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Enormous crowds gather for 2019 Grissom Air & Space Expo

The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds fly past Grissom’s air traffic control tower during the Grissom Air & Space Expo, Sept. 7, 2019. The two-day event drew a crowd of more than 50,000 spectators and was the first airshow the base has held since 2003. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jami Lancette)

The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds fly past Grissom’s air traffic control tower during the Grissom Air & Space Expo, Sept. 7, 2019. The two-day event drew a crowd of more than 50,000 spectators and was the first airshow the base has held since 2003. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jami Lancette)

The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds roar across the Indiana skies during the Grissom Air & Space Expo Sept. 7, 2019. The event drew thousands of spectators, and will continue Sept. 8, 2019 as gates open at 8:30 a.m. with flying starting around 11 a.m. and gates closing at 5 p.m. to the free event. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Chris Massey)

The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds roar across the Indiana skies during the Grissom Air & Space Expo Sept. 7, 2019. The event drew thousands of spectators, and will continue Sept. 8, 2019 as gates open at 8:30 a.m. with flying starting around 11 a.m. and gates closing at 5 p.m. to the free event. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Chris Massey)

Sgt. 1st Class Derrick Coleman, U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute team member, lands during a demonstration at  Grissom Air & Space Expo, Grissom Air Reserve Base, Indiana Sept. 7, 2019. The Golden Knights kicked off the event with the American flag and the National Anthem. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Benjamin Mota)

Sgt. 1st Class Derrick Coleman, U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute team member, lands during a demonstration at Grissom Air & Space Expo, Grissom Air Reserve Base, Indiana Sept. 7, 2019. The Golden Knights kicked off the event with the American flag and the National Anthem. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Benjamin Mota)

An American Champion 8KCAB Decathlon performs aerial acrobatics in front of an audience at the 2019 Grissom Air & Space Expo. With an estimated crowd of over 50,000, it was Grissom's first air show in over 15 years.

An American Champion 8KCAB Decathlon performs aerial acrobatics in front of an audience at the 2019 Grissom Air & Space Expo Sept. 7, 2019. With an estimated crowd of over 50,000, it was Grissom's first air show in over 15 years. (U.S. Air Force photo / A1C Harrison Withrow)

The U.S. Air Force premier demonstration squadron “Thunderbirds” sit on Grissom’s parking ramp prior to the kick-off of the Grissom Air & Space Expo Sept. 7, 2019. The airshow brought in more than 50,000 spectators the first day alone and featured several civilian and military aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Benjamin Mota)

The U.S. Air Force premier demonstration squadron “Thunderbirds” sit on Grissom’s parking ramp prior to the kick-off of the Grissom Air & Space Expo Sept. 7, 2019. The airshow brought in more than 50,000 spectators the first day alone and featured several civilian and military aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Benjamin Mota)

Billy Werth of the Redline aerial acrobatics team drives by the audience at the 2019 Grissom Air & Space Expo at Grissom Air Reserve Base, September 7, 2019. Grissom's first airshow in over 15 years drew an estimated crowd of over 50,000. (U.S. Air Force photo / A1C Harrison Withrow)

Ken Rieder of the Redline aerial acrobatics team drives by the audience at the 2019 Grissom Air & Space Expo at Grissom Air Reserve Base, Sept. 7, 2019. Grissom's first airshow in over 15 years drew an estimated crowd of over 50,000. (U.S. Air Force photo / A1C Harrison Withrow)

Col. Larry Shaw, 434th Air Refueling Wing commander, completes a tandem parachute jump with Sgt. First Class Jared Zell, U.S. Army Golden Knights, to open up the 2019 Grissom Air & Space Expo, Sept. 7, 2019. The event drew thousands of spectators, and will continue Sept. 8, 2019 as gates open at 8:30 a.m. with flying starting around 11 a.m. and gates closing at 5 p.m. to the free event. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Benjamin Mota)

Col. Larry Shaw, 434th Air Refueling Wing commander, completes a tandem parachute jump with Sgt. First Class Jared Zell, U.S. Army Golden Knights, to open up the 2019 Grissom Air & Space Expo, Sept. 7, 2019. The event drew thousands of spectators, and will continue Sept. 8, 2019 as gates open at 8:30 a.m. with flying starting around 11 a.m. and gates closing at 5 p.m. to the free event. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Benjamin Mota)

GRISSOM AIR RESERVE BASE, Ind. --


From 12,500 feet, Col. Larry Shaw, 434th Air Refueling Wing commander, had a good glimpse of the Grissom Air & Space Expo he was about to kick off by doing a tandem jump with the Golden Knights,

Grissom Air Reserve Base hosted an estimated crowd of more than 50,000 over the weekend as military and civilian aircraft from around the country put on a show overhead.

