Thunderbirds to perform at Wisconsin airshow

  • Associated Press
  • July 26, 2014 - 9:05 PM

MILWAUKEE — The Thunderbirds are expected to draw an unusually large crowd to eastern Wisconsin next weekend for the Air Force jets' first full performance at the nation's largest convention of pilots.

Neither the Thunderbirds nor the Navy's Blue Angels have done anything more than flybys at the Experimental Aircraft Association's annual convention, AirVenture, because the military teams require more free space on the ground than other airshows held during the event.

And, the Thunderbirds' upcoming shows are expected to be even more attractive this year because many people were disappointed earlier this summer when fog forced the Blue Angels to cancel performances in Milwaukee.

"It fits the event well, and it's going to be an exciting element," said Sean Elliott, vice president of advocacy and safety for the EAA. "It adds to the overall experience one more notch."

To clear a half-mile wide and 2-miles-long space on the ground below the aerobatic box in which the F-16 jets perform, AirVenture organizers asked 40 hanger owners as well as 13 businesses and 18 homeowners near the airport whether they would be willing to close or leave during three approximately hour-long shows.

Those who agreed include Mark Lloyd, 54, a hobby pilot who lives next to the airport with his wife. He said they had some safety concerns but determined their homeowners' insurance would cover any accidents — which they consider a remote possibility. He said the Thunderbirds are worth any inconvenience.

"We are pleased that they are going to come, and we are anxious to see them perform," Lloyd said.

Organizers planned to bring the Thunderbirds to AirVenture last year, but the military teams cut their seasons short amid federal budget cuts. The Thunderbirds will do a practice performance Friday with regular shows Saturday and Sunday.

AirVenture, which starts Monday, typically draws more than 500,000 people to Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh, about 90 miles north of Milwaukee. Here's a look at this year's other attractions:

— NASA representatives plan to talk Monday about their plan to take people to Mars starting in 2030.

— Amelia Rose Earhart, 31, will appear Monday after becoming the youngest woman to circumnavigate the globe in a single-engine aircraft this month. While she's no relation to the original Amelia Earhart, who disappeared over the South Pacific in 1937 while trying to circumnavigate the globe, she was inspired to finish the flight her namesake didn't.

— A Martin/General Dynamics WB-57F high-altitude aircraft from NASA will be on site. It provides high-altitude airborne platforms for scientific research, technology development and testing. This will be the first appearance by a WB-57F at AirVenture.

— Volunteers plan to build an airplane on site in seven days, with work beginning Monday and finishing before a crowd Sunday.

— Innovations on display will include paper airplanes powered by a tiny propeller and controlled by a smartphone application and three-dimensional printers that produce airplane parts.

— Aircraft that can take off and land in 200 feet or less will do demonstration flights.

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