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Airshow returns this weekend

USAF Thunderbirds headline the 2014 Barksdale Defenders of Liberty Air Show.

After a one-year hiatus due to budget sequestration, the annual Defenders of Liberty Air Show at Barksdale Air Force Base is back at full force and scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, April 26-27.

Gates open 9 a.m. both days, with the show getting underway at 11 a.m.

Last year’s cancellation wasn’t enough to stop the Houston-based Texas Raiders B-17 group from flying to Shreveport and celebrating its 75th anniversary. This year, the group is back and scheduled to be joined by at least 16 other performers as well as many more exhibits on the ground.

Headlining the event is the elite U.S.A.F Thunderbirds, officially known as the U.S. Air Force Demonstration Squadron, which is in its 61st season of performing. The group performed its first public flyover of 2014 at the opening of the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Calif., on Jan. 1. The tour is comprised of 66 demonstrations at 34 locations.

Formed to demonstrate the professionalism of Airmen and modern aircraft capabilities, the Thunderbirds were created in 1953. This marks the 32nd season the squadron has performed using F-16 Fighting Falcons. A typical Thunderbirds aerial demonstration includes about 40 maneuvers, ranging from formation flying to solo routines. From the ground ceremony to completion, a typical Thunderbirds performance lasts about one hour.

Captain Mike Owens, Air Operations Officer for the Air Show at BAFB, said the public would be treated to a great mix of both civilian and military aerial performers.

“The Air Show is pretty much the same every year, but there’s always something new,” Owens said. “This year is no exception. There’s a wide selection so there’s something for everyone.”

One event on the ground expected to be a big fan favorite for aviation and car racing enthusiasts alike is the Smoke-N-Thunder Jet Car.Unlike typical exhibits on the ground that remain stationary,the jet car with Bill Braack and Steve Uhrich will be alive demonstration racing at high speed along the runway.Like several other acts, the Smoke-N-Thunder Jet Car touurs nationally.

Owens said a new performer for this year’s show is Jeremy Holt Airshows. The small propellor driven colorful  biplanes stand in stark contrast to many of the larger and older Air Force aircraft.

Some of the other aerial performers include the Fort Polk Air Drop, the P 51 Mustang “Charlotte’s Chariot,” and B-2 Vintage Warbirds.

One performer that sometimes parachutes down is Skyrunner, which resembles a stripped down jeep or dune-buggy with roll bars. Owens said for this show, Skyrunner was expected to remain on the ground.

On the ground spectators will be able to see an assortment of aircraft such as a B-52 Stratofortress, B-2 Spirit, C-130 Hercules and a KC-10 Extender.

Owens said about 85-95,000 people are expected to see the show.

Security is expected to be similar to two years ago, but as an event on a major military installation there are restrictions. Containers such as backpacks and coolers are prohibited on the airfield. Some exceptions will be allowed for diaper bags, purses and lawnchairs but those must be submitted to inspection by security personnel. Weapons of any type, whether firearms, pocket knives or blunt objects, are strictly prohimited.

Small fanny packs and small purses are allowed subject to inspection, but large purses (tote type) and camera bags are not. A small fanny pack or camera vest may be used to carry small lenses or film. Water, drinks and food may be brought in by hand but not in a backpack or cooler.

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