By Louise R. SHAW firstname.lastname@example.org
HILL AFB—This is the year. It is only every other year that Hill Air Force Base opens its gates to the general public for an air show considered one of the largest in the country, and it’s happening again in 2018. Warriors Over the Wasatch Air and Space Show is less than two months away — set for Saturday and Sunday, June 23 and 24 — and hundreds of thousands of people are expected to once again fill the flight line at the base to see both civilian and military planes on the ground and in the air. “Put on a hat and put on your sunscreen and come on out,” said Kevin Ireland, executive director of the Utah Air Show Foundation. “It will probably be the largest show we’ve ever had.” Fifteen acts are confirmed and Ireland said he is most excited that Hill will be exhibiting and flying the F-35. For the first time, he said, the public will have the chance to see them “up close and personal.” “The F-35 is the plane now,” said Ireland. “It is the premiere aircraft in the air … We’re going to show what they’re all about and what they do every day.” The United States Special Operations Command Parachute Team is slated to perform at the show, along with aerobatics performers’ including Rob Holland, Bill Stein, Gary Rower and Matt Youngkin. It is not yet known if the Thunderbirds will make a return appearance at the show. An accident on April 4 took the life of Thunderbird pilot Maj. Stephen Del Bagno during a demonstration training flight and several shows have been cancelled as a result. The team has begun training again, said Ireland, and it is hoped they will be able to headline the Utah show in June. Besides the performances in the air, a large number of modern and historic military aircraft and equipment will be on static display, according to organizers. New this year, an entire hangar will be dedicated to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. Aerospace companies from around the world will share information and offer interactive activities in the hangar to help kids from kindergarten through twelfth grade learn more about opportunities in the field. Lt. Col Jeffrey Thomas manages air traffic in the control tower at Hill and is director of the air show. It was an air show that he attended as a boy, in fact, that set him on the path to a career in the Air Force. Planning the show is a “massive challenge,” he said. It is the largest event in the state of Utah with people coming from not only from around Utah, but from neighboring states and Canada. “It’s an opportunity for us to give back to the community and to the taxpayers that support us,” said Thomas. “We want to open those gates so people can see what we do on a daily basis. It’s an opportunity for kids as well.” “Safety is paramount, both for our patrons and our performers,” Thomas emphasized, and those who come should be prepared for “a very long day out in the sun.” He said he hopes people will “be flexible and be patient.” Organizers are working with UDOT and UTA to help alleviate traffic problems that have occurred in past years. Only 8,000 cars will be allowed on base before the gates are closed to personal vehicles, so people who want to drive will need to come early, said Ireland. Air show officials are encouraging people to use public transportation — buses and the Frontrunner — to get to the show. Three parking lots will be set up with shuttles to base — one at Northridge High, one at the Weber State University’s Layton campus and one at Clearfield High. Those who park at the lots will go through security screenings before getting on the buses and then be taken to a separate entrance on base, thereby avoiding the lines. The air show is free, but VIP tickets are available for those who prefer private seating and different food and beverage options. More information and updates on the show are available at theutahairshow.com and facebook.com/hillairforcebase. CUTLINE 9216: Spectators look up to see the performances at Warriors Over the Wasatch in 2016. This year’s show runs June 23 and 24 at Hill Air Force Base. 6207: Lt. Col. Jeffrey Thomas (left) and Kevin Ireland talk with the press about this year’s air and space show at Hill Air Force Base. 0582 – Thunderbirds perform during the 2016 air show. Organizers hope the performance team will be part of this year’s show as well.