Maxwell Air Show revving up for major comeback
By REBECCA BURYLO | Montgomery Advertiser, Ala. | Published: April 5, 2017
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (Tribune News Service) — It's been seven years since the last air show at Maxwell Air Force Base, and the Maxwell team is prepared for a major comeback this weekend.
"It's not going to be like anything else before it," said Col. Doug DeMaio, vice commander of the LeMay Center at Maxwell Air Force Base and Maxwell Air Show director.
"Heritage to Horizon, a Century of Air Power since WWI," is the theme for the Maxwell Air Show that lands on base Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and it will have Air Force power on full display from the first fighter aircraft to fly over Europe during World War I to today's space exploration and the newest high-tech fighter jet, the F-35 Lighting II.
The show is about inspiring the next generation, said Air University Commander and President, Lt. Col. Steven Kwast.
"Every kid that gets to see what the generation before them has given them that plants seeds for dreamers to reinvent America again and again as we move forward," Kwast said. "The power of inspiration is really what this is about and kids are inspired by looking, touching and feeling things that are real and watching them fly."
The highly anticipated show is free to the public and features a unique spin on a tradition air show by bringing an international flavor with the French Patrouille De France jet team flying in aerobatic formations along with the United States Air Force Thunderbirds taking to the skies each day.
Bringing the air show back is just another testament to the strong ties Montgomery has to its military family at Maxwell, said Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange.
"In addition to the air show showcasing the relationship between the city of Montgomery, the county of Montgomery and the state of Alabama to the Air Force, civil aviation began here and as we look to that innovation we look to the future and the present," Strange said.
Since he and his team began to tackle the project more than a year ago, DeMaio knew he wanted to make the event a "once in a lifetime opportunity" as a way to give back to the River Region with more aerobatic demonstrations, more vintage, space and modern jet static displays and a big national appeal. The area abruptly lost the annually anticipated military air show nearly a decade ago because of budget cuts and sequestration that impacted military installations across the globe.
Leadership worked tirelessly to bring it back, officials said, and offer more than any show they've held in the past.
This show commemorates the 100th anniversary of the United States' entry into World War I, the 70th anniversary of the formation of the Air Force and the 75th anniversary of the creation of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African-American fighter pilots in World War II, which DeMaio believes will not only draw 50,000 from the River Region but an additional 50,000 from around the southeast and possibly the nation as well.
The 100th Fighter Squadron, an original Tuskegee Airmen squadron which is now located at Dannelly Field in Montgomery, will be providing a “Red Tail” F-16 for a formation flight with a commemorative Air Force P-51C Mustang to open the show.
"The difference this year is that last time, it was just a one-day air show and the scope was smaller. It was more local," DeMaio said. "This weekend our show is officially designated by the Air Force to memorialize that day the United States entered WWI in April 1917.
"It's fantastic for us, because this is a completely different show and includes several important events in the city leading up to it."
Touted by Montgomery City Mayor Todd Strange as the All American Weekend, this week will also include the Biscuits opening night on Thursday and a live concert by Grammy Award-winning Clint Black at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival on Saturday night.
The pre-air show events will kick off Friday with an ode to WWI with the official unveiling and dedication of the "Daedalus" at Maxwell, a larger-than-life bronze statue donated by Rod Frazer that honors the first 200 American combat pilots to fly and fight over Europe. Friday will also act as a STEM/Make A Wish Day for more than 1,500 area students to stop by and learn about science, technology, math and engineering, visit and talk with pilots. The Thunderbirds will surprise 70 children with special needs through Make-A-Wish giving them front row seats to their practice demonstrations.
Gates will open to the public at 8 a.m. Saturday and Sunday with aerobatic demonstrations by more than a dozen professional teams beginning at 11 a.m. An opening ceremony will start at 10:30 a.m and the U.S. Air Force Thunderbird demonstration team will close out both days. Along with static displays, ground demonstrations will be shown throughout the two days.
DeMaio welcomes everyone to come out and enjoy the show.
"The community is our guest, and we are showing them their Air Force. This is their show. They will not see anything else like it," DeMaio said. "This kind of centennial celebration only happens once in a lifetime."