Thunderbirds perform at Thunder over the Sound

AIR SHOW: The United States Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron “Thunderbirds” will perform at the Grissom Air & Space Expo Sept. 7-8, 2019 at Grissom Air Reserve Base, Ind. Gates open at 8:30 a.m. and admission is free.

Get ready to turn your eyes to the sky.

After a year-and-a-half of planning, the Grissom Air & Space Expo this weekend is set to bring some of the most famous and sought-after aerial acts to the military base for a two-day flying extravaganza.

The event marks the first air show at Grissom in 16 years, and is expected to draw around 90,000 people.

And best of all, the event is free.

Here’s everything you need to know about the air show before showing up for what will be one of the largest events this year in north central Indiana.

The Acts

Although no specific schedule has been set on which acts will be performing when, spectators can expect to see these top-notch military performance teams at some point during the day.

Gates open at 8:30 a.m. both days and flying is scheduled to begin at approximately 11 a.m. The air show performances will be the same on Saturday and Sunday.

Grissom Thunderbird

Maj. Jason Markzon, pilot of Thunderbird 8 and the advance pilot and narrator, along with Tech Sgt. Bryson Schuster, crew chief and maintenance advance team member, land at Grissom Air Reserve Base, Ind., Feb. 5, 2019. The Thunderbird members visited the base in preparation for the Grissom Air and Space Expo scheduled for Sept. 7-8, 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo/Douglas Hays)

The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and U.S. Army Golden Knights are headlining the show. The Thunderbirds are the third oldest flying aerobatic team under the same name in the world. The Golden Knights are a demonstration and competition parachute team.

The flying line up throughout the day will also include an FG1-D Corsair, a P-51 Mustang, an F-5A, an F-86 Sabre demonstration and an American Champ Super Decathlon. There will also be an F-16CM Viper, an A-10 Warthog and a KC-135R Stratotanker. Grissom has the largest unit of Stratotankers in the Air Force Reserve Command.

Airshow Director Lt. Col. Brian Thompson said there are also a number of non-military acts that will perform during the show.

“We’ve got a couple contracts in the works for some exciting civilian acts,” he said. “Once the ink is on the paper, we’ll be announcing those as well.”

Grissom Commander Col. Larry Shaw said the goal of the show is to have the sky filled will as many planes as possible.

“This is a flying event,” he said in a release. “We want to have as many aircraft up in the air for people to see as we can – we’re the Air Force!”

But those needing to give their necks a break from looking up will find plenty of aircraft to see on the base’s tarmac.

The display of planes stationed there will include a T-6 Texan, T-38 Talon, KC-10 Extender, C-5 Galaxy, C-17 Globemaster, F-35 Lightning, A-10 Warthog, F-16 Fighting Falcon, UH-1 Huey and UH-60 Black Hawk.

Recent additions to the static display line up include a C-47, F8F Bearcat and TBM Avenger.

A new phone app is now available that will provide the most updated information regarding performances, traffic routes, premium seating, security policies, displays, maps and schedules. Updates will be made until the show ends. That app can be downloaded on Android and Apple phones by searching “Grissom ARB.”

Traffic and parking

With 45,000 people expected to come each day of the show, air show planners have come up with specific driving routes and parking areas to keep congestion and back-ups to a minimum during major construction projects in the area.

Heritage Flight 2016

formation: A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon, front, leads a formation followed by two P-51 Mustangs, top and bottom, and an F-86 Sabre, rear, during the 2016 Heritage Flight Training and Certification Course at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., March 4, 2016. Established in 1997, the HFTCC certifies civilian pilots of historic military aircraft and U.S. Air Force pilots to fly in formation together during the upcoming air show season.

Planners have worked closely with Indiana State Police to map out parking zones, entry and exit points and the flow of traffic at the start and end of each day.

The largest driving obstacle is a road project on U.S. 31 at the intersection of Ind. 18 that has reduced the highway to two lanes. To avoid the construction, people driving to the air show should follow these routes:

• Drivers approaching the base from the north on U.S. 31 will turn west into the complex on Hoosier Boulevard. Drivers will be directed to general, permit, handicapped accessible or motorcycle parking.

• Drivers approaching from the south on U.S. 31 and parking in general parking should take exit 166 to U.S. 35 north, which will lead through Galveston and Walton. In Walton, take Ind. 218 and turn east to get to the complex.

• Permit parking, motorcyclists and handicapped accessible traffic will continue north on U.S. 31 to Hoosier Boulevard and into the complex.

• From the east, drivers should enter the complex via Ind. 218 and turn north on U.S. 31 and west on Hoosier Boulevard. From the west, enter the complex via Ind. 218 and turn south onto Foreman Drive.

ISP Sgt. Trent Smith said the routes are set to detour construction on U.S. 31 and avoid backups. He urged drivers to allow extra travel time and expect heavier traffic.

“We realize that this does take drivers a few miles out of the way, but it’s the safest route and keeps people from having to wait in long backups due to construction,” Smith said.

Drivers also have the option of parking at Maconaquah School Corporation and paying $10 for a bus shuttle to and from the base.

Patrons using the busing service will be dropped off one block from the check-in, rather than walking from the front of the base to the back. Buses will run continuously from 8:30 a.m. until the gates close at 5 p.m.

All parking will be located in areas in Grissom Aeroplex just outside the base. Attendees can then either walk or take a shuttle to the entrance of the base. All seating and vendors will be located on the grounds of Grissom Air Reserve Base.

VIP passes

The air show is free to attend, but people who want the best seat in the house can purchase special VIP access.

Ticket holders will get premium, boxed seating in the beer tent that provides an up-close view of the air show. There will also be access to portable toilets. Tickets cost $30 but can be upgraded to include two drinks from the beer tent.

Tickets are sold out for Saturday but still available on Sunday, and can be purchased at www.grissomairshow.com.

The Grissom Air Museum is also offering VIP tickets that give holders access to the air show and the displays at the museum. Tickets cost $50 and include parking, shuttle to the base, limited-timed access to the guard tower at the museum, two drink tickets, snacks, and if you purchase a concert ticket, access to the concert VIP area.

The museum is also offering $10 tickets that include access to the museum, parking and shuttle to the base.

Hang out at the museum after the air show for live music, drinks and food. An after-party will be held on the grounds of the museum from 6 to 10:30 p.m., with two bands playing. Tin Man Brewing will be on hand serving up craft beers. Tickets at the door are $10, and the concert is included in the $10 park-and-ride ticket option.

Carson Gerber can be reached at 765-854-6739, carson.gerber@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter @carsongerber1.

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Carson Gerber is a reporter for the Kokomo Tribune and can be reached at 765-854-6739, carson.gerber@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter @carsongerber1.

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