Thunderbirds are go for 3 shows
For the first time, Oahu residents will get three chances to view the Thunderbirds, the Air Force's aerial demonstration team, as the jets roar through combat maneuvers off Waikiki this week.
The first two times will be on Thursday as the six F-16 Fighting Falcons, wings and tails painted a patriotic red and blue, practice their aerial maneuvers for Saturday's grand finale. All three demonstrations will be held off the beach fronting the military's Hale Koa Hotel. Saturday's show is expected to run little more than an hour as the Air Force pilots perform 30 maneuvers -- some bringing the jets within inches of each other at 500 mph.
Air Force 60th-birthday events
» Tomorrow: Concert, Waikiki Shell, 7 p.m. Free.
» Thursday: Air Force exhibits, Fort DeRussy, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
» Saturday: Thunderbirds aerial demonstration, Fort DeRussy Beach, 2:30 p.m. Air Force concert, Kapolei Park, 7 p.m. Free.
The Thursday sessions -- at 9 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. -- are part of a daylong Air Force exhibition, including displays and free concerts at Fort DeRussy as part of the celebration honoring the creation of the Air Force as a separate branch 60 years ago.
A week of birthday activities that includes free concerts, golf tournament, visits by Hickam Air Force Base personnel to island schools, parties and exhibits will end with Saturday's 2:30 p.m. air show.
Capt. Jeff Richards, who heads the Honolulu Police Department's Waikiki substation, told reporters that his force is preparing for large crowds because Waikiki also is the site of the Aloha Week parade on Saturday morning.
Richards said there are up to 80,000 visitors every day in Waikiki.
Lt. Col. T.J. Stull, Hickam's air boss for the Thunderbirds show, said the "show box" above which the six sleek jet fighters will perform has been moved 300 feet farther from the shoreline to accommodate local surfers.
The boundary of the "show box" will begin near Magic Island, running more than 12,000 feet to a spot near the Waikiki Natatorium. It will be 2,700 feet wide and will start 1,600 feet from the beach so surf spots are excluded.
Stull said surfers and boaters will not be allowed within the "show box" while the Thunderbirds are performing. Twelve 3-foot orange buoys will mark the boundary on the Magic Island side of the box, Stull said. Large 8-foot buoys will be placed at the four corners of the box.
The Coast Guard will patrol the deep-water outer boundary of the off-limits area, while officials from the Department of Land and Natural Resources' boating division are responsible for the shallower beach side.
The department also will not allow any hikers to climb to the top of Diamond Head on Thursday and Saturday, and is closing the Diamond Head State Monument at the request of the Honolulu Fire Department, said Laura Thielen, department director-designate.
It also will close Ala Wai Harbor from 8 to 11 a.m. and 1 to 5 p.m. Thursday and from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday.
The Federal Aviation Administration also will establish a 5-mile-radius no-fly zone that could affect the flight patterns of as many as 30 commercial aircraft during the one-hour shows, Stull said.
The last time the Thunderbirds performed over Waikiki was in 1997.