01/14/09 — F-22A Raptor rattles local skies

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F-22A Raptor rattles local skies

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on January 14, 2009 1:46 PM

News-Argus Video Report

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Maj. Dave Skalicky

It was just hanging there -- suspended in the sky -- hundreds of feet above the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base flight line.

An F-22A Raptor from Langley Air Force Base worth nearly $150 million -- one of the world's premier fighter jets.

But nobody seemed concerned.

Not even when it started to plummet toward the ground.

They knew that Maj. Dave Skalicky was in complete control -- that his Raptor is capable of the seemingly impossible.

And an instant later, the command pilot affirmed their confidence as he and his jet were streaking, again, through the clouds.

Air Combat Command's F-22A Raptor Demonstration Team performed for Seymour Johnson airmen and civic leaders Tuesday morning.

The roughly 20-minute flight was originally thought to be a practice run for Wings Over Wayne 2009, but despite being listed on the event's Web site as a performer for the April air show, Air Force officials now say the team has yet to confirm its place in the lineup.

Either way, Tuesday's flight evoked similar responses from those who took it in.

There were local dignitaries and high-ranking officers expressing disbelief at the combination of "grace" and "power."

There were airmen in the control tower looking wide-eyed at each other every time a new maneuver was displayed -- telling stories passed down through fighter pilots about the Raptor's dominance over everything in the sky during war games.

And then there was Skalicky himself, who couldn't help but grin each time he fielded a question about the performance he had just given.

"I'm just incredibly fortunate just to be part of the Raptor program," he said. "It's a dream come true."

A dream that began, for the pilot, in an F-15C less than a decade ago.

"It is night and day," Skalicky said when asked to compare that aircraft to the one he has flown for the three years -- the F-22A. "The capabilities of the Raptor are unmatched by anything."

Even Seymour Johnson's own F-15E.

But that didn't stop the home demo team from stating its case.

Shortly after the Raptor touched down, Capt. Phil Smith and Capt. John Cox were in flight -- pushing their Strike Eagle to the limit.

Those in the tower shared a laugh -- and a few cheers.

"Yeah," one said. "This is our house."

Even so, none would argue that there was something special about the F-22.

Something "unreal."