The Thunderbirds will soar above the Old Pueblo this weekend as part of Thunder and Lightning over Arizona, a biannual open house that’s expected to draw a record crowd of 250,000 to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. • In addition to the precision flying team and other aerial demonstrations and routines, the two-day celebration features military and civilian aircraft on display along the flight line, along with community booths and a Kid Zone Saturday and Sunday. And for a small cost, there’s a ride simulator and a zero-gravity chair that let you feel like you’re flying without leaving the ground.
5 reasons to go
The squadron is an air-combat command unit with eight pilots, four support officers, four civilians and more than 100 enlisted personnel in specialty jobs. Six pilots fly in formation.
The group’s aerial demonstration is a mix of formation flying and solo routines, with about 30 maneuvers during the 75-minute show, which starts at 2 p.m. each day.
As part of this open house, the base is highlighting 10 members of the Desert Lightning Team who have made significant contributions during their time in Tucson or while on deployment. One captain, for example, was leading a flight of A-10s returning from a mission in Afghanistan and was low on fuel when he diverted the group to assist a convoy that was under enemy attack. On Sunday several members will be recognized in person before the Thunderbirds perform.
Where else will you have the opportunity to sit in the shade and sip a craft beer near a parked F-16?
“You are literally sitting in front of the parked Thunderbirds,” said Frances Pientack, the Force Support Squadron marketing director.
This will be the second open house to include a beer garden; however, its launch for the 2012 Thunder and Lightning over Arizona-Celebrating 100 Years of Statehood, was dampened by cold and windy weather.
Organizers expect better sales this year, and will be serving beer from Hangar 24 Craft Brewery in Redlands, Calif.; selections include Orange Wheat Beer, Betty IPA, and California Spring Beer on draft. There will also be Sierra Nevada Brown Ale, Bud Light, wine and Lima-a-Ritas. A wristband to get into the garden is $30, which includes your first beer. No one under 21 is allowed. Proceeds benefit morale, welfare and recreation programs for the troops.
The beer garden also has shaded seating and private restrooms.
While admission is free, there are ways to make the air show experience a bit nicer. Actually, you can make it a lot nicer.
For instance, you can rent a lightweight chair for $5 a day.
Food vendors will sell items such as hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza, chicken, kettle corn, Eegees, and Maui Wowi frozen smoothies. ATMs will be scattered throughout the flight line.
And tickets will be sold outside the Kid Zone to use the bouncy castle and other attractions.
Those wanting a top-of-the-line experience will want tickets to the Flight Line Club, which cost $110 plus a fee — and must be bought online before noon Friday or until those tickets are sold out. That gets you VIP gate and parking access, shaded seating area with an unobstructed view of the show, catered meals and access to private restrooms.
Check out more options, including box seating, at dmforcesupport.com
As of Wednesday, the National Weather Service was predicting mostly sunny skies and temperatures in the mid- to high-80s this weekend.
Open house organizers recommend that you bring water bottles (free water-refill stations will be available), sunscreen, hearing protection, sunglasses, and sun hats or baseball caps.