Sunday, May 9, 2010

Midlands Thunder

Shaw AFB is holding its Thunder Over the Midlands Airshow this weekend and the show has something for everyone. There are military-themed rides and games for the kids, vintage planes from the WWI and WWII era, foreign planes, and of course the main attraction, the US Air Force Thunderbirds.

Things kicked off at noon on Friday, with practice taking place for the US Army's Golden Knights parachute team, the Viper East F-16 team, and a flight by a WWII P-51 Mustang. One of the highlights of practice featured one of Shaw AFB's F-16 jets flying alongside the P-51 Mustang, pitting the Air Force's flagship fighter with 1940's era technology.

Besides watching planes fly, spectators have many on-the-ground displays to peruse. In-flight-refueling planes have been open for people to walk through, seeing what it's like to look out the back glass and operate the refueling boom that crewmembers use to fuel other planes while in flight. Cargo planes were also open to show the public a little taste of what it's like for our servicemembers to "sit in the sling" while tanks, Humvee's, and other equipement cramp your leg room.

The Golden Knights kicked off Saturday's activities with a jump by the parachute team that showed the crowd why these guys need all the training they get. One of the team members was having trouble with his parachute and he began a rapid, spiraling descent that was too fast for a safe landing. The paratrooper released his primary parachute and pulled the cord on his secondary 'chute and he landed safely.

The Viper East F-16 team then put on a show alongside F-15's from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. Watching these two teams fly together puts the size-difference of these planes in perspective, with the F-15's considerably larger.

A few more demonstrations took place, then the crowd got what they were waiting for. After a long day in the sun, everyone was finally treated to what they really came to see. The Thunderbirds performed, doing their air-bound tricks to the delight of young and old, military and civilian, veteran and new recruit.

The air show continues through 3 pm today, when the Thunderbirds will once again bring thunder over the midlands.

PhotosByBrianCope: The US Army Golden Knights Parachute Team opens Saturday's events. Two Thunderbirds showing the crowd what they came to see. Old and new--an F-16 flying with a WWII P-51 Mustang. Spectators watch this Thunderbird's trick--flying as slow as possible, which is always a crowd-pleaser for those thinking it's just about speed. This F-16 from Shaw's Viper East team cuts up, afterburner glowing.


  1. Thanks, I had to break out the digital SLR for those planes!