Hanging Halfway Out the Door of a Sideways Pave Hawk, No One Had a Better View.
Last Weekend’s Aviation Nation Air Show at Nellis AFB outside Las Vegas, Nevada, was a magnificent post-pandemic return for one of the greatest airshows in the world. According to local Las Vegas news outlet news3lv.com, “More than 100,000 people” attended the three-day event held between November 4 – 6, 2022.
But it’s pretty safe to say that no one in the audience at Nellis had a better view, was closer to the action, or had more fun than the door gunner of the HH-60G Pave Hawk combat rescue helicopter of the 66th Rescue Squadron from Nellis in these photos.
During the Combined Arms Demonstration (CAD) at Aviation Nation, aviation photographers from around the world caught snapshots of this unidentified, but now famous, door gunner leaning half way outside the open door of his aircraft as it banked 45-degrees while maintaining an orbit over another Pave Hawk that was simulating a fast-rope insertion of Pararescue forces and the winch recovery of personnel.
The action unfolded when F-16 Aggressors simulated an airstrike on Nellis AFB. This prompted a quick-reaction force comprised of an F-22 Raptor and F-16 Vipers along with a pair of F-35A Lightning IIs to respond. The scenario included simulated enemy special operations forces who had covertly infiltrated the base on the ground. In response, the HH-60G Pave Hawks and Air Force Special Operations forces in all-terrain vehicles responded on the ground.
The action in front of the massive crowd line across Nellis AFB is non-stop during the Combined Arms Demo (sometimes also called the Air Power Demo), with a swirl of F-16s, F-15s, F-22s, A-10s and F-35s overhead. Most of the aircraft are releasing salvoes of infra-red flares in simulated dogfights. Others are conducting simulated ground attacks to support Air Force Special Operations ground forces during the demo. This all unfolds as a pair of HH-60G Pave Hawks inserts Air Force Special Operators as part of the demonstration.
It was during this phase of the demo that our hero, the guy hanging halfway out of the sideways Pave Hawk, got his viral moment. We’re not sure what this guy was actually watching; the swirl of A-10s and F-35s providing simulated air support to the rescue flight, or the spectacular “dog fight” between a pair of aggressor F-16s and a “blue force” F-22 Raptor just overhead. But whatever it was, it must have been awesome.
Unfortunately for us, the photos show Our Man, the “viral door gunner of the Nellis CAD”, was not wearing a helmet-mounted GoPro, so we’ll never get to see what he saw that day. But we can be sure that whatever it was as he was hanging halfway out of his rescue helicopter, it was surely pretty darn awesome!