For Air Force Capt. Joe "Rifle" Shetterly, one of the nearly 20 performers taking to the skies at this weekend's air show at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, flying is more than a career - it's pretty much in his genes.
The A-10 pilot instructor, who has been stationed at D-M for more than six years, has been racking up miles in his logbook since he was 6 months old and made his first solo flight at 16, before he even had a driver's license. His dad, Greg, also performs aerobatics in air shows, and his mom, Micki, and brother, Jeff, are flight instructors. Shetterly has even passed on the family's love of flying to his two sons, 2 and 4, who already have a few entries in their own logbooks.
"It didn't seem weird to me. You had to get older to realize 'oh, not everybody gets to fly airplanes,' " Shetterly said. "I've always been thankful that my parents were into it and they're so willing to share it, especially my dad - he's the one that exposed us all to that, and it was not a pressure type of deal. It was what he liked to do and he was willing to share it, and I took advantage of it."
Since that first ride on a plane, Shetterly, 33, has flown more than 4,000 hours in more than 115 different planes.
"The things that make aviation and flying airplanes so exciting for me is there's always something new to learn, there's always the next level to take it to whether it's flying aerobatics or learning a new skill or flying a different type of airplane" Shetterly said. "I've just scratched the surface on the things you can be exposed to in aviation. That doesn't get old or get boring."
From 2010 to 2011 he was the A-10 west demonstration pilot, responsible for showcasing the plane at more than 60 events. He was the last pilot to hold the position before budget reductions forced the Air Force to cut five of its six single-ship demonstration teams, leaving only the F-22.
But Shetterly's demo days are far from over. For his performance at this weekend's Thunder and Lightning over Arizona air show he will perform in his own homebuilt, shiny silver RV-8, a plane he bought in 2009, sight unseen.
He'd heard of the plane from a friend while in Afghanistan. Its original builder and owner, Air Force fighter pilot Eugene Gaddis, had recently passed away. Each digit in the plane's N-number 76540 represents a model of jet Gaddis flew during his career, including the A-10.
"With that story and his family being in the (Tucson) area and the airplane being here and a strong recommendation for how well-built and fast and light the airplane is … it was just an easy decision," Shetterly said.
Shetterly's weekend performances will show him spinning and looping through the air and dropping for surface-level maneuvers, leaving a trail of smoke.
He's performed in nine shows with his new business, Rifle Airshows, but this weekend's show will be especially memorable since it will be his last before he moves to Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri.
"We've been in Tucson about 6 1/2 years and we're going to move on right after the show, so flying in this air show is kind of a culmination of our time in Arizona to include being the A-10 demonstration pilot and deploying with the 354th fighter squadron," Shetterly said. "So Davis-Monthan has been my workplace, and it's been my home squadron for the military flying. And it's kind of cool to wrap it up after flying so many aerobatic demonstrations and practices over Davis-Monthan in the A-10, and then to show up in my plane and fly in the air show is kind of a fun way to wrap up our time in Arizona."
For all things air show check out the event guide in today's issue of Caliente.
On StarNet: Get the latest information on Davis-Monthan's open house at azstarnet.com/events/airshow
Walls covered in handwritten messages of get-well wishes, gratitude and tributes to fallen soldiers, which once made up a holding area at the Joint Base Balad Air Force Theater Hospital in Iraq, will be on display at the Davis-Monthan Open House this weekend.
The air show is the last time the walls will be on display before they are packed away while plans are made for a permanent display at a yet-to-be determined location.
The military hospital, equivalent to a Level 1 trauma center, treated more than 38,000 service members, civilians and Iraqis before its closure in 2011.
Did You Know?
On Sept. 23, 1927, Charles Lindbergh flew into Tucson, dedicating Davis-Monthan Field. It was named for Oscar Monthan, who grew up in the area and served in the Army Air Service and died in a training exercise crash in 1927, as well as Samuel H. Davis, a Tucson airman who died in an aircraft crash in Florida in 1921.
Source: Star news archives
Join the Star at 3:15 p.m. today for a live chat with Air Force Capt. Blaine Jones, the "opposing solo pilot" for the USAF Air Demonstration Squadron "Thunderbirds," flying the No. 6 jet. This is the Kansas native's first season with the Thunderbirds, who'll be flying at the Davis-Monthan open house Saturday and Sunday. The Q&A format chat will be conducted at live.azstarnet.com
Contact reporter Veronica Cruz at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4224.