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With a squadron of six Thunderbirds lining the runway, Utah’s “Warriors Over the Wasatch” air show welcomed an estimated 400,000 spectators to Hill Air Force Base this past weekend.
The air show opened to the public on June 28 and 29 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. with several aerial performances and ground displays. From plummeting parachuters to racing on the runway, these aerobatic shows gave visitors a rare chance to get up close and personal with some of the fastest jets in the military.
“There are awesome demonstrations,” said Scott Stebbins, an air frame engineer. “You can get up close to a ton of different kinds of aircraft.”
However, most can agree the center of the show was the Thunderbirds, the U.S. air demonstration team who made their appearance at 3 p.m. on the runway.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing the Thunderbirds,” said Kaitlyn Kimball Henderscheid, named as Miss Utah Collegiate 2014. “It should be super fun!”
Like many of the other athletic programs at WSU, the softball team held its camp to help share their passion for the sport with the young members of the community. The two-day camp gave both players and coaches the opportunity to help young players develop the skills necessary to compete at the college level.
The Thunderbirds later captivated their audience with impressive speeds and challenging tricks to demonstrate the precision and teamwork of Air Force pilots.
They also paid tribute to all military men and women as they created a heart shape in the sky.
Keynote Thunderbird pilot Major Curtis Dougherty offered his perspective on what it’s like to perform for the crowd. He said one of the most difficult maneuvers to execute is the bomb burst, where the pilots split off to create the illusion of a close collision.
“It’s like icing on the cake at the end of our show,” said Dougherty. He added that most people enjoy the sneak pass move, a maneuver where one of the pilots flies by a little slower and louder than normal.
Despite the proven capability of trained pilots during the performance, the Thunderbirds’ routine goes deeper than just the show. Beyond maintenance and execution of flying airplanes, Dougherty stated that their missions expand across the globe.
“There are all kinds of things that the Air Force is doing, and it’s a story that folks should come out and hear,” said Dougherty.
While it is a community event, the air show allows people to learn more about military and civilian activities at Hill Air Force Base as well as providing insight about the Air Force, according to Thunderbird Staff Sergeant Kristina Overton.
“An air show, especially where we’re concerned, allows the public to understand the things that we do,” said Overton, who added her favorite part about the show is meeting people and answering questions about the Thunderbirds.
Along with the air show’s focus on the Air Force, Major Caroline Jensen hoped that people will not only leave the show with a good sense of patriotism, but also with a new appreciation.
“It’s not just the red, white and blue that you get to see at the end of the show, but all the other people out here who love aviation,” said Jensen.
Air shows continue to have an impact on audiences in more ways than one, according to Jensen. She said they create a space for bonding, honoring your country and building a sense of camaraderie. They are a family-friendly way to entertain, and people can come out and have a free show.
For Kimball, part of a military family herself, the patriotism is what keeps her coming back and she encouraged people to do the same.
“These days, it’s really hard to get everyone together and show the love for our military. So the air show is just something that allows us to get together,” said Kimball.