Grounded by wind gusts, Air Force Thunderbirds will try again today

2014-04-13T00:00:00Z Grounded by wind gusts, Air Force Thunderbirds will try again todayArizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Gusty winds grounded the star-attraction Thunderbirds at Saturday’s air show, but Air Force officials are hopeful the weather will allow the team to fly today over Tucson.

Winds gusted to about 30 mph at 2 p.m. at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, the time the Air Force Thunderbirds were scheduled to fly, says meteorologist Chris Rasmussen of the National Weather Service in Tucson.

For safety, the maximum wind the Thunderbirds can fly in is 28 to 29 mph, said Capt. Susan Harrington, D-M public information officer.

Today, the weather service expects winds of about 15-20 mph with gusts up to 25 mph, “well within the range for flying,” Harrington said.

Whether they fly or not, the pilots will be available on the ground to talk to fans and sign autographs, as they did Saturday.

Winds also prevented performances by parachutists Saturday at the Thunder & Lightning Over Arizona show at Davis-Monthan, Harrington said.

However, most if not all planes that were scheduled to fly did so before the gusts picked up, she said, so fans got to see the A-10C Thunderbolt II and other jets, as well as helicopters, in the skies overhead.

Attendees were disappointed but understanding about canceled aerial and jumping performances, Harrington said.

“A good number of people stayed and talked to the pilots and got their programs signed. And we’re really hoping for a good show Sunday (today),” she added.

Plane noises in the car

At 20 months old, Shane Jones couldn’t exactly articulate what he liked about the Thunder & Lightning show Saturday, but a mention of the word “plane” had his full attention.

Though the sound of a jet-engine-powered car was a little too loud for the toddler, Shane liked the noises the planes made as they flew over Davis-Monthan Air Force Base during the biennial show, said his mother, Jennifer Jones.

Shane, who was decked out in a floppy hat and sunglasses, was even making airplane noises in the car on the drive over to the base, she said.

Shane and his parents were visiting Tucson from Vancouver, British Columbia. They were vacationing with Shane’s grandparents from Wales.

The family members were among the 250,000 people who are expected to visit the base this weekend for the air show and the star attraction, the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds.

Gretchin Shaulis and Ken Johnson of Tucson, were at the air show with their children, Riley, 7, and Katie Shaulis, 4; and Emma, 11, Lilly, 8, and Parker Johnson, 6.

“They’re doing demonstrations of how they do attack runs,” Ken told the children after planes passed overhead followed by a large explosion on the far side of the airfield.

“I like the explosions. I like the loud noises,” Lilly said.

Emma’s favorite plane, the huge C-5, had flown by earlier.

“They’re like nothing else,” she said. “I don’t really get them. How does something that weighs like a million pounds fly?”

Riley and Parker were also excited to see the maneuvers of D-M’s Desert Lightning demonstration team.

In addition to myriad vintage and modern aircraft parked on the tarmac and the dozen or so pilots and teams scheduled to perform stunts and maneuvers, there are also food booths and souvenir stands at the two-day air show, which is free to the public.

The Star’s Norma Coile and Kim Matas contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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