Tyler Robertson, El Inde Arizona
The Thunder and Lightning Over Arizona air show will return to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base on Saturday, March 25, and Sunday, March 26, before a crowd expected to top 100,000 guests.
This will be the first time the air show has returned since November 2021 and will be the first without any COVID-19 restrictions since the pandemic began three years ago. Social distancing is still encouraged and sanitation stations will be available.
The air show, formerly known as Arizona and Aerospace Days, has graced the skies of the Sonoran Desert roughly 30 times since its debut in 1960 and has regularly drawn in crowds of over six figures.
This year’s event runs from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. both days and general admission is free. Tickets are available for premium seating from $55 to $175.
The show will have 22 static displays for guests to walk around and see, and 15 live performances in the air. The performances will once again be highlighted by the Air Force’s premier flying group, the Thunderbirds.
The group, a set of six F-16 Fighting Falcons, gets their name from a mythological creature of several North American indigenous cultures. According to the Air Force website, the Thunderbirds perform all over the world to “display the pride, precision and professionalism the U.S. Air Force represents.”
The F-35 Lightning II Demo Team, A-10 Thunderbolt II Demo Team, Red Bull Skydivers and Fixed Wing Aircraft and Smoke and Thunder Jet Shows also will perform.
What makes this event unique is that it is one of the only times that the Tucson base lifts its access restrictions, allowing the general public onto its premises. Those entering the base are not allowed to bring alcohol, marijuana or pets.
Air show Director Capt. Luke Rockwell recommends that all guests bring a water bottle, protection from the sun, comfortable shoes and a bank card or cash. If preferred, guests are also permitted to bring viewing equipment, such as cameras or binoculars, hearing protection, strollers or wagons for children, diaper bags, snacks in non-glass containers and umbrellas for use in walking areas only.
The base is expected to open for inbound traffic at 9 a.m. on both days, but guests can expect delays when entering. The two entrances – at the corner of East Golf Links Road and South Swan Road and the corner of East Golf Links Road and South Craycroft Road – will remain open for inbound traffic until 2 p.m.
Rockwell said rideshare services will have access to the event, although there will not be a designated drop-off/pickup area. Guests also can be dropped off and picked up at the entrance to the base and walk to the designated area.
It is about one mile to the parking area from the entrance, a third of a mile from the parking area to the static displays and there is roughly 8,000 feet of static display area for people to walk around.
Rockwell says there will be concessions, canopies for shade and ATMs available.
Recruiters from every military branch also will be present for anybody interested in signing up. Rockwell said the air show historically is one of the most successful recruitment events for the area.
Proceeds from the air show will be used to pay the performers and benefit the base’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs including the golf, arts and crafts, bowling, clubs. library and the base community center.