An A-10C Thunderbolt flew near the spectator line when suddenly the crowd jumped as a plume of smoke billowed from the runway area and a boom shortly followed.
In its demonstration at the Wings Over Columbus Air Show, the Thunderbolt showed off its prowess for close air support for on-ground forces with low flying and planned explosions in between the runways.
“I loved the fire! I was not expecting for the planes to do that,” Mac Thomas, a young spectator from Vernon, Alabama, said.
He was among an estimated 35,000 spectators at Columbus Air Force Base on Saturday.
For the first time since 2017, the Columbus Air Force Base hosted the air show, and it was also the first show in the entire US Air Force for 2022. The closing act for each day of the two-day event was the famed Thunderbirds, which are F-16 fighter planes used in precision tactical bombing and air-to-air combat. The show will reprise today.
Thunderbird pilot Major Jake Impellizzeri served as the pilot for the Hometown Hero flight and as narrator for the Thunderbirds’ shows this weekend. This is his first season with the team, and his excitement was palpable.
“I got hired back in September, so I’ve been (a Thunderbirds pilot) for about six or seven months,” Impellizzeri said. “I love it. This is the first air show of the season, and we are so excited to be here in Columbus. … We’re honored and excited to be here and start the year off with a bang.”
The Thunderbird demonstration consisted of six planes flying in formations and performing solo routines. The pilots flew in a diamond formation and one that looked like the planes were stacked on top of each other. The two solo pilots flew in a mirror formation during the show, which includes one plane flying rightside-up and the other flying upside down above the other.
One spectator, 14-year-old Triuity Busby from Louisiana, was excited to see the planes in action, and she liked to see how the bigger planes operated. Her only complaint was the weather — it was too sunny.
“I don’t really know too much about planes, and I don’t really mind the loudness,” Busby said. “I think it’s kind of cool. It would have been great, though, if it was kind of cloudy so you could see.”
Triuity’s 11-year-old sister, Teirhany, said she likes to see what the different planes can do.
“It’s really cool how you get to come out here and see all of the airplanes,” Teirhany said. “They have airplanes that they used back in the old days and you got to see how cool it is when they drop bombs. You could feel the heat after. It was so cool. During the drive up here, though, we had to deal with talkative brothers, no. That part was not great.”
Mac’s mother, Jodi Thomas, was impressed by the static planes people were allowed to tour. There were planes such as an AC-130, a large warship plane in the USAF, and one of the FedEx Air planes.
“I really like the planes that are not in the air,” Jodi Thomas said. “It was a really cool hands-on experience that you don’t get that often.”
On Saturday, all of those who gathered witnessed 10 new airmen take the oath to serve their country.
Despite long food lines and trouble with parking, the air show set the stage for the rest of the USAF air shows this year with a crowd-enticing lineup and numerous static displays to keep spectators entertained from the opening of the gates at 10 a.m. to the end of the show at 5 p.m.
The Thunderbirds and the A-10 Thunderbolt were among 14 performers in this weekend’s show. Other performers included a P-51 Mustang pilot, the Wings of Blue parachute team, a C-17 Globemaster III demo team and world-renowned aerobatic pilot Rob Holland.
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