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2010 Air Shows

Arizona Days: March 20-21

Location: Davis-Monthan AFB, Tucson, Arizona
Admission: FREE
Parking: Free on site and with shuttle buses $2.50 round trip
Value: Average

Featured performers included the Air Force Thunderbirds, the A-10 West Demonstration Team, F/A-18 Super Hornet Demo Team, and The Patriots.

Aerospace and Arizona Days 2010 Air Show in Tucson is held at Davis-Monthan AFB. The air show rotates bi-annually between Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson and Luke AFB, in Phoenix. It is a free event, thus it usually draws large crowds, and this year was no exception. Saturday’s attendees were somewhat larger than Sunday’s.

From the general public’s point of view, they discouraged on the base parking, recommended the use of buses instead, and lacked a performer event schedule on their Internet site. One could buy one at the show as part of their Souvenier Program for a mere $10.00, but even that did not have any time tables as to what was on at what time. On Saturday the event failed miserably with an inadequate supply of portable toilets, lining up for such was between 30-35 minutes, lacked adequate refreshment: namely water suppliers. Especially necessary, since this event was in the dry heat of Arizona where body moisture really evaporates quickly. I experienced an over 40 minute wait to buy a bottle of $3.00 water from a typical vendor, who was more interested selling tacos, and chicken pita wraps instead of refreshments and then wait another 5 minutes before they could find change to break a five dollar bill. While there were a couple of free water tanks dispersed from which one could draw lukewarm potable water, these tanks were not easy to locate and had major line ups too.

Portable toilets arriving on Sunday morning, a day late, but better than never!
If one didn’t want to stand or sit on concrete, (as bring your own folding chairs, or blankets for sitting were not permitted at the show) one could rent white a plastic folding chair for $5.00 interesting enough these were pushed by Air Force Reserve cadets, and were more visible than drinking water! I met many attendees ranging from nurses, to retired couples who felt that the show organizers were a bit disorganized, considering that it was hosted by the Air Force, one expected much better, and they can do better! Scott AFB is a prime example, just how to organize and run such an event on an AFB. There were only few parts of the over all show experience that went very smoothly namely; entering and leaving from the on base parking, and going through security. These were handled very professionally and quickly.

As for the air show itself, it was quite good. The major issue for attendees including myself who takes photographs, that the sun was always in our eyes. Taking photos in such conditions is not easy, and back light compensation is required. Speaking of the sun, the weather was very good, it wasn’t windy, nor extremely hot, although heavy usage of sun block is highly recommended, unless one wants to stay in covered seating areas. Since there was no program schedule, while it was announced at the beginning of the show, if one came later, those people and with the majority of attendees had no idea when and who would perform, which made time management a bit difficult. Due to this I missed several performers as I was either lining up for bottle of water or for the potable facilities, and I wasn’t the only one of the many thousands who attended.

The main headliners were the Thunderbirds, Navy’s F/A Super Hornet Team and the West Coast A-10 Demo Team. The A-10 West Coast Demo Team is headquartered out of D-M AFB, so it was home turf for them. There were some interesting demo simulation of a pilot rescue and Border Patrol take-down. There was a simulated air-to-air refuelling demo with a C-130 and UH-60 Black Hawk Helicopter. Other civilian performers included the Patriots with their four L-39C. The USAF Heritage Flight with the A-10 and with a Vietnam era Skyraider, and a fly-by of a B-17 bomber with a P-51D Mustang. There were a large static display at the show, the larger aircraft such as the B-1B Lancer, C-130 Hercules variants, KC-135 Stratotanker, were parked on the tarmac, while the smaller fighter, trainers and similar aircraft were in covered (open at both ends) hangars.

The air show part thrilled the crowds, as the Super Hornet Demo Team, the A-10 Demo Team, and the Thunderbirds put on an excellent show. The Heritage Flight was good too. The general show announcement lacked clarity (this does not apply to Demo Teams who have there own announcers) as to where to look for the inbound aircraft.

My own over all impression of the air show had very mixed feelings. For me, who attends several air shows in a year, it seemed that the organizers didn’t really want an air show because it lacked concise communication on their web site, the PAO made it extremely difficult to coordinate media coverage (blamed on e-mail failure), lacked enthusiasm for coverage, restricted movements further than the general public were given, and the list just goes on but that is another story which I am not going publicize. But I do wish to thank the people who did make my visit worthwhile despite needless difficulties: PAO Capt. Jason McRee of the Thunderbirds, Capt. Joe “Riffle” Shetterly and TSGT Tommy Napier both of the A-10 Demo Team, and Karen Petitt, Chief PAO, Scott AFB, without your help and understanding the 2730 mile one way drive would have been a disaster! You are simply the BEST!

Some of the participating performers were:

  • U-2 Dragon Lady flyby
  • The Thunderbirds
  • F-18 Super Hornet
  • A-10 West Demo Team
  • Pilot Rescue Demo with A-10 and UH-60 Black Hawk Helicopter Team
  • Border Patrol take-down demo
  • Heritage Flight with A-10 and Skyraider
  • B-17 with a P-51D Mustang flyby
  • Patriots L-39C Team
  • and many others including static displays.

Rating: The over all rating as air shows go in general is 6 out of 10, (due to several issues) and reflects much needed improvement in several key areas as listed above.

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