2014-03-20 / Top News

Thunderbirds return to Florida International Air Show

BY BRANDY CHURCH
Special to Florida Weekly


The Thunderbirds will return to Punta Gorda. 
COURTESY PHOTO The Thunderbirds will return to Punta Gorda. COURTESY PHOTO The jets return to the 34th annual Florida International Air Show March 29-30. The United States Air Force Thunderbirds will bring the roar, the speed and the action to the Southwest Florida skies this March. It’s enough excitement to make fans break that old bomber jacket out of the closet again.

Air show fans will be delighted to know that the jet teams are not the only special guests returning this year. The schedule is packed full of flight teams, aerobatic performers, top gun pilots, parachute artists and one very talented hang glider. It’s the “best of the best” when it comes to pilots and performers at this year’s show.

Recently named one of the Ten Best Air Shows in the World by USA Today, the Florida International Air Show is set to return with a salute to veterans, the theme of this year’s show. “We want to honor the men and woman who have served and currently serve in our military,” Ms. Barfield said.


The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds return to the air show this year. 
COURTESY PHOTOS The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds return to the air show this year. COURTESY PHOTOS Guests will be able to see a number of historical aircraft up close on the ground. More than two-dozen aircraft — including those of historical significance — will be on display during the air show. This year’s static displays include a B-25 Mitchell “Killer Bee,” a C-46 “Tinkerbelle,” a rare WWI vintage Curtiss JN-4 “Jenny” and one of the world’s last B-17G Flying Fortress “Texas Raiders.”

“Each aircraft carries with it the his tory of the American heroes who once flew them,” said Florida International Air Show official Air Boss Bob Hall. “Seeing them up close and realizing the role they played in America’s freedom is extremely powerful for our air show guests.”

“And truly the best part of the entire show is that all of the proceeds from the event go directly to our area’s charities,” Ms. Barfield said. “Not many people realize that the air show is a charitable event and each year our performers help FIAS raise critical dollars to fund local charity groups in Southwest Florida.”

“In the past 33 years, we have been able to give more than $3 million to our local charities right here in Southwest Florida,” she said.

Military elite

This year the air show will welcome honorary guest Lt. Richard E. Cole. He was one of the 80 airmen under the leadership Lt. Col. James “Jimmy” Doolittle, who disembarked from the U.S.S. Hornet in the first bombing raid over Tokyo in World War II. He earned special distinction as co-pilot of Doolittle’s B-24. The “Doolittle Raiders,” as they have come to be known over the years, are some of the nation’s greatest heroes.


The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds will perform after taking a year off due to budget cuts. 
COURTESY PHOTOS The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds will perform after taking a year off due to budget cuts. COURTESY PHOTOS The air show will also feature author and retired major general of the United States Air Force, John Borling, who writes about his experience as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War in the book “Taps on the Walls: Poems from the Hanoi Hilton.”

Friday night special

The hottest ticket in town this year might be to the March 28 Friday Night Reserve Party. This exclusive show combines an evening air show, live music entertainment, dinner, drinks, fireworks and an opportunity to mingle with the pilots and flight crews.

It’s the first time ever that the air show has opened this event to the public. Visit www.FloridaAirShow.com to purchase Friday night tickets, which are $75 each. ¦

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