Gunfighter Skies 2008 draws 60,000

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

An estimated 60,000 people attended this weekend's Gunfighter Skies 2008 airshow at Mountain Home AFB, base officials said.

The show was highlighted by the appearance of the USAF Thunderbirds, who arrived Saturday afternoon and thrilled the crowds Sunday afternoon with their display of precision flying.

In addition to the Thunderbirds, crowds were treated to a variety of aerial displays, from private stunt pilots to precision skydiving from the U.S. Air Force Academy team Wings of Blue.

Perfect weather drew crowds that filled the flight line as they got a chance to see nearly two dozen static displays of aircraft, ranging from the USAF's newest plane, the F-22 Raptor, to vintage WWII aircraft such as a B-25 bomber, TBM Avenger and P-51 Mustang.

Vendors on the flight line and in the hanger display areas provided food, refreshments and souvenirs for the crowds, which were nearly twice as large on Sunday as they were on Saturday.

Both days, those attending the show, many of whom brought their own chairs, craned their necks to watch the performances in the air, including a wing "heritage flight" of current aircraft and a P-51 Mustang, and the U.S. Navy's F-18 Super Hornet demonstration.

Following each performance, the performers signed autographs for the guests, at the VIP tent and throughout the flight line

And if the visitors to the airshow weren't looking into the solid blue skies, they were getting a close look at the aircraft parked on the flight line in the static displays. Many displays allowed visitors to view directly into the cockpit of the planes, or, for the larger aircraft, to walk through them, gaining an appreciation for both the history and current capabilities of the United States Air Force. In addition, displays also showed off military equipment from both the base and national guard.

The guests were treated to various concessions including lemonade, funnel cakes, pretzels and pizza from Domino's. For the younger guests, at the event, the base prepared a special play area inside one of the base's hangars with inflatable bouncing houses and obstacle courses.

"It's been a great event, from the weather, the static displays and the performers. It's nice to have an event that exhibits the relationship between the base and the community," said Colonel James Browne, 366th Fighter Wing Commander.

"The airshow was phenomenal due to the professionalism and commitment of every airman on base that volunteered their time and talents as we opened our gates to the people of Idaho," said Lt. Col. Todd Miller, Gunfighter Skies 2008 director. "The Gunfighter team really pulled together with the planning, preparation and execution of the show, this was truly a team effort, and an exceptional event."

"It was absolutely an outstanding two days," said Mountain Home Mayor Tom Rist. "The T-birds were phenomenal," and the F-15 demonstration team also put on an exceptional show, he added.

366th Fighter Wing personnel, both in the air (the wing had its own air team demonstration) and on the ground also earned high praise from the mayor for "the wonderful job that they did."

He offered his praise and thanks to both the wing and Silver Wings of Idaho, the private non-profit group that helped organize the airshow and pay for the civilian performers.

"The people who need to be commended most are the members of MHAFB, and the Silver Wings Committee for the integral part they played in bringing this all together," said Rist.

Base and local law enforcement officials, reinforced with law enforcement agencies from throughout the region, helped provide a relatively smooth exit of the tens of thousands of vehicles that had visited the airshow from throughout southern Idaho.

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