ACC F-15C demo team flies last flight, showcases 33rd FW Eagle era

  • Published
  • By Chrissy Cuttita
  • Team Eglin Public Affairs
Nomad and Air Combat Command history was made May 1 as the last day an Eagle demonstrated its graceful flight full of high-performance climbs, split-s turns, loops, knife passes and dives.

When the command's F-15 West Coast Demo Team performed their finale in front of the 33rd Fighter Wing Nomad reunion, plus special guests here, they not only ended the season, they ended an era.

"It was a bitter-sweet moment," said Lt. Col. Bill Edwards, AAC Aerial Events chief, after presenting the10-man team with a farewell gift to recognize its encompassing 1983-2009 timeframe.

Capt. Sam "Nuke" Joplin wowed the crowds with each display of Eagle power in a moment that was also sad for his team, command and the wing they called home.

The 33rd FW Nomads have been home to ACC's team since the 1990s. They originated from Holloman AFB, N.M., and moved to Tyndall AFB, Fla., before settling at Eglin. The name "West Coast" has been retained for heritage purposes.

"It didn't sink in until the very end," Captain Joplin said.

Maintainers said the pilot was told "this is it" on the radio just before the jet landed.

Once the Eagle was turned down and secure they ran out to greet Captain Joplin with handshakes and hugs. Shortly after, the crowd joined including family members.

ACC's teams usually have a two-year assignment and during the last two seasons, the F-15 West Coast Demo Team performed more than 150 times all over the world. They took the same routine of air superiority with them as the last.

"It's a once in a lifetime opportunity and they represented the Air Force and the country well," said Colonel Edwards. "I couldn't be more proud."

The demo team draws down along with the rest of the Nomads who end a 30-year chapter of Eagle driving at Eglin in September. Starting Oct. 1, during a formal ceremony, ACC will pass the 33rd FW legacy to Air Education and Training Command to make way for the upcoming F-35 Joint Strike fighter training complex.

ACC now has six demonstration teams left to showcase America's air power.