Thunderbirds roar and roll


POSTED: Sunday, September 20, 2009

For a brief moment, Abigail Hilpert manned the cockpit of a U.S. Air Force Boeing E-3 Sentry airborne warning and control system, or AWACS, plane whose mission is normally to monitor activity in Russia.

“;It was fun,”; said the 6-year-old Hilpert.

The high-tech plane with its white and black rotating radar dome is normally based in Alaska but was at Hickam Air Force Base yesterday, along with about two dozen Air Force aircraft—including the B-1 Bomber and F-22 Raptor fighter—at the “;Wings Over the Pacific”; open house.

The ground exhibits were just the prelude for the main attraction—a 30-minute air show by the Air Force Thunderbirds.

The six sleek F-16 Fighting Falcons impressed the crowd with about 30 maneuvers, loud sounds and precise formations.

“;When you see some of these planes fly, you know we're the most powerful nation in the world,”; said Mark Nakagawa, who came with his wife and two children.

Matt Hilpert, a pastor at St. Mark Lutheran Church in Kaneohe, wanted his three kids to see the different aircraft because several family friends are pilots.

Inside the E-3, 8-year-old Joshua Hilpert looked behind a blue curtain hiding two cots.

“;Oh, it's a bed,”; he said. “;That's uncomfortable.”;






The Thunderbirds will fly again today:
        » Place: Hickam Air Force Base
        » Ground show: 2:30 p.m.
        » ”;Wings Over the Pacific”; open house: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Enter at main gate; park on base.


Passing through the modified Boeing 707, the kids saw rows of display screens, wires, tubes and a wall of switches.

“;These are all the circuit breakers,”; an Air Force crewmember aboard the aircraft told them. “;There's a couple of switches for lights and stuff.”;

After touring the planes on the display on the ground, the Hilperts watched the Thunderbirds roar into the sky.

Four F-16s flying in a diamond pattern shot overhead into an aerial loop, trailed by four lines of smoke.

“;Wow,”; Joshua Hilpert said.

Agape children pointed upward at a blazing sun and the red, white and blue fighters flying in close formation and, sometimes, directly at each other.

“;They're going to crash,”; said 4-year-old Ben Hilpert from his father's shoulders.

Nearby, Renee Kapahua-Wise was filled with pride thinking of her 20-year-old son, who recently entered the Air Force's technical school on the mainland.

“;A whole new perspective this time,”; she said. “;It's a different feeling. Super proud.”;

“;I don't care how many times I see it, I still get goosebumps,”; said Jeanette Germann, a friend of the Hilpert family.

Her granddaughter Willow Germann, 6, said, “;I liked it the most when one went upside down and one went straight up.”;

“;I wasn't scared,”; she added. “;I knew they would be safe.”;