Inside The Gates: Fighter pilot hopes to inspire at 2022 Arctic Thunder air show

Maj. Josiah Gaffney was 10 years old when he saw an air show that changed his entire life.
Published: Jul. 20, 2022 at 2:44 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Maj. Josiah Gaffney was 10 years old when he saw an air show that changed his entire life.

“I saw F-16′s flying there, and said, ‘that’s what I want to do,’” Gaffney said.

As he watched from below, Gaffney watched the magic of the planes twisting and turning in the air, leaving nothing but a trail of smoke behind them.

“That feeling of freedom and being able to go wherever you want in the sky, almost like having a superpower,” Gaffney said. “That really had an impact on me as a kid.”

That moment of awe never left him. His passion for aviation grew throughout the years, leading him into a career as a fighter pilot for the U.S Air Force, where he gets to live out his childhood dream daily as a member of the PACAF F-16 Demonstration Team.

He has been performing for the past two and a half years out of his 13 years spent in the U.S. Air Force.

Gaffney spends his time practicing routines in the sky, working to perfect his performances and skillset if needed for combat. Through the demonstration team, he has been able to travel and perform around the world, including in air shows in Australia, India and the Middle East.

“The opportunity to have unique experiences, travel around the world, see things from a different perspective up in the sky, it’s something I love about it and it’s never gotten old after all these years,” Gaffney said.

His team of 11 pilots will be traveling back stateside after being stationed out in Japan, to perform at the Arctic Thunder Open House Air Show on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson on the weekend of July 30 and 31.

This is the first time his team has been back in the U.S. since performing at the 2021 Airshow that was held at Fort Wainwright. His team, he said, is excited to return back to the states and show people the full capacity of what an F-16 can do and what it brings to the Air Force.

“What you’re going to see is the world’s most aggressive and I’d argue exciting single ship fighter aircraft demonstration. We put the jet through its paces and perform it at its max capability,” Gaffney said.

Gaffney hopes that his performances will help inspire others to reach their maximum potential, showing them what hard work and practice can do.

“For me, it’s amazing to see how all that work translates into something that is almost like magic to me to watch an aircraft fly around and defy gravity,” Gaffney said.

As he hopes his performance will pay it forward, and help inspire the future of aviation. Just like the air show he attended at 10 years old did for him.

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