The Air Force Thunderbirds flight team and the Army Golden Knights parachutists are headlining the Joint Base Lewis-McChord Airshow and Warrior Expo this weekend.
But Air Force Lt. Col. Paul Greenlee, the director of the airshow and a University of Washington alumnus, is looking forward to something else.
“I’m excited to see the B-17s and the B-25s and the old warbirds flying around,” the active pilot said.
This year’s airshow, the first in four years, is to feature an entirely military aerial display, unlike years past. Apart from the headlining Thunderbirds and Golden Knights, performances will include the FA-18 fighter jet, the C-17 Globemaster cargo plane, a Coast Guard helicopter, and World War II-era planes, including the B-17 and B-25 bombers. The C-17 will do an air drop while a Chinook helicopter does a personnel drop, Greenlee said.
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The Saturday and Sunday shows are expected to be identical, Greenlee said, with gates opening at 9 a.m. and flying scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. and lasting for about 4 1/2 hours.
The planes will be on display after their flights. Also on display will be a B-1 bomber, Army Strykers and fighter jet training aircraft, among other equipment.
“We’re trying to capture what the entirety of Joint Base Lewis-McChord is about and show that to the public, to be able to encapsulate what goes on everywhere at the base,” Greenlee said.
JBLM expects to see upward of 100,000 visitors a day for the show and has planned to accommodate up to 150,000 a day.
“The weather looks like it may be ideal, so that may be nice,” Greenlee said. “It’s the first time we’ve had the event in four years, so that may draw some people in. People are excited that we’re able to do this again.”
This is the first time the Army has led the airshow, which dates to the late 1980s or early 1990s, Greenlee said. The show was put on annually by McChord Air Field’s 62nd Airlift Wing until the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. It returned in 2003 and was held only in even years starting in 2006. The 2014 airshow was canceled because federal budget sequestration constrained the military’s budget.
Apart from the planes, helicopters and military equipment, there will be food and drink available on-site, as well as a carnival.
“We want to get people the opportunity to do something after the event to allow traffic to clear out,” Greenlee said. “We know the entrances to I-5 can be kind of a bear.”