Hill AFB Air Show larger than ever

HILL AIR FORCE BASE — In just over two months, Hill Air Force Base will open its gates and welcome in more than a half-million strangers.

The 2016 “Warriors Over the Wasatch” open house and air show has been set for June 25 and 26. Organizers expect more than half a million visitors to converge on the base’s flightline for the two-day aerial exhibition.

The free show will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day, highlighted by the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, The Breitling Jet Team, the Army Golden Knights parachute team and nearly 20 other performers. The show will also feature 50 static aircraft displays and an Air Force “Heritage Flight,” in which a F-35 Lightning II will take to the skies with a vintage World War II warbird.

Kevin Ireland, development director for the Ogden-Weber Chamber of Commerce and air show coordinator for the Top of Utah Military Affairs Committee, said $480,000 was raised for the show. Much of that money came from private donations and corporate sponsors like Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Orbital ATK, but the Utah State Legislature also appropriated $200,000 for the show during the 2016 session.

Ireland said Zions Bank, America First Credit Union, Rocky Mountain Power, Costco and Sam’s Club also donated money and in-kind goods.

Hill will kick in $200,000 for the show, money that comes from the base’s Operations and Maintenance Budget. Approximately 1,500 Hill employees will also be involved with preparing for the show.

Lt. Col. Kristopher Long, commander of Hill’s 75th Operations Support Squadron, said the base’s cost amounts to the Air Force spending about 30 cents per visitor.

“That’s actually pretty good — you can’t even get a cup of coffee for that price,” he said. “I’d say it’s pretty cost effective.”

Long said from the Air Force’s perspective, the show is all about recruiting and retention.

“We can’t have the very best men and women in the Air Force unless we inspire them (to join),” he said. “For us, that’s a big part of what the show is about. Inspiring people.”

Ireland says exit polls conducted at the completion of previous air shows have indicated the event draws visitors from Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona and California. 

“People plan their vacations around this show,” Ireland said.

Ireland and Long said that because the base is a secure military installation, visitors should be prepared to undergo security screenings before being admitted to the show.

As a general rule, Long said, any items not permitted at an airport will also be banned at the show. Attendees will be able to bring small personal coolers and backpacks, but they will be subject to searches.

Parking at the show is free, but vehicle traffic must enter through the Roy gate off of the 5600 South exit on Interstate 15 exit in Roy, or the West Gate off of the 650 North exit in Clearfield. The base’s South Gate, on State Route 193 in Layton, will only be open to bus traffic and vendors.

Ireland said he’s developing an app, available for iPhone and Android users, that will provide real-time weather and traffic alerts, as well as live cockpit footage from performers’ aircraft.

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