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War-ready F-35 fighter jets show off before Hill air show

Maj. Kristin “BEO” Wolfe flies during an F-35A Lightning II demonstration team show at Hill Air Force Base on Friday. Wolfe could be seen high up in the skies over the Wasatch mountains, performing aerial maneuvers during an F-35A Lightning II Demonstration Team practice show in preparation for the upcoming Warriors Over the Wasatch Air and Space Show.

Maj. Kristin “BEO” Wolfe flies during an F-35A Lightning II demonstration team show at Hill Air Force Base on Friday. Wolfe could be seen high up in the skies over the Wasatch mountains, performing aerial maneuvers during an F-35A Lightning II Demonstration Team practice show in preparation for the upcoming Warriors Over the Wasatch Air and Space Show. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)


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HILL AIR FORCE BASE — Flying fighter jets is in Maj. Kristin "BEO" Wolfe's blood.

"My dad was a fighter pilot, so (I was) born on an Air Force base, moved around in the Air Force my entire life — so very familiar with that military lifestyle," Wolfe said.

Despite the familiarity, Wolfe didn't decide that she wanted to pursue a military career until she was in college, where she joined the ROTC, before being commissioned into the Air Force two years later.

Lt. Col. Megan Murtishaw and her daughter Madline watch during an F-35A Lightning II demonstration team show at Hill Air Force Base on Friday. Maj. Kristin "BEO" Wolfe could be seen high up in the skies over the Wasatch mountains, performing aerial maneuvers during an F-35A Lightning II Demonstration Team practice show in preparation for the upcoming Warriors Over the Wasatch Air and Space Show.
Lt. Col. Megan Murtishaw and her daughter Madline watch during an F-35A Lightning II demonstration team show at Hill Air Force Base on Friday. Maj. Kristin "BEO" Wolfe could be seen high up in the skies over the Wasatch mountains, performing aerial maneuvers during an F-35A Lightning II Demonstration Team practice show in preparation for the upcoming Warriors Over the Wasatch Air and Space Show. (Photo: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

Now, Wolfe is an experienced fighter pilot with more than 800 flying hours in the F-35A Lightning II and F-22A Raptor under her belt, as well as a feature spot in the Air Force's new "Own the Sky" commercial.

On Friday, Wolfe could be seen performing aerial maneuvers over the Wasatch mountains during an F-35A Lightning II Demonstration Team practice show in preparation for the upcoming Warriors Over the Wasatch Air and Space Show.

The show, which is returning to Hill Air Force Base on June 25 and 26 after a four-year hiatus, will feature the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds alongside more than a dozen world-class acts, including Wolfe flying in Hill Air Force Base's very own F-35A Lightning II Demonstration Team.

"We're very excited, this is the largest show that we've put on in many, many, years ... people are going to be thrilled with what they're going to be able to experience," said Kevin Ireland, executive director at the Utah Air Show Foundation.

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Friday's practice demonstration featured a breathtaking array of aerial maneuvers in an F-35A Lightning II that Wolfe said features the "latest and greatest" in aviation technology.

"Some of the airplanes that we take on the air show circuit have less than 200 hours on them and they're like five years newer than my car," Wolfe said.

Watching Wolfe perform her aerial acrobatics while in the cockpit of a fighter jet is certainly an adrenaline rush in its own right, even for those on the ground. And, as far as how it feels to fly an F-35?

"It's like flying a roller coaster," Wolfe said.

Maj. Kristin “BEO” Wolfe flies during an F-35A Lightning II demonstration team show at Hill Air Force Base on Friday. Wolfe could be seen high up in the skies over the Wasatch mountains, performing aerial maneuvers during an F-35A Lightning II Demonstration Team practice show in preparation for the upcoming Warriors Over the Wasatch Air and Space Show.
Maj. Kristin “BEO” Wolfe flies during an F-35A Lightning II demonstration team show at Hill Air Force Base on Friday. Wolfe could be seen high up in the skies over the Wasatch mountains, performing aerial maneuvers during an F-35A Lightning II Demonstration Team practice show in preparation for the upcoming Warriors Over the Wasatch Air and Space Show. (Photo: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

Though a task compared to flying a roller coaster might seem daunting to anyone else, to Wolfe, it's like second nature.

"Pretty focused out there. You know, once the canopy closes you forget everybody on the outside and you forget kind of what's going on, all the cameras and people watching and you kind of get into your habit patterns and pretty focused on the maneuvers," Wolfe said. "It is pretty aggressive flying ... a lot of G's, a lot of strenuous maneuvers, but it's a lot of fun."

Wolfe and the F-35 team have been flying across the country performing at various air shows, but she said that it's an "awesome" feeling to return to Utah and put on a show on her home turf.

"This is obviously our home base, we've been here since 2019. We started practicing (and) skipped the 2020 air show, so we're really excited to see everybody out and especially the local community," Wolfe said.

Maj. Kristin “BEO” Wolfe smiles after flying during an F-35A Lightning II demonstration team show at Hill Air Force Base near Layton on Friday. Wolfe could be seen high up in the skies over the Wasatch mountains, performing aerial maneuvers during an F-35A Lightning II Demonstration Team practice show in preparation for the upcoming Warriors Over the Wasatch Air and Space Show.
Maj. Kristin “BEO” Wolfe smiles after flying during an F-35A Lightning II demonstration team show at Hill Air Force Base near Layton on Friday. Wolfe could be seen high up in the skies over the Wasatch mountains, performing aerial maneuvers during an F-35A Lightning II Demonstration Team practice show in preparation for the upcoming Warriors Over the Wasatch Air and Space Show. (Photo: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

Even though the F-35A Lightning IIs are flown in the air show circuit, Wolfe emphasized that the fighter jets aren't modified in any capacity for the shows.

"This airplane could go to war tomorrow with bombs in it," Wolfe said. "Some of them come back from war (and) we fly them in demos."

In addition to giving the local community — and others who come from all across the U.S. — a glimpse of what happens behind the gates of Hill Air Force Base, Wolfe said that air shows serve as crucial recruiting tools for the military.

"Just to get kids, especially young kids, excited to fill our shoes one day so it's a huge recruitment platform for us," Wolfe said. "We just hope to inspire literally anyone that's out here watching."

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Logan Stefanich is a reporter with KSL.com, covering southern Utah communities, education, business and military news.

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