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Photography provided 

For the first time in more than 15 years, Grissom Air Reserve Base is inviting the public to experience military aerial demonstrations. It will feature the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and the Golden Knights, which is the U.S. Army Parachute Team.

On September 7 and 8, all ages can visit the base for the 2019 Grissom Air and Space Expo, which, in addition to the air show, will feature aircraft displays, live music, and food. There will also be a kid’s zone arranged inside one of the base hangars with STEM-related activities, a beer garden and more. Admission and parking are free and open to the public. Doug Hays, Grissom’s public affairs director, says the base expects around 45,000 attendees per day if the weather cooperates.

“It’s going to be highly interactive because we want people to come out and talk to us,” Hays says. “We’ll have our aircrew members out by each of the display aircraft to answer questions and take photos. It’s also a good recruiting tool, and we want to show the different opportunities that the Air Force Reserve offers, hoping people take advantage of them.”

The show by the Thunderbirds, the U.S. Air Force’s premier aerial demonstration team, is comprised of eight F-16 jets, with six flying at once in a variety of formations, and two jets demonstrating solo maneuvers. The team pilots will be available to answer questions and sign autographs after the demonstrations. 

“Depending on the weather they can do a high show, a low show or a flat show – usually you’ll see a lot of formation with what they call fingertip formation,” Lieutenant Colonel Brian Thompson says, project director for the Expo. “The two solos do stuff that’s more tactical in nature, with slow flying at high angles of attack, and some fast passes at right around the sound barrier.” 

The air show will occur on both days of the Expo, weather permitting. The Air Force band, Roots in Blue, an eight-piece act that plays a range of rock, blues and pop material, will also perform on both days.

Hays first filed the proper paperwork with the U.S. Air Force to make a show happen at Grissom back in June 2018, and he says the lengthy hiatus might have actually helped to secure the Thunderbirds.

“I think because it had been so long since we had done an air show, they were anxious to come back to our base,” he says. “We’re excited to have them.”

Aircraft on display at the event will include helicopters, a T-38 twin-jet supersonic jet trainer, an AC-130 gunship, an F-35 fighter jet, and more.

Hays says multiple factors played into the 15-year delay for air shows at Grissom.

“We’ve really been at war since 2001 with a lot of mobility deployments and high operations tempo — that stuff is a lot of work, with people deployed routinely and the rapid changeover that we’ve had,” he says. “We tried to do a show back in 2010 but we couldn’t get a big-name act like the Thunderbirds or the Blue Angels, so we decided to pull it.”

Hays adds that Grissom officials are hopeful the event will serve as a boost to the local economy.

“We’ll certainly be getting a lot of people attending from out of town, and we know that Kokomo is getting hotels booked up,” he says. “We also consider this a big community relations event. We want people to know that we’re here, what we’re all about, and what their tax dollars are spent on.”

For additional information on the 2019 Grissom Air and Space Expo, including details on display aircraft, directions and more, explore grissom.afrc.af.mil/Grissom-Air-Space-Expo/.

The Expo will run from 8:00 a.m. to 5 p.m. on September 7 and 8, with air shows beginning in the late morning on both days at approximately 11 a.m., weather permitting. The event is free to the public, with free parking available (carpooling is highly encouraged as parking will be limited).

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