U.S. Air Force Reserve combat-search-and-rescue helicopter wins best in show at world’s largest air show

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Kelly Goonan
  • 920th Rescue Wing

The 2018 Royal International Air Tattoo, the world’s largest air show, according to its web site, selected the HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter from the 943rd Rescue Group, Tucson, Ariz., as the winner of best static display out of hundreds of aircraft.

The international 100-year celebration boasted 302 aircraft from 43 air arms representing 30 nations, which drew a crowd of more than 185,000 from July 13 – 15.

All of the U.S. Air Force’s combat-search-and-rescue (CSAR) squadrons based in the United Kingdom relocated in May 2018, along with their fleet of Pave Hawks, to Aviano Air Base, Italy, prompting show organizers to reach over to the highly acclaimed desert-based Reserve unit at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, according to 943rd RQG commander, Col. John D. Beatty.

On the first day of the RIAT, judges inspected a mile-and-a-half conglomeration of aircraft on display looking at the overall presentation with an eye for the unique, said Beatty.

“We took the aircraft we used to pickup Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell – the lone survivor (in 2005).” The aircraft’s display placard detailed the harrowing story of how Beatty’s team picked up Luttrell from Afghanistan’s Hindu Kush mountains after a series of events during a counter-insurgent mission that lead to the demise of all involved but Luttrell. The SEAL penned his ordeal in a best-selling novel, later made into a blockbuster movie.

The top twenty teams were automatically invited to send two representatives to a black tie affair the following day.

“We were the best static displayed at the 2018 RIAT for the 100th anniversary. It’s a huge deal,” Beatty said. “It was a tremendous honor and a privilege to be there, and certainly to represent not only the 920th Rescue Wing (parent unit) and the 943rd RQG, but also the mission that we do.”

Air Force Reserve pilots Maj. Dave Gonzales (co-pilot on the mission to pick up Marcus Luttrell) and Capt. Mike Parker were on hand to accept the award on behalf of the aircraft’s crew chief and the combined efforts of the 943rd Maintenance Squadron and 305th Rescue Squadron.

The entire team worked diligently to fold the aircraft’s rotors for transport in a C-17 Globe master across the Atlantic, then unfold and prepare the aircraft for the winning static display, according to Beatty.

Also in attendance was Gen. David L. Goldfein, Air Force Chief of Staff, who congratulated the team for all their efforts, said Beatty, who explained the Air Force’s second in command has a particular passion for our mission of saving lives because he was rescued after being shot down by a surface-to-air missile in his F-16 Fighter Jet over Serbia in 1999.

“It was a great event and I couldn’t be more proud of the men and women in the 943rd Rescue Group who pulled it off,” Beatty said.

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