It's official: Thunderbirds flying at June Hill AFB air show

Thursday , May 17, 2018 - 5:15 AM1 comment

HILL AIR FORCE BASE — It’s been seen as a likelihood for several weeks now, but Hill Air Force Base officials confirmed it on Tuesday — the Air Force’s premier aerial demonstration team will perform at the base’s air show next month.

HAFB spokesman Micah Garbarino said the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds have resumed their 2018 show schedule and are expected to perform at the base’s "Warriors Over the Wasatch" Air and Space Show, scheduled for June 23-24.

The group’s status at the show had been up in the air after Maj. Stephen Del Bagno was killed in an F-16 crash over the Nevada Test and Training Range on April 4. The Thunderbirds immediately suspended all flying operations after the crash and canceled several shows. 

• RELATED: Thunderbirds likely to perform at Hill AFB air show

The Thunderbirds returned to the skies for training in mid-April, an indication they’d likely be back in the air by the time Hill’s show rolled around.

On Monday, Air Combat Commander Gen. Mike Holmes authorized Thunderbird performances to resume, starting with a show this weekend at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia.

A press release from the Thunderbirds said Holmes determined the team was safe to perform again after reviewing recommendations from the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, 57th Wing and U.S. Air Force Warfare Center and after scrutinizing the team’s safety, training and operational practices.

“The Thunderbirds look forward to safely resuming public shows,” Commander Lt. Col. Kevin Walsh said. “It’s been challenging to get us to this point, but the team is resilient, focused and ready to get back to our mission.”

Del Bagno’s crash was the first fatal mishap the Thunderbirds have endured in 36 years. The incident is still under investigation and the report of the findings will be made public once it’s complete.

• RELATED: Thunderbird pilot dies in crash, team's Hill AFB air show status unknown

Hill’s air show is held every other year and the two-day event regularly draws more than 500,000 visitors. Garbarino said flying is expected to begin at about 9:30 a.m. on both days, with Hill’s gates opening at 8 a.m.

The show is set to include an F-35 attack demonstration, a special operations parachute team and several other military and civilian aerial demonstrations. Displays of modern and historic military aircraft and equipment will also be featured, and an entire hangar will be dedicated to STEM education, with aerospace companies providing displays and interactive activities.

Overall, 16 acts are scheduled to perform, Garbarino said. The full lineup can be seen at hill.af.mil.

The show is free, but VIP tickets include private seating and food and beverage options.

Garbarino said about 8,000 free parking spots will be available on base during the show, but once those spots fill up, the show’s two main entry points (the base’s West and Roy gates) will be closed.

The Utah Transit Authority FrontRunner commuter train will run during both days of the show and shuttle buses will be running at the Clearfield FrontRunner station, 1250 S. State St. Parking and shuttles will also be offered at the Weber State University Davis Campus, 2750 University Park Blvd., Layton; and at Northridge High School, 2430 N. Hill Field Road, Layton.

You can reach reporter Mitch Shaw at mishaw@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @mitchshaw23 or like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/MitchShaw.StandardExaminer.

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