TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The thrust of jet aircraft and sights of the top warbirds of yesteryear filled the skies of western Alabama on Sunday during the final day of the Tuscaloosa Regional Air show.
Over 50,000 guests arrived early for a chance to witness both military and civilian performers, including the historic A-10C Thunderbolt II, popular aerobatic pilots Rob Holland and Adam Baker, and the air shows headline performer the Navy’s Blue Angels. Air show officials estimate crowds of nearly 20,000 parked nearby during the weather shorted single day event.
Thunderstorms on Saturday cancelled the entire performance line-up, leaving a cloudy and cold Sunday as the lone flight day for several civilian and military demonstrations. As the opening ceremonies begun at noon, the grassy guest areas remained wet and the cold wind blew following the passage of a cold front.
Once Air Boss David Schultz was given the airspace around the airport, the flying began beginning with the opening ceremonies. The patriotic theme and the national anthem had the entire audience on their feet in support of both the military and local city police and firefighters on duty supporting the event.
The A-10C, nicknamed the Warthog, performed a 20 minute flight demonstration by pilot Capt. Cody Wilton showcasing the handling characteristics of this Air Force aircraft. Based at Davis-Monthan AFB in Arizona, the Warthog demonstrated the way it can maneuver at a low altitude and low air speeds.
“Our mission is to showcase the combat capabilities of the A-10, and to inspire the future generations of air power,” A-10 Demo Team spokesperson Sr Airman Betty Chevalier said on Sunday. “What makes our demonstration different than any other single ship aerial demonstration in the Air Force is most of ours takes place in front of the crowd.”
This year marks the return of the A-10 as a demonstration flight performer for the first time in seven years. The team is scheduled to attend 20 show sites in the United States, Canada, and Korea in 2018.
“I think my favorite maneuver is the double aileron roll just cause it happens so quickly,” Sr Airman Chevalier added as the her team moved across the gusty flightline. “Capt. Wilton performs two aileron rolls very quickly in front of the crowd.”
The Tuscaloosa air show included an array of both military and civilian static displays, including the UH-72A Lakota helicopter from the Alabama Air National Guard’s Birmingham 114th Aviation Detachment. The crew of the Lakota’s mission is simple — homeland security and support.
“It’s great to have the aircraft here for two reasons, one for recruiting and one for individuals to be able to see the aircraft,” Chief Warrant Officer 4 Timothy Cauley said as he and his team stood near their aircraft. “Even though the UH-72 has been in the army for ten years, it is relatively new to the general public, and so they do not have a full understanding of what we do and how we support the citizens and local state and federal law enforcement.”
A twin engine helicopter, this UH-72 features a glass cockpit and the ability to perform rescue operations with the air of its external hoist system. Painted in Army green with darkened windows, the Lakota carries a Security & Support Mission Equipment Package which includes an electro-optical infrared sensor camera at the nose to aid in night searches and navigation.
Tuscaloosa air show officials are hoping to return again in two years with another great line up. An official announcement will be made no earlier than December.
(Charles A. Atkeison reports on aerospace and science. Follow his updates on social media via @Military_Flight.)