After a full week of performances, static aircraft displays, and all of the logistics and support to make an event like Feria Internacional del Aire y del Espacio (FIDAE) happen, U.S. Airmen are headed home after making lasting memories and partnerships in Santiago, Chile, from April 5-10, 2022.
As the fifth largest air and trade show in the world, and largest in Latin America, FIDAE brought 46 countries together with the intent to promote the development of aerospace, defense and security for the first time in four years, with the pandemic causing a cancellation of the last iteration of the biannual event two years ago.
“[FIDAE] reopens its doors after the forced recess caused by the COVID-19 Pandemic,” said General Arturo Merino, Commander in Chief of the Chilean Air Force (FACh). “With renewed energy we are determined to take advantage of this adversity as an opportunity that will allow us to cooperate in the recovery of activities in the [defense] sector.”
The week was filled with bilateral engagements and opportunities to strengthen U.S. partnerships with other countries, to include the host of FIDAE.
Midway through the week, five FACh aircrew members received an orientation flight in the Nevada Air National Guard’s C-130H, which they brought to FIDAE as a static display to showcase a unique modification to the aircraft. Instead of the traditional four-blade propeller featured on most C-130H models, the Nevada Air National Guard C-130 is equipped with NP-2000 8-blade propellers, giving it additional thrust and reduced maintenance time and cost. The FACh will be adding the NP-2000 propellers to some of their C-130 fleet in the coming months.
Additionally, the U.S. Air Force Academy Wings of Blue Parachute Demonstration Team performed daily jumps out of a FACh CASA 212 aircraft alongside the Chilean Parachute Demonstration Team, the Boinas Azules (Blue Berets). In a display of partnership, the last two jumpers out of the aircraft each day, one from each country, flew their respective country’s flag below them as they glided through the air on their way down to the drop zone.
“It is an amazing experience getting to combine what we love to do, skydiving, with lessons in leadership on the international scale,” said Cadet 2nd Class Baileigh McFall, Wings of Blue team member. “Demonstrations are always fun but it is not every day that you get to watch working relationships form between two nations. In 20 years, I am not going to remember the skydive, but I am going to remember the international partnership.”
Along with the Nevada Air National Guard and Wings of Blue, the U.S. Air Force Delegation was also represented by the F-22 Raptor Demonstration Team, the Texas Air National Guard, and a leadership and support team from 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern), each with an important role in continuing to build on the relationships with other nations in the western hemisphere.
“We look at countries like Chile, for example, as our trusted partner, and when you look at the capability demonstrated here, not only from what the FACh can bring, but just organizing FIDAE signals their commitment as a strong partner in South America,” said Major General Barry Cornish, 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) Commander. “We have been coming [to FIDAE] 20 plus years, and I’m very proud to represent the U.S. Air Force and SOUTHCOM here.”
For the week, the F-22 Raptor Demonstration team flew eight sorties, including practice flights, and the Wings of Blue team made seven jumps, showcasing U.S. airpower for the thousands in attendance, leaving a lasting impression only matched by the impression left on all of the Airmen participating in FIDAE 2022.
“As we leave this beautiful city and country, I have no doubt that every member of this U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard delegation shares my deep sense of appreciation and wonder at the rich Chilean culture, the warmth and friendliness of the people, and the shared experience of working together with our Chilean Air Force partners to successfully bring the world of aviation and aerospace to tens of thousands of our Chilean friends,” said Col. Adam Mercier, Mission Commander for FIDAE U.S. Air Force Delegation. “It is an experience that I will remember for a lifetime.”