Pilots, jumpers, displays spread smiles at Hill

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HILL AIR FORCE BASE — Thousands of eyes were glued to the sky Saturday as some of the country’s best aerial performers “knife-edged,” “dived” and “hammered” their way through the air as part of the 2014 Warriors Over the Wasatch: Power of Airmen air show and open house at Hill Air Force Base.

The Hill team that helped organize the event put Saturday’s crowd at about 300,000 people.

The two-day event concluded Sunday. 

“The air show is about showing the public what the Air Force does,” air show co-director Col. Fred Thaden, of the 75th Air Base Wing, told the Standard-Examiner over the roar of a small aerial acrobatic plane performing in the background.

The open house and air show, featuring the Air Force Thunderbirds, is about connecting with a community that shows strong support for the base and its military, said Thaden, who co-directed the show with Col. Todd Dozier.

“They are here to see what the Air Force is all about,” Thaden said of the crowds amassed along the flight line.

But not all of the attractions were in the air.

Ground displays and parked planes drew a large amount of interest, particularly the F-22 and F-35 aircraft on display.

However, to prevent secrets from being leaked about military technology, the two planes were cordoned off by security, allowing the public to get only within about 20 feet of the noses of the planes.

No matter. It seemed everyone at the event was wearing a smile and a sunburn, with the exception of a few crying babies, likely because of the noise of the planes.

“I try to make it every year they are here,” North Ogden resident Dave Cobb said of the air show.

Being a retired aircraft electrician, Cobb said he has always had an interest in planes. 

“They’re all pretty good,” he said of the list of performers, “but I like seeing the older planes.”

Cobb arrived an hour before the air show began in order to get a good view of the flight line.

His friend, Bountiful resident John Wright, who serves in the Air National Guard, seemed to be loving it all.

“I love it — all the aircraft, all the people, the beer,” he said.

Ariel Williams, an 85-year-old volunteer at the Hill Aerospace Museum in Roy, said he had to come over to the base to see what was going on.

Dressed in an Air Force blue shirt and cap, and chomping on a hot dog, Williams told of how he had been a flight surgeon in the Air Force. 

“I’ve been up in a number of them,” he said of the planes.

“Things with wings. I like them,” he said, and that includes birds, as bird-watching is another of his hobbies.

And then there are those first-time attendees.

“I think it is awesome,” said Kearns resident Alison Hogan, who was attending the show with her brother Aaron Thompson, of Salt Lake City.

“I have been up here a couple of times,” said Thompson, who was introduced to air shows by his late father, Alvie.

“The Thunderbirds are amazing. I saw them 30 years ago with my dad. The draw is always the Thunderbirds.”

And then there was Orem resident Jared Osborn, who, much like Alvie Thompson before him, saw the need to bring his children, all five of them, to the air show.

“We thought it would be good for the kids,” said Osborn, whose wife, Melissa, has a mother in the Air National Guard.

Another first-timer was Eureka resident Matthew Garbett, whose wife persuaded him to make the 90-mile trek to see the show.

“I enjoy planes,” Garbett said, trying to cool himself with a crushed ice treat, while wife Lyndsay and their 4-year-old son, Corey, were enjoying their treats under the shade of an umbrella mom was holding.

“Being a military brat,” Lyndsay said, she is a regular at air shows.

And as for Corey, who seemed to be engulfed in his ice treat, Mom said, “He loves airplanes.”