Thursday, September 22, 2011

USAF Thunderbirds to headline Fort Smith Air Show

Spectators gather around one of the 188th Fighter Wing's A-10 Thunderbolt II "Warthogs" at the Fort Smith Air Show May 17, 2008. The 2008 show was attended by a record 200,000 people. The next Fort Smith Air Show is slated for Oct. 1-2, 2011. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Master Sgt. Dennis Brambl / 188th Fighter Wing Public Affairs)

by Capt. Heath Allen
188th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

9/22/2011 - FORT SMITH, Ark. -- The Flying Razorbacks and the 188th Fighter Wing-Fort Chaffee Community Council will host the 2011 Fort Smith Air Show Oct. 1-2. Headlining this year's aerial exhibition will be the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, an F-16 demonstration squadron.

This will be the first air show in Fort Smith since 2008. The Thunderbirds have been the show's headline performer for the last four air shows.

"We know the Thunderbirds had their choice of several locations and they picked Fort Smith and the 188th Fighter Wing," said Col. Tom Anderson, 188th Fighter Wing commander. "We're extremely proud and excited that the Thunderbirds have continued to make Fort Smith one of their stops. That's a tribute to the high level of community support and the professionalism of our unit members, air show organizers and the Community Council."

While the Thunderbirds will draw colossal crowds, they're joined by a group of talented performers who will undoubtedly provide thrills for spectators.

"The Thunderbirds are one of the world's finest demonstration teams," said Lt. Col. JJ Krimmel, Fort Smith Air Show director. "But there will be a host of other amazing acts worth coming out to watch. All of our performers put on a great show. The goal was to put on a show that had a diverse array of exciting performances and aircraft and we feel like this will be another great show."

The 2008 show drew a record estimated crowd of 200,000 for the two-day event, which is free to the public.

"We are the largest free air show in the United States," said civilian Chuck Fawcett, air show chairman and member of the Community Council. "Other shows, it costs between $5 and $15 to get in, but our show is free, and we hope to keep it that way. Everyone who comes here will have a great time."

The Community Council raised $125,000 to facilitate the civilian acts and the 188th picked up the tab for the military performers. Fawcett, though, said it was all worth it. Fawcett said the economic impact on the River Valley area was estimated to be about $5.6 million considering dollars spent by attendees on hotel rooms, restaurants and gas.

"To see the performers and to hear and feel the roar and rumble of the jets, it's amazing," Colonel Krimmel said. "It's perfect for the family, and what's offered here at the air show, well, you just can't get that from sitting down and watching TV."

Along with the Thunderbirds, the U.S. Air Force's Air Combat Command F-15 Strike Eagle demonstration team will perform and John Klatt will also perform with his Air Guard Staudacher S-300D.

Tora! Tora! Tora! will return again this year. It features a recreation of the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor using multiple Japanese fighters and bombers.

A Vintage 1958 Lockheed Martin T-33 will also put on an exhibition and Manfred Radius Airshows will display its "fully aerobatic sailplane."

Younkin Airshows will show off its Twin Beech 18 as will Franklin's Flying Circus. Both have been staples of the Fort Smith Air Show.

Spectators will also have the chance to admire plenty of ground attractions. The Indy Boys will show off their hotrod school bus, which travels at speeds in excess of 300 mph.

A host of military and civilian static displays will also line the taxiways at this year's show, including an F-16 Falcon, C-17 Globemaster III, C-5 Galaxy, C-130 Hercules, F-18 Hornet, A-10C Thunderbolt II "Warthog", AC-130 Gunship, RC-135, T-38 Talon, T-6 Texas II, H-13 Sioux, OH-58 Kiowa, UH-60 Black Hawk, T-45 Goshawk, C-21, Cessna 172, Cessna 182, Beechcraft, Bell Helicopter, 1930s Spartan C-3 and Bellanca Super Viking.

The Arkansas Army National Guard's 142nd Fires Brigade will also provide a M109A6 155mm Paladin Howitzer and an up-armored HMMWV (Humvee) from Fort Chaffee Maneuver Training Center.

Additional U.S. Army vehicles will be on display, including half tracks, trucks, Jeeps and personnel movers. The show will also feature aircraft simulators and bounce-arounds for the younger spectators.

Along with wowing the throngs of onlookers, recruiting is one of the primary objectives of the air show. Active duty U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army as well as Air National Guard and Army National Guard recruiting booths will be stationed amid the static displays.

What you need to know
Air show officials said spectators venturing to the air show grounds will not be permitted to bring coolers, ice chests, alcohol, pets or backpacks. Smoking is also prohibited.

Individuals with health issues or special needs requirements that would require cooler packs, diaper bags or other exceptions will be addressed on a case-by-case basis.

Individuals toting camera or video camera bags will be permitted on the air show grounds. But it is important to remember that all bags will be inspected before boarding the shuttle buses or entering air show grounds to help ensure public safety.

Unit members and their families (with dependent military ID) will be permitted to park on base. Public parking is located at Ben Geren Park and Fort Smith Southside. Handicap parking will be at Southside. Buses will transport attendees to the show from both sites beginning at 8 a.m. on both Saturday and Sunday. The air show gates open both days at 8:30 a.m. and will close at approximately 5 p.m. Performances are slated to begin at approximately 9:20 a.m. Buses will continue to transport spectators to and from the air show grounds throughout the day on both Saturday and Sunday.

For those who would like to park closer to the show, paid parking will be available on the south side of the intersection of Phoenix Avenue and 66th Street. Paid parking is $5 per vehicle.

For additional information on the show, please visit, or find us on Facebook at or

Media interested in covering the show can call 479-573-5170 or e-mail


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