Logistics is the key expertise of Robins Air Force Base, and next weekend the base will get a major test of that skill.
Over two days about 100 buses will move an expected crowd of 200,000 people on and off base for the Thunder Over Georgia Air Show.
The show, featuring the Air Force Thunderbirds, the F-22 fighter and many others, will take place Sept. 28-29.
The last show in 2016 drew about 150,000 people, but organizers say they are expecting a larger crowd this time because they are making a bigger social media push to promote it.
Also, the University of Georgia Bulldogs aren’t playing that Saturday.
And yet, despite the expected larger crowd and about the same number of buses, organizers say they are certain people will have an easier time getting to and from the show than in the past.
“It will be safe, orderly and efficient,” said Ernesto Verger, the director of ground operations for the show. “All of us as a team looked at the lessons learned from the last show and how we can improve that.”
One key change is that there will be more than twice as many screeners conducting security checks on people getting on the buses, which has been a bottleneck in the past. Attendees are checked with a metal detecting wand and bags are checked. People without bags will be able to go through an express line.
The general public will not be able to drive onto the base. There are two off-base parking locations where buses will pick up. One is the former Boeing facility at Middle Georgia Regional Airport, 1821 Avondale Mill Road, and the other is Anchor Glass, 1044 Booth Road at the corner of Ga. 247.
A key message Verger has for attendees is to consider parking at the airport first, because there is more parking there. In the past people have tended to go to Anchor Glass first, but then they get there and realize the parking lot is full and they have to turn around and go back to the airport. The airport is actually closer to the show than Anchor Glass, he said.
People with base identification will be able to park on base and bring up to five people with them. Buses will transport those people to the show, as well.
Another big addition this year for attendee comfort will be five stations for free chilled, filtered water. People are encouraged to bring plastic bottles to fill with water, but attendees can also buy water from vendors as they have in the past. There will also be 20 food booths.
A really big show
The Thunderbirds, which fly the F-16 Falcon, are the featured act and will perform both days.
The F-22 Flight demonstration team will be a new feature this year. The F-22 flew in a previous show but not as a demonstration. This time attendees can expect to see more of the capabilities of the high-tech fighter.
The U.S. Army special operations parachute team, The Black Daggers, will also be a key act. There will be many other performers, including aerial acrobatics. There will also be planes on the ground that people can see up close.
Maj. LaToshia Wright, the air show director, said attendees will witness a memorable event.
“Really what they get to see is a vast portfolio of the different air frames that we have, of what supports the Air Force mission,” she said.
Here are some key things to know about the show:
- Gates open at 9 a.m. and the show runs to 4 p.m. each day.
- Parking and entry to the show is free.
- Buses start running at 9 a.m. and will run continuously until 6 p.m.
- Small handbags, cameras and folding chairs are allowed
- Coolers and weapons, including pocketknives, are not allowed
Verger said planning for the show began in January and has been going on regularly since then. Organizing it, he said, includes the help of many people on and off base, including local law enforcement and first responders.
“An air show is about 20 percent air and about 80 percent logistics,” he said.
Visit the base website for more information.