Yes, I know it's the F-22 Raptor, but after witnessing a jaw-dropping flight demonstration by this airplane at the Rhode Island air show yesterday, "rapture" seems like the right word. I've been to many air shows and I've seen most everything that flies, but the maneuverability of the F-22 is just astounding. It's like gravity is not quite a law, more of an inconvenience for this airplane, though of course it's all done with aerodynamic forces just like any other airplane (but with a lot of computer assistance). It can fly so slow that it almost seems to stop in the air and hover, then execute a turn or a loop in very little distance. It can even "fly backwards" (sort of) - I posted a video on Flickr of the F-22 doing a tail slide maneuver, climbing straight up, stopping, and sliding down backwards for a considerable distance before flipping forward and back into regular flight.
The F-22 was definitely the star of the Rhode Island National Guard Air Show 2009 that I attended with my brother yesterday at Quonset State Airport in North Kingstown (sorry, Blue Angels, though you were amazing as always). I had never seen anything like it. But the rest of the show was great too. We had blue skies the entire day (after a solid week of rain) and this made the aerial performances all the more enjoyable. There were several excellent civilian aerobatics performers including the great Sean Tucker, a nice flight demonstration by a pair of vintage P-51 Mustangs, as well as virtouso demo team performances by the Canadian Snowbirds and the US Navy Blue Angels. A Mustang and an F-16 also joined the F-22 for a "Heritage Flight" close formation fly-by which was very cool (shown here - more pictures on my Flickr site).
I got to hang out for a while inside a V-22 Osprey (mainly for the shade and the seat), but unfortunately it didn't fly for the show, which would have been nice to see (this is the Marines' tilt-rotor transport, a hybrid airplane/helicopter). And of course there's that great air show food! All in all a fine day of kid-flashback aviation excitement. And beer.