Maxwell ready to celebrate "Thunder over Alabama"

By Scott Knuteson
Air University Public Affairs
MARCH 27-28, 2010
MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- Tens of thousands of spectators are expected to flock to Maxwell's air show March 27 and 28, according to officials here.

"We're excited about hosting the community for two days of top-notch flying action," said Lt. Col. Bud Mahan, the air show director.

The Air Force's leading fighter jet demonstration team, the Thunderbirds, and the Army's parachute team, the Golden Knights, are two major acts headlining the event, along with dozens of other performers and displays.

The show, which is free and open to the public, provides a rare opportunity to see a number of current and vintage aircraft in one place, at one time, Colonel Mahan said. Attendees will be able to roam approximately 30 acres of aircraft and exhibits, ranging from massive cargo planes to nimble fighter jets.

Historic aircraft include flights by a Tuskegee Airmen P-51, a B-25 Mitchell Bomber and an F-4 Phantom.

"Our goal is to have aircraft here from every major recent military conflict," Colonel Mahan said.

Of particular significance this year is the historic timing: 2010 marks 100 years of flight over Alabama. In March 1910, the Wright brothers flew on a site that is now part of Maxwell Air Force Base.

"The centennial doesn't just mark a flight anniversary," Mr. George Cully, Air University historian, said. "The Wrights opened a flying school – the first in the U.S. – where Maxwell now stands."

Of the Wright brothers' five students, one went on to take a president of the United States aloft for the first time; another became the Wrights' first flight instructor; and a third became the man who taught then-lieutenant Henry ‘Hap' Arnold how to fly, Mr. Cully said.

In fact, a flying replica of the Wrights' aircraft is slated to perform a short demonstration flight, according to Colonel Mahan.

"I hope our guests will walk away with a greater appreciation of just how far aviation, and in particular the U.S. Air Force, has progressed since those early days," the colonel said.