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Wednesday, August 6, 2003



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COURTESY PHOTO
The Air Force's "Thunderbirds" -- six F-16 Fighting Falcon jet fighters -- will perform for the first time over Hickam Air Force Base Saturday and Sunday.



Hickam expects big crowd
for Thunderbird air shows


Hickam Air Force Base officials are expecting up to 100,000 visitors this weekend to watch the six F-16 Fighting Falcon jet fighters of the U.S. Air Force's demonstration squadron, the Thunderbirds.

It will be the first time the squadron has performed over Hickam Air Force Base.

In 1997 and 1994, the air show was over Waikiki Beach, with Fort DeRussy designated as "show center." In 1991, flyovers were held over Bellows Air Force Station and Waikiki.

The Thunderbirds were supposed to return here on Oct. 27, 2001, as part of its Asian tour but the event was canceled after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

At Hickam, 1st Lt. Paradon Silpasomprasit, Hickam spokesman, said Air Force officials are trying to work out a deal to have live television and radio broadcasts of the 30-minute aerial shows.

The crew of eight Air Force pilots and 115 support ground crew members who comprise the squadron were to arrive at Hickam this afternoon to prepare for their 30-minute air shows Saturday and Sunday.

Silpasomprasit said parking will be "tight" for the event, which will include a display of 25 Air Force warbirds and rides and concessions.

"We are urging the public to car-pool wherever possible," he said.

The gates at Hickam will open at 10 a.m. on both days and visitors will be directed where to park. Show time on both days is 4 p.m. There will be no charge for admission. Hickam's gates will close at 6 p.m.

"Visitors ... will be directed to different parking areas," Silpasomprasit said. "We've been planning this event for months and we are prepared for almost everything."

Silpasomprasit said Hickam officials expect up to 100,000 people over the two days to see the shows. A viewing area of more than a mile along Hickam's flight line will be set up and the Air Force is warning visitors to dress comfortably.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Thunderbirds. They were officially activated May 25, 1953, as the 3600th Air Demonstration Unit, at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz.

The Korean War was the first time the United States used jet aircraft in combat.

Between March and November each year, the Thunderbirds average nearly 70 demonstrations, keeping the team on the road for more than 200 days. Featured in the demonstration is a mix of solo routines highlighting the capabilities of the F-16 and formation flying that includes the four-aircraft diamond formation showing the pilots' precision-flying abilities. Pilots perform about 30 maneuvers during a demonstration.

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