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The Suburbanite
  • Afghanistan-bound F-18 stops at MAPS

  • An Afghanistan-bound Boeing F/A-18F “Super Hornet” had a planned landing at Akron-Canton Airport late Nov. 30 during a training flight.



    The aircraft was put on display at the Military Aviation Preservation Society (MAPS) on Saturday morning.

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  • An Afghanistan-bound Boeing F/A-18F “Super Hornet” had a planned landing at Akron-Canton Airport late Nov. 30 during a training flight.
    The aircraft, from VFA-154 based in Lemoore, Calif., is attached to the USS Nimitz (CVN-68). The carrier was originally intended to deploy to Afghanistan toward the end of this year, but mechanical issues have delayed her sailing until early 2013.
    The aircraft was put on display at the Military Aviation Preservation Society (MAPS) on Saturday morning.
    It departed for its return trip to California early Sunday afternoon, right before the arrival of Santa Claus for a program at MAPS. Training flights help crews remain proficient and are often scheduled to coincide with other events to display the aircraft and help with recruiting.
    The aircraft was piloted by Lt. Ryan Kimmel, and Lt. Ben Kovesci served as the weapons system officer (WSO). Kovesci’s father, Kim, is the MAPS museum director.
    Kimmel has been flying nearly five years, with three-and-half of those in the F-18. A graduate of the Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md., he has made one combat deployment to Afghanistan.
    “The movie ‘Top Gun’ planted the seed for me to fly,” said Kimmel, whose call sign is “Chotchkie.”
    “I love flying the F-18. I started off in the Civil Air Patrol in California. After the Naval Academy I was accepted into pilot training and eventually got selected for flying the F-18.
    He said pilots are always learning.
    “You need to be constant with your training, because it’s really easy to lose your proficiency quickly,” he said. “Though most of our missions involve ground support attacks, we train about 50 percent of the time for air combat. Without a doubt, though, the most difficult thing is making a carrier landing. There are never two that are alike.”
    Kovesci, whose call sign is “Bueller,” said his job as WSO involves a lot of different tasks.
    “As WSO, I am responsible for communications, navigation, sensors, weapons employment, radar and the forward-looking infrared pod,” he said. “And it is awesome to fly in the F-18. We are the tip of the spear. I always wanted to fly, and I can’t imagine flying anything else now.”
    Kovesci has some pilot training, but the rear cockpit doesn’t have flight controls. His grandfather, Clem Reymann, flew in World War II, and his father served onboard a carrier during the Vietnam War. Kovesci recently married an F-18 pilot he met while on his combat tour over Afghanistan. She is currently an instructor in Corpus Christi, Texas.
    When he arrived at the airport around midnight Friday, it was the first time his father and mother had seen him in action and they were proud.
    “This is something he has always wanted to do,” Kim said. “He’s living every little boy’s dream. His grandfather Clem would be proud of him, and I am also proud of him.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Ben’s mother, Chris, agreed.
    "I was really in ecstasy when I saw him land,” she said. “When they landed, there was just enough light to see the plane. When the canopy opened, I saw Ben and was so excited. I gave him a big hug. It was really nice that he actually got to fly here in the plane with his name on it. He had his dream, and he attained it.”
    On Sunday afternoon as Kovesci and Kimmel prepared to depart, a large crowd of onlookers was there to see them off, including relatives, MAPS members and lots of children who had come to watch the arrival of Santa.
    “It was very nice to have the plane here for people to see before Santa’s arrival,” said Sharon Fraleigh, who had coordinated the Santa event. “The children were really excited to see the jet and watch it take off.”
    To the delight of the crowd, Kimmel moved the control surfaces to wave “goodbye” as the F-18 taxied out.
    A few minutes after the plane rolled out of sight, an ear-shattering roar was heard on the far side of the runway. Suddenly above the tree line the F-18 appeared as it swiftly climbed and disappeared into the clouds, going back to California.