DAYTON, Ohio — The US Air Force unveiled the latest edition of its popular Heritage Flight at the Dayton Air Show this weekend, including for the first time a MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aircraft.
According to Air Combat Command Public Affairs Officer Capt. A.J. Schrag, "The mission of the Heritage Flight is to present the evolution of USAF air power by flying today's state-of-the-art aircraft in close formation with vintage ones, including iconic platforms like the P-51 Mustang, F-86 Sabre and the F-22 Raptor."
"Now," Shrag said, "all flyovers, funerals, and special ceremonies featuring the unit will be treated to a view of the future in aerial technology."
Air Force Capt. Jimmy “Joystick” Whittaker, the veteran drone fighter pilot selected to fly the prestigious aircraft, explained the rationale behind the decision.
“It was really a no-brainer,” Whittaker said, pushing his aviator sunglasses up onto his head. “Heritage Flight encompasses both where the Air Force has been, and where it’s going. The era of manned aircraft is over, and this is a great way to spread that message to both the American people and our nation’s enemies.”
A source in the Chief of Staff's office familiar with the decision explained, “Although many pilots remain attached to the idea of humans in aircraft, this effectively sends a message to those dinosaurs that their time is finished.” The source requested anonymity because "the dinosaurs still have weapons systems at their disposal."
The choice to unveil the newest iteration of Heritage Flight at the Dayton show was not coincidental.
“Manned flight began in a bike shop down the road, and it’ll end in the research labs of Wright-Patterson AFB,” Schrag said.
After the announcement, veteran Heritage Flight participants refused to speak on the record about the newest addition to their brotherhood, but General Herbert "Hawk" Carlisle, ACC commander, said that he is "confident the pilots and ground crews fully support the change. They'd never commit treason."
He also explained that the Air Force is looking to slowly phase out the rest of the manned aircraft in Heritage Flight by 2020 with the addition of the RQ-1 Predator, the RQ-4 Global Hawk, and the RQ-170 Sentinel, as well as remotely piloted P-51s and P-47s.
Schrag, the ACC spokesman, declined to comment on rumors that the Air Force would begin flying its memorial flights as "Missing Men" formations (as opposed to the current "Missing Man") using drones flying straight and level.
Duffel Blog writer Jay-B contributed to this report.