This year’s Airfest took place at MacDill Air force Base on the weekend of November 5, 2011,featuring the USAF Thunderbirds. With 500,000 people in attendance, the Thunderbirds demonstrated the high degree of skill required to take modern war-fighting crafts into battle. Mock battles were performed overhead, and while the aircraft flew near Mach speeds towards each other, spectators watched as the planes maneuvered sideways and upside down in order to avoid collision.
The F-15E Strike Eagle also took part in this year’s Airfest, and demonstrated its dual role fighting capabilities. The F-15E can perform air-to-air and air-to-ground missions by flying at speeds that are two and a half times the speed of sound, up to altitudes of 65,000 feet, and at a range of 3,450 miles. The F-15E flew beside a Vietnam era P-51 Mustang in this year’s Heritage Flight that was originally founded to: honor the past, welcome the future, and provide an aerial monument to the achievements of the U.S. Air force.
The Airfest featured aircraft from early era pre-WWII planes like the B-25 Mitchell which is an American twin-engine medium bomber, and the 70’s Rockwell B-1 Lancer which is four-engine variable-sweep wing supersonic strategic bomber. Throughout the day the skies were filled with various acts ranging from USSOCOM parachute team demo, to “Otto’s” helicopter comedy act. The Triple Creek Remote Control Club was also demonstrating their air acrobatics using remote controlled model aircrafts.
The ground also gave spectators the opportunity to get close and personal by touring through various aircraft from jumbo cargo planes, large passenger planes, and having the opportunity to sit in the pilot’s seat on small helicopters. While watching the airshow, spectators could purchase various food, drinks and desserts from food vendors. There were also souvenirs available from replica of aircraft to t-shirts and bumper stickers. Attendance and parking was free, and families could enjoy a day out without breaking their budget. The aircraft sky demonstrations, as well as the variety of aircraft on the ground kept everyone entertained throughout the day.
The USAF Thunderbirds were the closing act and kept everyone’s eyes focused towards the sky. The dominance of the Thunderbirds in the air kept everyone alert, and while three Thunderbirds were demonstrating war fighting skills in front, two thunderbirds would fly from behind at near the speed of sound, and rumble the ground with ear piercing thunder. It makes you wonder what our enemies must have felt when they first encountered these supersonic jets from their village huts. As the day ended, and spectators walked towards their cars, the comforting feeling that one received was that of U. S. air superiority.