As you may have expected, due to protocols associated with their recent mishap and fatality, the USAF Thunderbirds have officially given notice that they will not be participating in #SNF18.
“Though we are deeply saddened by their loss of a valuable teammate, we totally understand and support the Thunderbirds’ decision. They have a requirement to take the necessary time to assess their current situation and plot a path forward, and we certainly respect their professionalism and diligence in ensuring their safe return to airshows,” said John Leenhouts, SUN 'n FUN President/CEO.
While the Thunderbirds will certainly be missed, the SUN ‘n FUN Fly-In will continue as scheduled with its week-long convention, including its impressive array of military and civilian airshow demonstrations. Scheduled acts include the U.S. Navy TAC DEMO F/A 18 Super Hornet, the dramatic and realistic Tora Tora Tora Airshows' Pearl Harbor reenactment, rare warbirds like the P-38 and A-20, and over 60 performances during the week, making it the largest aviation event in the South.
Airshow Director Greg Gibson also confirmed that the USAF Air Combat Command (ACC) has reached out to SUN ‘n FUN and committed to the effort of finding alternative USAF demonstrations to come to the event.
“We appreciate ACC’s efforts on our behalf in such a short timeframe,” Gibson said. “They are working to make available a potential first-line combat aircraft to perform full aerial displays and/or engage in Heritage Flights with several of the numerous rare WWII fighters we have in attendance this year. We will make periodic announcements throughout the following days as these appearances are confirmed.”
Leenhouts also confirmed that this year’s daily airshows will include several activities to honor the service of Maj. Stephen Del Bagno, the fallen Thunderbird Number 4, and that a portion of the proceeds from this year’s event will be donated through the proper channels to support the Thunderbird family.