By MATTHEW UMSTEAD
7:14 PM EST, December 11, 2012
The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds are returning to the Thunder over the Blue Ridge Open House and Air Show, which will be held May 11 and 12, organizers announced Tuesday.
Hosted by the 167th Airlift Wing of the West Virginia Air National Guard, the show also is expected to feature several civilian aerobatic performers and an array of aircraft will be on static ground display for the event, an Airlift Wing spokesperson announced.
The announcement followed Tuesday’s unveiling of the elite jet team’s 2013 air show schedule at the International Council of Air Shows Convention in Las Vegas.
The 167th Airlift Wing along with the Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport Authority and the United Way of the Eastern Panhandle have partnered for the past three years to hold the Thunder Over the Blue Ridge Open House and Air Show.
Attendance at this year’s two-day show, which lacked marquee military acts, was decidedly lower than past the prior years.
The Thunderbirds’ appearance at the 2010 show attracted a estimated crowd of 80,000 people for the two-day event and the Airlift Wing says it expects similar turnout for the event in May.
Col. Roger Nye, the Airlift Wing’s commander, said Tuesday that the May weekend is when the air show at Joint Base Andrews near Washington, DC., was held annually, but officials there announced this year that budget cuts were forcing them to turn the show into a biennial event.
Nye said the change at Joint Base Andrews might have factored into the Thunderbirds’ decision to return to Thunder Over the Blue Ridge.
Nye could not elaborate on additional aerial acts that would join the Thunderbirds, but expects more show information to be released at a media event next week.
In its 60th season, the jet team is slated to perform more than 60 demonstrations in 38 locations, including a six-week tour through the Pacific, according to a news release.
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