Brian Heater will be back in Columbia for the first time in eight years.
But now, he’s not just Brian Heater, MU graduate.
He’s also Lt. Brian Heater, pilot of the F/A-18F Super Hornet at the Salute to Veterans airshow.
“It’s going to be totally awesome to be back in Columbia because I’ve never been back since graduation,” he said. “I’m excited to get back because I’ve heard it’s changed a lot.”
A Joplin native, Heater is a member of squadron VFA-122, the “Flying Eagles,” based at the Naval Air Station in Lemoore, Calif. He has spent more than 1,300 hours flying F-18 planes during the past seven years and has flown on seven aircraft carriers. Heater also served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
During the airshow, he will fly an 11- to 12-minute tactical demonstration in the F/A-18F, a dual-seat fighter attack plane.
In the demonstration, Heater will fly at low and high speeds and will demonstrate the aircraft’s high angle of attack, which is where forward motion of the plane is horizontal while the nose is more vertical. The show will also feature other vertical maneuvers and rolls.
“My favorite part is the slow speed high angle of attack pass,” Heater said. “It probably takes the most flying skill. The nose is so high up, and I’m going so slow that I can look down at the crowd and really enjoy it.”
Heater said the plane will travel at speeds up to Mach 0.98.
“We can’t break the sound barrier, unfortunately, or else we’d break a lot of windows,” he said.
The Super Hornet went into service in 1999 and into combat in 2002. The aircraft, which can travel at a supersonic Mach 1.8 speed, has high maneuverability. It is used for various tasks including day and night strikes, fighter escort, reconnaissance and close air support.
Its predecessor is the F/A-18C/D Hornet, and in an effort to avoid confusion between the two, the Super Hornet is sometimes referred to as the “Rhino.”
The Super Hornet was first seen at the airshow last year. Mary McCleary Posner, airshow president and founder, said she used to market F-18 planes for Northrop Corporation and is excited to include them in the show.
“I always go after them because I think of them as my airplane,” Posner said.
Learning that the pilot was from Missouri was an added bonus, she said.
“I was thrilled because I love bringing Missouri men and women back,” Posner said.
For Heater, who requested to fly demonstrations near his hometown, the airshow, which starts Friday and continues through the weekend, will not only be his fifth airshow but also an opportunity to reunite with family and friends.
“My mom has never seen me fly, and she’s coming out to Columbia so that will be cool,” Heater said.
The team plans to arrive in Columbia on Thursday and leave Sunday, so Heater is hoping to have plenty of time to visit the city.
“I’m definitely going to walk around campus again, check out the old sites and pick up some Mizzou T-shirts,” he said. “It’s been eight years, so my shirts are pretty worn out.”