‘Thunderstruck’

2124
The USAF Thunderbirds headlined this year’s BAFB Air Show.

Thunderbirds thrill despite Sunday cancellation

Story by Jennifer Middleton

The weather forecast may have called for lots of thunder on Sunday, but spectators got a big dose of it at Barksdale Air Force Base Saturday.

Even a forecast  of severe weather couldn’t dampen the return of the Barksdale Air Force Base’s Defenders of Liberty Air Show with the USAF Thunderbirds headlining.

Originally intended to be a two-day event, the air show was reduced to only Saturday after a bad weather forecast forced them to cancel Sunday’s lineup.

The main attraction was the USAF’s Thunderbirds, which Major Warren Carroll described as, “the Air Force’s premiere demonstration team.”

Carroll explained that the Thunderbirds are essentially the face of Air Force pilots as a whole.

“These guys have a different paint job, they have a different color flight suit, and they go around to air shows,” he said, “but they don’t do anything different than all of us do as airmen of the US Air Force. We train to the same standards of precision that they do, [but it’s] their job to communicate that to everybody. They demonstrate precision and professionalism of the airmen of this Air Force.”

The Thunderbirds may have been the biggest draw for a lot of attendees, but there were certainly plenty of other things to see and do on base that day.

Major Ryan LeBlanc was the ground boss, which meant that it was his job to oversee everything happening on the ground at the air show. During preparations last week, he gave a brief preview of the weekend’s other attractions.

“In addition to the Thunderbirds, which is our headliner, we have the F-22 demo team, which is an amazing show,” LeBlanc said. “The aircraft does things that other aircraft just simply can’t do. We have a lot of local acts, mixed in with a considerable amount of other military acts. The two big ones are the Thunderbirds and the F-22s, but we have some seasoned air show veterans on the civilian side that come out and do more dynamic flying.”

With so much going on, safety measures, both on the ground and in the air, were especially important.

“We’ve obviously increased our security quite a bit,” LeBlanc said. “[We do that] any time we have thousands of people coming onto the installation.”

Everyone attending the air show went through metal detectors and bag searches to ensure that no one got anything onto the base that wasn’t supposed to be there.

There were also measures in place to ensure the safety of the pilots. The local fire departments were on hand, standing ready in case of emergencies.

“We have good coordination, not only with the base Fire Department, but [with] the Bossier and Shreveport Fire Departments,” LeBlanc said. “They’ve been involved in our meetings. For the pilots, and for the people on the ground, off-base, we have response capability throughout the area. Any of the areas that are flown over, we can cover.”

LeBlanc praised the community and surrounding districts for their support of the event.

“We’ve had great support from Bossier, Shreveport, and as far away as Alexandria,” he said. “The Military Affairs Council, from Bossier, has been outstanding in their support. And they brought money to it. We can bring in more acts because of the support that we receive from the local community.”