Robins ready for thousands to attend air show

It’s air show and open house time, Middle Georgia. A chance to storm the gates of Robins Air Force Base for a full dose of aerial derring-do.

The world-famous Air Force Thunderbirds will headline a jam-packed agenda that is free to the public and begins at 10:30 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. The premier precision aerobatic team will be joined by the U.S. Army parachute unit, The Golden Knights and a host of additional flying events featuring modern, vintage and unique aircraft.

The Golden Knights will begin the program both days, jumping onto the Robins flight line in a swirl of red, white and blue smoke. Ed Hamill will follow with his amazing Air Force Reserve Command biplane. Then will come the Sky Soldiers and their AH-1 Cobra helicopters.

For history lovers, the Commemorative Air Force will re-enact the decisive World War II battle of Midway, flying an SBD Dauntless, a B-25 bomber and a Japanese Zero fighter.

Rounding out the schedule will be the Geico Skytypers, demonstrations by F-15E and F-4 fighters, a C-130 static line personnel drop and flybys from several aircraft managed at Robins.

The Golden Knights will provide a second, full program both days just before the Thunderbirds show begins at 3 p.m.

“It’s going to be a pretty good show,” project officer Maj. Joseph Speight predicted in a moment of understatement. “We have a good variety of performers and a equally good collection of static display aircraft.”

The static display lineup will include a number of fighter, cargo and reconnaissance aircraft. But three other systems may be of special interest to the huge Georgia crowd.

“We will have three unmanned aerial vehicles on display,” Speight said. “One is the Predator. Another is the Global Hawk and a third is a UAV from the Army.” Robins manages the Predator and Global Hawk for the Air Force.

The director of operations for the 560th Aircraft Sustainment Squadron on base said he was especially excited about the UAVs.

“It’s kind of the wave of the future and I don’t think many people have had a chance to see them up close,” he said.

About 100,000 people are expected each day. Speight said a great deal of planning has gone into accommodating the overflow crowd. Public parking has been arranged at three off-base locations: McConnell-Talbert Stadium on North Davis Drive in Warner Robins, Anchor Glass just south of the base off Ga. 247, and at the Middle Georgia Regional Airport north of Robins.

Visitors will be shuttled to the base from those locations beginning at 9 a.m.

“We have 100 buses and we will be running continuous shuttles to and from those locations beginning at that time,” the major said. “The buses will be marked and we will have separate on-base drop-off points for each parking location. So when people are ready to return to their vehicle, they just get back on a bus at the same place they were dropped off. That will guarantee they get back to the right location.”

Limited on-base parking will be available for people with access to the base. Drivers with handicap tags may also park in a designated on-base area. The free shuttle service also will cover the on-base locations.

Normal security precautions will be followed. “As people enter the display site, we will have screening, metal detectors, things like that,” the project officer said. “So we ask that people please be patient with us. That’s the kind of world we live in.”

Visitors will not be allowed to bring in coolers, backpacks or large bags. “Purses are fine,” Speight said. “So are diaper bags if there is a baby with you. Of course everything is subject to search.”

Firearms, knives and alcoholic beverages are prohibited.

Beer, soft drinks and a variety of food items will be for sale in the display area.

How visitors plan their days is their decision, he said.

“The Thunderbirds will be the last show both days,” he said. “That will start about 3 p.m., but it will be closer to 3:30 before they are airborne. It’s up to the individual whether they want to be there all day or just for a portion of it.”

The only unknown is the weather, although there’s just a slight chance of rain each day.

“We can plan for it,” Speight offered, “but we can’t control it.”

To contact writer Gene Rector, call 923-3109, extension 239.