Huge turnout expected for Biloxi air show

Published 4:41 pm Friday, April 3, 2009

Huge turnout expected for Biloxi air show

BILOXI (AP) — Large crowds are expected on the Mississippi coast this weekend for the “Thunder on the Bay” air show at Keesler Air Force Base, marking the first time the Air Force Thunderbirds will have performed here in 20 years.

The aerial team arrived Thursday in their F-16 Fighting Falcon jets from their home base at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas just ahead of hail and other severe weather.

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“We were expecting it,” said Thunderbird No. 4 Sean Gustafson, the first reservist to fly with the Thunderbirds. The planes took off from Las Vegas and refueled in mid-air and made it to Biloxi just ahead of the large hail storm. The weather is expected to be better for the airshow.

The Thunderbirds, currently touring in their 56th year as the Air Force’s premier flying team, will perform Saturday and Sunday afternoon. The team will sign autographs after their performances.

The U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute team also will perform. This is the 50th anniversary year for the Golden Knights, which is based in Fort Bragg, N.C. Since its founding, the team’s mission has evolved beyond simply parachute demonstrations to research on military free-fall parachuting.

There will also be other aerobatic flying and various aircraft on display. Admission is free. Organizers expect to draw between 50,000 and 75,000 people each day.

This is Keesler’s first air show since April 2004/ The base was damaged in Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

To accommodate the crowds Keesler officials said two large parking lots are available and capable of holding about 15,000 cars. There are three overflow lots and the Coast Transit Authority will give rides from the nearby Edgewater Mall.