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September 23, 2014

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Air Force Thunderbirds wow thousands at annual air show

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Justin M. Bowen

The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds perform Saturday during the annual Aviation Nation air show at Nellis Air Force Base.

Aviation Nation Nellis

The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds perform Saturday during the annual Aviation Nation air show at Nellis Air Force Base. Launch slideshow »

The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds performed in front of a home crowd of thousands at Nellis Air Force Base on Saturday.

The performance is part of the annual Aviation Nation air show, which draws more than 100,000 people to the base each year.

The event, which is free, continues Sunday. Parking and a free shuttles to the event are available at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Senior Airman Ashley Serrano is stationed at Nellis but wasn’t at the show to work Saturday. Instead, she brought her children, her parents and her grandmother to watch the Thunderbirds.

“I think it’s more prideful because we see these people all the time. We know them,” she said after watching the performance.

Serrano’s mother, Sheri Story, who lives in Seattle, said she enjoyed the Thunderbirds’ exhibition. “It’s been a long time since we’ve seen them,” she said.

Story, an Air Force veteran, said the air show was better than some others she has attended.

“It’s so big. I’ve been to a lot of air shows, and this one is huge,” she said.

The Thunderbirds are the Air Force’s elite demonstration flying team. The group, which is stationed at Nellis, travels across North America performing nearly 70 shows a year.

“I thought it was awesome,” said North Las Vegas resident Adrienne Brown. “I love airplanes and I love aviation, but you don’t get the chance to see the Thunderbirds every day.”

Her husband, Luis, and her 4-year-old son also said they enjoyed the show.

“I love being able to see all the planes up close,” Luis Brown said. “When you’re a little kid, you play with little planes and you don’t realize how big they really are.”

Not all of the spectators were from the Las Vegas area.

Bryce and Donna Roberts came to the show from their home in St. George, Utah. They heard about Aviation Nation on the radio and decided to make the two-hour drive to check it out.

“It made the hair on the back of my neck and the hair on my arms stand up,” Bryce Roberts said.

“We can’t wait to come back next year,” Donna Roberts added.

Jack Laub, also from St. George, brought his wife and four of his children to the show. They are regulars at air shows, he said.

“Going to air shows is a culture,” Laub said. “It’s kind of a lifestyle; once you do it it’s in your blood.”

He said the younger children, especially, loved climbing into the planes and seeing things up close.

“It’s pretty cool for the kids to see everything and interact with the helicopters and planes,” he said.

But he was most wowed by the Thunderbirds.

“You don’t get to see the skill level of these pilots every day, so you’ve got to take advantage of it when you can,” he said.

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  1. It's time to park the jets.

    What was the fuel and maintenance costs of this show?

    How many children are sleeping on the streets tonight after this "celebration?"

    It's time (past time) to end the delusions of military grandeur and get to work...solving serious problems.

    We, the People need to get off this high-flying flight to nowhere.

    These "brave" pilots are symbolic of a flight plan from point A and then back to point A.

    Identify and solve this deteriorating worldwide scenario first.

    ...THEN we can throw a party and thousands of dollars up into the air.

  2. I would second the architect's comment, but monkey-me beat me to it. The Thunderbirds and the Blue Angels are great but we can not afford to be spending this kind of money right now to support these kind of air show operations. I don't know what the aforementioned operations cost the taxpayer, but I know personally from having flown business jets for a while, e.g Lear Jets, the fuel consumption and cost especially when on afterburner, is staggering. Not to mention the cost of aquisition, e.g. Thunderbirds---11 F-16 Fighting Falcons--- and maintenance and travel, etc. etc. To be spending this kind of money on airshows is just wrong when the economy is devestated and millions are out of work.

  3. Everyone is entitled to their opinion (but not their own facts). I support our military, I served as an Officer in the U.S. Navy. These "shows" are nothing more than advertising and promotion for the military, they do not, in my opinion do anything to provide for national security or defense readiness. As far as recruitment, our currently ravaged economy does way more for military recruitment because there are insufficient jobs available for our young people. We need to reduce wasteful spending, military and otherwise, and start investing in job creation.

  4. Oh yes by all means, give the public their bread and circuses (latin: panem et circenses).

  5. Chunky says:

    He enjoyed the show and he felt good inside to see the military displaying their aircraft and talent so proudly. It was very patriotic in that way.

    But, Chunky never really considered the cost of producing the Thunderbird show. Good point Mr. Architect!

    Granted the staff, working fighter jets, pilots and crew would be there anyway doing whatever it is they do to practice.

    On the other hand, the Thunderbird's mission seems to be marketing / promotional / recruiting. The pilots, planes, crew and fuel expenses must be astronomical and maybe better spent somewhere else.

    That's what Chunky is pondering this evening!