth Air Force (Air Forces Southern) Public Affairs
Air Force members from the F-22 Raptor Demonstration Team, Air Force Academy, Holloman Air Force Base, Texas Air National Guard, Air Forces Southern and others joined forces to bring earthquake relief and Air Force airpower to the FIDAE (Feria Internacional del Aire y del Espacio) air and trade show in Santiago, Chile from March 23 to 28.

Held shortly after the 8.8-magnitude earthquake south of the Chilean capitol, the air show's theme was "solidarity," prompting FIDAE participants to bring relief supplies for earthquake victims on every aircraft participating in the show. C-130s from the Texas Air National Guard and a C-17 from the 62nd Air Wing at McChord Air Force Base transported more than 95,000 pounds of relief supplies while en route to the event.

Members of the 49th Fighter Wing at Holloman Air Force Base loaded pallets of supplies from New Mexico hardware stores that were transported via C-130 to Chile. After flying more than 17 hours to deliver two F-22 aircraft to the air show venue, Col. Jeffrey Harrigan, the 49th Fighter Wing commander, and AFSOUTH planners handed over the equipment to be immediately transported south to areas affected by the earthquake.

"Solidarity with the people of Chile guided our thought process," said Col. Bryan Bearden, the Air Forces Southern Director of Operations. "In addition to being able to support the air and trade show, Airmen from across the United States were able to support ongoing earthquake relief operations with every mission headed to FIDAE."

"Equipment brought in by U.S. Air Force aircraft was stored in a dedicated supply hangar at the air show site and immediately moved from the capitol to areas in need after aircraft arrived," added Col. Bearden.

The F-22 Raptor Demonstration Team led the community outreach efforts, visiting local hospitals, children from the Make a Wish Foundation, TELETON and the ALDEAS SOS orphanage. While the demo team spoke to dozens of international media outlets, Airmen from every unit participating dedicated their time to making FIDAE a special event for every group hosted by the USAF.

Shortly before the air show began, Airmen volunteered to take more than 40 orphans and at-risk youth to Museo Interactivo Mirador, a world-renowned children's museum, where the group spent the day learning about science with fun hands-on displays. None of the children had ever been to a museum before and the experience was truly heartwarming, said Maj. David Skalicky, the F-22 Demo Team pilot.

"The best part of being in Chile for the FIDAE air show is meeting the people here," he said. "This is an outstanding opportunity to provide positive role models to the children we've met....and to showcase our Airmen and their capabilities to FIDAE attendees during the F-22 demonstration."

Some of the children also had the opportunity to visit the air show for a personal tour of the F-22 hangar and meet the demo team. Later, the young VIPs stepped on board the C-17 and posed for photos with C-130 aircrews. The Airmen were clearly touched by the experience of meeting the Chilean children and sharing their love of airpower with each group -- at the conclusion of the event, Airmen donated more than $2000 to the Make a Wish foundation.

"This personal donation will provide deserving children with once-in-a-lifetime experiences -- much in the same way they provided us with life-long memories of our interaction with them," added Major Skalicky.

Also during the week, engineering students from the Catholic University in Santiago visited the show, toured the aircraft and got a chance to exchange ideas with Air Force maintainers. Distinguished guests to the Air Force displays also included the President of Chile and Air Chiefs from several Latin American Air Forces.