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Air Force Thunderbirds returning to Lewis-McChord for summer air show

Post by Adam Ashton / The News Tribune on Dec. 6, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
December 6, 2011 1:35 pm
The Air Force's Thunderbirds were one of the main attractions at the 2008 McChord Air Expo. (Tony Overman/The Olympian)

Joint Base Lewis-McChord is shooting to bring back the really, really big crowds to its bi-annual air expo by lining up two of the Defense Department’s premier demonstration groups for performances at the July event.

The top of the bill goes to the Air Force’s Thunderbirds, a Nevada-based team that helped draw more than 375,000 people to McChord’s 2008 Air Expo.

They’ll be joined by the Army’s Golden Knights, a parachute team that serves as the Army’s official aerial demonstration group.

Booking the two groups is intended to send a signal that the Army and Air Force are united since the Defense Department merged Fort Lewis with McChord Air Field last year to create Lewis-McChord. The upcoming expo will be the first since the two entities combined.

“We’re excited to have the Thunderbirds and the Golden Knights headline what promises to be an all-star lineup of performers,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Jon Olekszyk, the air expo director. “We couldn’t have asked for a better way to kick start our first official ‘joint’ Air Expo than with the premier Air Force and Army demonstration teams.”

More than 250,000 people attended the 2010 McChord Air Expo, which did not feature a marquee act like the Thunderbirds.  About 20 other groups are expected to perform at the upcoming expo in addition to the Thunderbirds and Golden Knights.

The event is scheduled for July 21-22. It’s free and open to the public.

It’s also one of the only opportunities for civilians to check out Lewis-McChord. The Army is planning to let people get a close look at its CH-47 Chinook helicopters, while the Air Force intends to open the doors to its fleet of C-17 Globemaster IIIs on the air field.

“We’re very excited to have the Thunderbirds and Golden Knights, but we’re also anxious for the public to see the capabilities of our airmen, soldiers and equipment right here at JBLM,” said Lewis-McChord garrison commander Col. Thomas Brittain.

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