Electronic excitation of atoms is studied in nonequilibrium air plasmas with the electronic temperature between 8000 K and 20000 K. By using the modified Saha—Boltzmann equation, our simplified method takes into account significant radiative processes and strong self-absorption of the vacuum ultraviolet lines. Calculations are carried out at three trajectory points of the Fire II flight experiment. Good agreement with the detailed collisional-radiative model is obtained, and the performance of this method in applications to highly nonequilibrium conditions is better than Park's quasi-steady-state model and Spradian-9.0. A short discussion on the influence of optical thickness of the vacuum ultraviolet radiation is also given. It costs about 2.9 ms on the average to solve one cell of the shock layer on a low cost computer, which shows that the present method is fast and efficient.