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The U.S.A.F. Thunderbirds Take to the Skies Over Smyrna Once Again to Thrill Large Crowds at Great Tennessee Air Show

by Rich and Laura Lynch

Saturday, June 5, 2021 marked the start of the two-day celebration for the 50th Anniversary of the Great Tennessee Air Show in Smyrna, Tennessee. It also would see the return of the United States Air Force Thunderbirds to the skies over Rutherford County for the first time in a decade.


The Thunderbirds returned to the skies over Smyrna for the first time in 10 years.

Thousands of fans turned out from all over the region and beyond for this reduced capacity event that limited crowd size to about half its norm due to Covid related precautions. Still, a literal army of air show aficionados roamed the tarmac on a sunny and warm afternoon in anticipation of the day's high flying antics from some of the world's best acrobatic and demonstration pilots.


Scenes from the 50th Anniversary of the Great Tennessee Air Show.

Festivities launched just before noon when the United States Special Operations Command Parachute Team jumped out of their escort plane flying the American Flag as the National Anthem was performed below. Our brave soldiers soon gave way to a series of performances by U.S. National Aerobatic champions Mike Wiskus of Lucas Oil Air Shows, nine-time winner Rob Holland, and Mike Goulian (Red Bull Air Races Champion). A crowd favorite this afternoon was the special double dose of legacy flights featuring the F-35C, an EA-18G Growler and Jim Tobul flying his "Korean War Hero" F4U-4 Corsair - an iconic machine made even more famous by the Baa Baa Black Sheep television series in the 70's.


Solo flights and team precision marked a thrilling demonstration.

At 2:30 the warm up acts cleared the stage for the skilled sky pilots who promised to be the stars of the show. The USAF Air Demonstration Squadron "Thunderbirds" lived up to their name as they took to the air following pre-flight prep and a ground check that only served to build up the anticipation in the crowd. With the weather cooperating the men and woman at the controls of the unit's six F-16s undertook their Disney choreographed "high show" that included nearly an hour's worth of complicated and mind blowing maneuvers with names like the Diamond Cloverloop, Echelon Pass in Review, Bon Ton Roulle, 5-Card Loop, High Bomb Burst and the Thunderbird Pitch that often saw the planes get within 18 inches of each other while traveling at speeds up to 700 miles per hour.


Our favorite ground display on 2021 featured one man's take on females and flight.

There was also plenty to do on the ground at the Great Tennessee Air Show and fans strolled on the concrete to visit various aircraft like the V-22 Osprey. We actually had a chance to walk through this flying wonder that is part plane and part helicopter. Costing approximately $75 million each this aircraft had a rough start when introduced into service in 2007 but it has gone on to become one of the safest vehicles in the military according to an officer on site. In addition to food, beverage and ice creams options attendees could purchase souvenirs and visit a variety of sky-themed vendors. Our favorite this year was an artist who combined his love of flying and the female form!


Fans queued up to see thrilling maneuvers from the U.S.A.F. Thunderbirds.

Air shows were originally created by the military branches to serve as a recruitment tool. So, it was a proud occasion when the public service announcer directed fans to the middle of the airfield to introduce nine new enlistees into the Air Force and Space Force. This was an impactful moment and another highlight to an already exhilarating day. Perhaps you will soon some of these new male and female recruits flying overhead at a show near you in the years to come. Or, better yet -- soaring high above the crowds in Smyrna when the Thunderbirds return again to impress and inspire all over again.


Nine new recruits took their pledge into the Air Force and Space Force.

Related Links: For more information on THE GREAT TENNESSEE AIR SHOW please visit the following links -- The Great Tennessee Air Show | United States Air Force Thunderbirds | The Blue Angels Fly High On a Wing and a Prayer in Smyrna | The Great Tennessee Air Show Flies On for Fallen Angel

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