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October 10, 2015

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Air Force Thunderbirds wow thousands at annual air show


Justin M. Bowen

The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds perform Saturday during the annual Aviation Nation air show at Nellis Air Force Base.

Aviation Nation Nellis

The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds perform Saturday during the annual Aviation Nation air show at Nellis Air Force Base. Launch slideshow »

The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds performed in front of a home crowd of thousands at Nellis Air Force Base on Saturday.

The performance is part of the annual Aviation Nation air show, which draws more than 100,000 people to the base each year.

The event, which is free, continues Sunday. Parking and a free shuttles to the event are available at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Senior Airman Ashley Serrano is stationed at Nellis but wasn’t at the show to work Saturday. Instead, she brought her children, her parents and her grandmother to watch the Thunderbirds.

“I think it’s more prideful because we see these people all the time. We know them,” she said after watching the performance.

Serrano’s mother, Sheri Story, who lives in Seattle, said she enjoyed the Thunderbirds’ exhibition. “It’s been a long time since we’ve seen them,” she said.

Story, an Air Force veteran, said the air show was better than some others she has attended.

“It’s so big. I’ve been to a lot of air shows, and this one is huge,” she said.

The Thunderbirds are the Air Force’s elite demonstration flying team. The group, which is stationed at Nellis, travels across North America performing nearly 70 shows a year.

“I thought it was awesome,” said North Las Vegas resident Adrienne Brown. “I love airplanes and I love aviation, but you don’t get the chance to see the Thunderbirds every day.”

Her husband, Luis, and her 4-year-old son also said they enjoyed the show.

“I love being able to see all the planes up close,” Luis Brown said. “When you’re a little kid, you play with little planes and you don’t realize how big they really are.”

Not all of the spectators were from the Las Vegas area.

Bryce and Donna Roberts came to the show from their home in St. George, Utah. They heard about Aviation Nation on the radio and decided to make the two-hour drive to check it out.

“It made the hair on the back of my neck and the hair on my arms stand up,” Bryce Roberts said.

“We can’t wait to come back next year,” Donna Roberts added.

Jack Laub, also from St. George, brought his wife and four of his children to the show. They are regulars at air shows, he said.

“Going to air shows is a culture,” Laub said. “It’s kind of a lifestyle; once you do it it’s in your blood.”

He said the younger children, especially, loved climbing into the planes and seeing things up close.

“It’s pretty cool for the kids to see everything and interact with the helicopters and planes,” he said.

But he was most wowed by the Thunderbirds.

“You don’t get to see the skill level of these pilots every day, so you’ve got to take advantage of it when you can,” he said.

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