MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The thrust of a pair of Air Force F-22 Raptors heralded their arrival over central Alabama on Thursday as the nation’s top military and civilian aircraft began arriving for the inaugural Red Tails Over Montgomery Air Show.
Saturday’s open house event will be free to the public as the Alabama Air National Guard’s 187th Fighter Wing hosts their first air show. The squadron is giving back to the community as it celebrates its 65th year at Dannelly Field, and the 30th anniversary of receiving its first F-16 Fighting Falcon.
Low clouds and tropical moisture on Thursday morning provided a full vapor wrap over each F-22 as they practiced at high speeds over the air field. In contrast, the weather will be sunny and warm for Saturday’s display.
The F-22 Raptor will headline the full air show event, and demonstrate it’s maneuverability, including dizzying climbs and speeds over 400 m.p.h. Piloted by Major Paul Lopez, the F-22s performance will have crowds stopping on the tarmac to watch the nation’s fifth generation fighter, including the crowd favorite Heritage Flight with the P-51 Mustang.
“The Heritage Flight is a living memorial pairing up a modern fighter with a World War II or Korean-era airplane flying in formation,” Maj. Lopez said moments after landing at Dannelly Field. “Paired with great narration and great music, it captures that feeling of how import the Air Force legacy is in the military.”
Performances by the 187th’s own F-16 Viper and a P-51D Mustang — each sporting red tails — will honor the legacy of the Tuskegee Airman while inspiring future generations.
“We are so thankful for the support of our community and the legacy of the Tuskegee Airman of World War II,” Colonel Ed Casey, commander of the 187th Fighter Wing, said Thursday during a discussion on the flight line. “The vision going forward is to have a big aviation event for the city of Montgomery every few years.”
The air show will see performances by the Air Force Wings of Blue Parachute Team, the twin Trojan Phlyers aircraft, and civilian aerobatic pilots Gary Ward and Greg Koontz. Educational events and a special exhibit dedicated to the Tuskegee Airmen pilots and maintainers will be present during the family-fun event.
The air show will occur during a time of positive growth around Dannelly Field. Last December, the 187th received official word from the Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson that they will become a new home base for the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lighting II in a few years.
The 187th Fighter Wing has had a storied history from defending the United States following the 9/11 attacks including multiple deployments to the Middle East, to protecting the nation after a natural disaster. The squadron is also home to a fleet of gray F-16C Fighting Falcons with painted red tails on their vertical stabilizer as the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen continues onward.
Col. Casey expressed the importance that guests arrive early. Gates will open at 9 a.m. and the first flights will begin at 11 a.m. You can follow updates on traffic and parking lot availability posted on the air show’s Facebook page.
There will be six off-base public parking locations divided into Blue, Green, Yellow, Red, Purple, and White lots where guests will catch a free bus ride onto the base. One parking lot on the base is designed for handicapped parking and requires drives to display an ADA sign.
(Charles A Atkeison reports on aerospace and technology. Follow his updates via social media @Military_Flight.)