January 7, 2008 (by SSgt. Thomas J. Doscher) - Air Show Buzz named F-22 pilot Maj. Paul "Max" Moga and the F-22 Demonstration Team their Person of the Year for 2007 after the team's first whirlwind year wowing air show crowds across the country.
The F-22 Demonstration Team
Major Moga and the F-22 Demo Team beat out aerospace industry heavy hitter and Virgin Galactic boss, Richard Branson, and air show industry officials for the award.
"It was a unique opportunity to be selected, to be given the responsibility of telling the country and the world the story of this jet and the Air Force," Major Moga said. "We brought something to people they have never seen before. We put the most capable combat aircraft the world has ever seen in front the public."
Major Moga and his team are the first to receive the award, given to a person or performer who is recognized as a "game changer" for the air show industry.
"They just absolutely changed the shape of how things are perceived at air shows," said Ed Shipley, founder of Airshowbuzz.com
Mr. Shipley said he knew the exact moment when Major Moga and his team sealed the deal and won the award at the Gathering of Mustangs and Legends Air Show in September. He said the crowd had eyes for nothing else.
"They were mesmerized when they saw the demo," he said. "They just stood there. And I sat and looked up and down the line, and I realized that of the 100,000 people who were there, not one of them was moving. They were staring at the aircraft and what it was doing."
The F-22's participation in air shows was originally to be limited to heritage flights, but when Air Force leadership decided to have a dedicated demo team like the F-15E and A-10 teams, Major Moga and his team of 15 Airmen were tasked with developing a demonstration that would be not only breathtaking, but safe and repeatable.
"It was difficult because I didn't have set maneuvers to work with and Lockheed test pilots had never created a demo nor had they flown in a low altitude air show environment with the F-22," Major Moga explained. "So I had to test each maneuver, spending eight hours in the simulator with Lockheed test pilots throwing every possible emergency at me at the worst possible times in the maneuver."
While Major Moga handled the show from the air, the demo team maintainers had to make sure the F-22 was ready to safely fly for crowds that reached into the hundreds of thousands time after time.
"We couldn't expect anything less from this group," said Master Sgt. Tim Green, F-22 Demonstration Team superintendent. "Excellence is our standard. It's a team effort. Major Moga always gives them an eye-watering, mouth-dropping performance, and there were no cancellations due to maintenance."
Major Moga said the award was an honor for him and the rest of the demonstration team, but the highest praise comes from the people he meets on the road.
"They say, 'That is the most amazing thing I have ever seen at an air show,'" he said. "And that means a lot to me and a lot to my team.