Shaw, may have kicked it off with the Army, but it was Grissom’s show as a 434th KC-135R Stratotanker made a roaring flyover as the singing of the National Anthem concluded, marking the official start of the Air & Space Expo.

The tanker escorted in two 122nd Fighter Wing A-10 Warthogs from the Fort Wayne, Indiana National Guard, then demonstrated the maneuvers they use in the field for close air support.

Following the opening ceremony, the crowd was awed by multiple aerial acrobatics acts, displaying the full capabilities of several different civilian stunt aircraft and vintage warbirds.

Mixing it up, the local group American Huey 369 put on a Vietnam-era search and rescue reenactment, complete with three gunships and period-authentic infantry deployed on the ground.

A wide variety of acts performed throughout each day, and attendees were able to tour static aircraft displays, such as the F-35 Lightning II, the C-5 Galaxy, the AC-130J “Spooky” Gunship, Grissom’s own KC-135R Stratotanker, and many more. Vendor tents sold food, drinks, and apparel, and lined the flightline, along with stations for Air Force resource providers.

Daniel and Nancy Vang, attendees from Kokomo, Indiana, were at the airshow bright and early Sunday morning with their children, touring the inside of the 434th ARW’s KC-135 static display.

“You get to see so much here that you’d never see anywhere else, so we have to check out everything we possibly can,” said Nancy. “The show has been just incredible.”

Nancy’s favorite act of Saturday was the Army Golden Knights, she said, and Daniel expressed a fondness for the F-16 Viper demonstration team.

Toward the end of the day, the Golden Knights returned for an even more elaborate parachuting performance. Afterward, a very special ceremony was conducted as 1st Lt. Bob Tobey, a World War II B-17 pilot, read the oath of enlistment before dozens of new Air Force recruits.

“A World War II officer conducting a mass enlistment may never happen again,” Shaw said. “What a special and significant experience.”

For the grand finale, the audience erupted into cheers and applause as the Thunderbirds flight demonstration team took to the sky.

“My son son said ‘I want to do that!’ while we were watching the Thunderbirds,” said Nancy Vang. “When they were flying in that diamond formation and the other one flew through the middle, I hit the dirt, I couldn’t believe that.”

Sunday brought cloudy skies and light rain, but attendee enthusiasm was still strong. The Redline team, Ken Rieder and Billy Werth, flew stunts while other acts were grounded due to weather, periodically checking the cloud-ceiling to update the weather advisory while simultaneously entertaining fans with their aerial antics.

It may have been Grissom’s first attempt at an airshow in over 15 years, but the event was a tremendous success, said Shaw.

“Even though the weather didn’t cooperate on Sunday, our guests throughout the weekend were treated to a first-class experience,” he said. “Our team, led by Lt. Col. Brian Thompson, did an amazing job putting together an event that fostered great community relations, solid recruiting opportunities, bundled up in an awesome entertainment package. I’m so proud of him and the entire team that made Grissom shine.”

Though the weather did not clear in time for a second Golden Knights and Thunderbird performance, attendees used the pause in performances to check out booths and static displays.

The Thunderbirds waited an hour past their scheduled start time, but the clouds did not lift to meet Federal Aviation Administration requirements.

“There was just so much to see,” said Nancy Vang. “We were at the show from 9 in the morning until closing on Saturday and didn’t get to check out everything, so we came back a second day!”

“Once the performances started on Saturday, our eyes were always up in the sky,” added Daniel Vang. “The shows were just back to back all day, so here we are again.”

The 434th ARW is the largest KC-135R Stratotanker unit in the Air Force Reserve Command. The Citizen Airmen from the Hoosier Wing routinely deploy around the world in support of the Air Force mission.

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Public Affairs Staff

Material contained on the Official Grissom Air Reserve Base Internet Web Site is written and produced by members of the 434th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs Office. The award-winning staff includes:



Douglas Hays
Chief, Public Affairs

Ben Mota
Public affairs Operations Chief

Vacant
NCOIC of public affairs

Tech. Sgt. Jami Lancette
Staff writer

Staff Sgt. Chris Massey
Staff writer

Staff Sgt. Courtney Dotson-Essett
Staff writer

Airman 1st Class Harrison Withrow
staff writer