After a year's absence, the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds return to southern skies this weekend.
The Thunderbirds are set to headline the Columbus Air Force Base "Wings Over Columbus" Air Show and Open House Saturday and Sunday. The base is located just north of Columbus, Miss.
All of the military aerial demonstration teams, including the Thunderbirds, U.S. Navy Blue Angels and the U.S. Army Golden Knights, canceled their performances after April 1, 2013 due to the federal budget sequestration. The teams have a full flight schedule for 2014. The Columbus air show is the fourth of the season for the Thunderbirds.
Thunderbird pilots fly six F-16C "Fighting Falcon" fighter jets in close formation at high speeds demonstrating a series of precision maneuvers.
Several World War II era aircraft will be flown during the show. Civilian aerobatic pilots will perform also. Otto the Helicopter and Ashville-based Greg Koontz and the Alabama Boys bring humor to the event. Koontz might even land his airplane on a moving truck.
Pilots from the 14th Flying Training Wing will demonstrate the T-1A, T-6A and T-38C jets that are used for pilot training at Columbus AFB.
You will be able to get a close-up look at many aircraft ranging from a small Cessna to a massive C-5B "Galaxy" cargo jet. A F-35 "Lightning II" is scheduled to be on display. The F-35 will eventually replace the F-16, F/A-18 "Hornet" and AV-8B "Harrier II" flown by Air Force, Navy and Marine pilots.
Gates open at 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. The base is located off U.S. 45 about five miles north of Columbus. There is no admission charge. The air show website provide more information.
If you can't make this weekend's air show, the Thunderbirds are scheduled for one more event near Alabama. They will perform October 18 and 19 at Wings Over North Georgia in Rome, Ga.
The U.S. Navy Blue Angels are scheduled to fly at four airshows in 2014 near Alabama. They are:
June 14-15 Great Tennessee Air Show in Smyrna, Tenn.
July 11-12 Pensacola Beach Air Show in Pensacola Beach, Fla.
Oct. 18-19 Memphis Airshow in Millington, Tenn.
Nov. 7-9 Blue Angels Homecoming Air Show at NAS Pensacola