Aircraft arrive at Kentucky Air National Guard for Thunder air show

  • Published
  • By Dale Greer
  • 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Military aircraft began arriving at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base here today in preparation for this weekend’s Thunder Over Louisville air show.

The event, slated to begin Saturday at 3 p.m. over the Ohio River, will feature more than two-dozen rotary- and fixed-wing aircraft, including appearances by the U.S. Air Force F-16 Viper Demo Team, A-10 Thunderbolt II, B-52 Stratofortress and C-17 Globemaster III.

The U.S. Navy EA-18G Growler Demo Team and MH-53E Sea Dragon also will make appearances, joined by the U.S. Marine Corps’ UH-1Y Venom and AH-1Z Viper helicopters, the Royal Canadian Air Force C/A-18 Hornet, and the German Air Force A-400M Atlas.

Other highlights include a four-ship C-130J Super Hercules demonstration by the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Airlift Wing, said Maj. Nick Reinke, a Hercules pilot and air show coordinator for the Kentucky Air Guard.

“We’re going to showcase a lot of the airlift missions we perform in the Kentucky Air National Guard, including the kinds of formation flying we would use in support of a mass personnel airdrop,” he said.

As part of the demo, Airmen from the wing’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron will parachute into the river employing the same techniques they use in austere environments during operational missions around the world, according to Maj. Nathan Tingle, a combat rescue officer with the unit.

“Six jumpers will be exiting the aircraft around 3,500 feet and parachuting into the water right in front of the Great Lawn, so that’s going to be pretty exciting,” Tingle said.

Later in the show, the special tactics troops will execute a helocast into the river from a Kentucky Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk assigned to the 63rd Theater Aviation Brigade.

“Known as a ‘low and slow,’ we’ll be jumping out of a helicopter going about 10 miles per hour from a height of about 10 feet over the river, then doing a rope-ladder climb back into the helicopter.

“Both of these demonstrations show two methods of how we get to work.”

The Kentucky Air Guard is once again serving as the primary base of operations for military aircraft participating in Thunder, providing essential maintenance and logistical support, Reinke said.

“Thunder Over Louisville is a major undertaking for the wing every year,” he noted. “The planning for next year’s show is actually going to start Sunday — it really is a year-long process. But it’s also something we love supporting and helping stage for the city of Louisville in partnership with the Kentucky Derby Festival.”

Capt. Taylor Hiester, a pilot for the Viper Demo Team, said he’s looking forward to Thunder, one of the largest single-day air shows in North America.

“This is our first Thunder, and we’re super enthusiastic to be here,” he said. “It’s a very unique show, and we’re going to provide a very unique performance to match.”

The most unusual aspect of Thunder is the venue, he said, with a showbox over the Ohio River that’s located in the urban center of a major city, rather than over an unpopulated airfield.

“We’re going to have a really unique opportunity to showcase the maneuverability of the F-16 over the water and over the city. I cannot wait to look down and see people on top of buildings and parking garages watching the show.

“This year is the 50th anniversary of the F-16,” Hiester added. “A special show like Louisville comes with special responsibilities, and one of those is to put on an amazing demonstration here and show why this airplane keeps the enemy awake at night, even after five decades.”

Heister also hopes to make a lasting impression on spectators.

“Our mission as a team is to inspire people of all ages to serve their community. That doesn’t necessarily mean joining the military, if they consider their community to be the city of Louisville or the state of Kentucky or the country. If every spectator walks away with a piece of America in their back pocket, and feels eager to serve their community in a way they think is best, we’ve achieved our goal.”

This weekend’s show already has special significance for one member of the Viper team, Staff Sgt. Austin Denny, who grew up in Mount Vernon, Kentucky.

“I’m super excited to be here in Louisville to showcase this F-16 and its 50 years of magnificent flying,” said Denny, an avionics specialist. “It’s truly amazing to see what our Air Force is capable of doing.”

Denny said he’s been looking forward to Thunder for over a year, calling it “an incredible opportunity,” not only for himself, but also for his friends and family, many of whom will be in attendance.

“They’ve never been to an air show, so I’m glad to have them here to see the capabilities of the F-16 and what I do in the Air Force. They’re all super excited, too.”