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Thunderbirds air show makes for a good 'day-cation'

By Mike Anderson and Nadine Wimmer | Posted - May 25, 2012 at 7:05 p.m.


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OGDEN — Hill Air Force Base will host close to 500,000 people this weekend for the two-day Warriors Over the Wasatch air show. Organizers say it makes for a great 'day-cation' destination for Utah families.

The show begins Saturday; and while it's sure to be a fun event for both spectators and participants, there's a lot of work that goes into making it all happen.

The crews that make it happen

There's no question the Thunderbirds are the stars of the air show. But their team includes more than a hundred others who support them on the ground.

The show actually has two crews. About 60 workers who are at HAFB , and the other 60 working from home at Nellis Air Base in Nevada. Getting the team of F-16s ready for the show takes a lot of work.


It's a really great experience to go around the country and meet people, and represent nearing 700,000 men and women who serve in the Air Force today.

–Caroline Jensen, Thunderbird pilot


"It's a really great experience to go around the country and meet people, and represent nearing 700,000 men and women who serve in the Air Force today," said Caroline Jensen, pilot of Thunderbird No. 3.

Jensen says while her stunts may take extensive practice, it's the support crew that really makes it all possible.

"It's almost a moving circus, if you will, but it's really impressive to see how things are coordinated just for us to move people from place to place," she said.

One of those "people" is Staff Sgt. Brad Butler. He's the maintenance crew chief for Thunderbird No. 2.

"Roughly, for every one hour of flight time it takes four hours maintenance time," Butler said.

That's just a small part of that traveling team. Each team member, from communications to public affairs to customer support, has counterparts back at home that fill those same roles, Butler said.

Event details:
"Warriors Over the Wasatch" runs Saturday and Sunday, May 26 and 27:
  • Location:Hill Air Force Base, Ogden
  • Time: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., both days
  • Details: Show will include an open house, aircraft displays and the air show. Admission is free to the public.
The base opens at 8 a.m., with performances beginning at 10 a.m. The gates close at 5 p.m. The parking lot for F-16s will become a parking lot for the public. Buses will shuttle others from various lots to their destinations.

He added that his job couldn't be any more satisfying.

"There's no other great feeling than that," Butler said. "To see your jet — which is a red, white and blue aircraft — flying in an air show, inspiring the next generation of future Airmen."

A benefit to the economy

The show may cost taxpayer dollars now, but event coordinators hope that won't be the case for long.

"We're trying to create a vehicle through the Utah Military Affairs Committee and the air show committee to raise funds in the community so we can 100 percent fund what happens out here for the air show," said Kevin Ireland, coordinator for Warriors over the Wasatch.

Sponsors say the air show is vital to the community because it showcases a branch of the military that is so important for our freedom, and it's a great recruiting effort along with a great show.

"Warriors Over the Wasatch: A Legacy of Valor" air show and open house runs Saturday and Sunday. The base opens at 8 a.m., with performances beginning at 10 a.m. The gates close at 5 p.m.

The parking lot for F-16s will become a parking lot for the public. Buses will shuttle others from various lots to their destinations.

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Mike Anderson
    Nadine Wimmer

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