Nellis Air Force Base is one of the best locations in North America for an air show. The base is located just a short drive north of Las Vegas making it very easy to travel to from anywhere in the world. The beautiful Sunrise Mountain makes an incredible backdrop for all of the aircraft movements during the show. Finally, and most importantly, there are dozens of aircraft based at Nellis that perform a variety of roles including operational test and evaluation accomplished by the 53 Wing, advanced air combat training performed by the 57th Wing which includes the 64th Aggressor Squadron and of course the USAF Air Demonstration Squadron Thunderbirds. During Aviation Nation many of these aircraft are on display, both in the air and on the ground, to demonstrate their operational capabilities for those in attendance.
Aviation Nation 2016 celebrated '75 Years of Airpower' at Nellis AFB. The event also featured the final performance of the QF-4 Phantom II at an air show. The harsh November lighting that comes with photography at Nellis and a solid layer of stratus clouds that moved in during the show made for challenging conditions on the day that I attended, but the quality and variety of aircraft on display made the event worthwhile. The Phantom was of course the highlight but I really enjoyed watching the DC-10 from 10 Tanker Air Carrier demonstrate it's firefighting capabilities by dropping thousands of gallons of water on the east side of the base. Proximity to many of the air museums in the southwest meant there were plenty of warbirds in the flying program, including a beautiful F-86F Sabre from Planes of Fame that flew with the warbirds early in the show and then was joined by an F-22 and an F-35 for the Heritage Flight later in the afternoon. I had high hopes that I would catch some of the fighters popping flares during their displays but unfortunately that occurred quite a distance to the north and resulted in one of my only disappointments at the end of the day. Aviation Nation is one of the top shows in North America and one I hope to enjoy again in the future.