Davis-Monthan AFB Airshow 2012: Thunderbirds over Freedom Park

Dear Students,

This weekend 130,000 souls converged on Davis-Monthan Air Force base for the bi-annual open house. The air show is free, but presents numerous logistical challenges. If you want to get up close and personal with the planes, be prepared to walk your legs off, hang out in the baking sun and stay the day. The highlight of the day for me (and many others) is the Thunderbirds.

The Thunderbirds are an elite team of F-16 pilots used to showcase the superiority of the American Armed forces. Thunderbirds tour the country appearing at air shows and sporting events. I marked my calendar for the Tucson Air Show months in advance, excited to see them perform again. I cannot get enough of their precision and daring.

Problem was, I didn’t think I could go. I cannot walk the legs off my kiddos. I can’t let my little redhead bake on the tarmac waiting all day long to watch planes when he would much rather DO than SEE. I want to but I know that it would be too much for them. Too loud for number one. Too long for number two.

What to do? My husband looked for local parks on Google that were near the air field. My mother-in-law reserved a ramada for us. We packed a picnic lunch, frisbees and soccer balls and arrived at the park at 1PM.

That morning, I broke out the Pioneer Woman’s new cook book and made her “restaurant quality salsa” and it was addictive. Just enough heat, cilantro and the right consistency. Oh how I crave good salsa. That recipe made me as happy as those airplanes. The boys feasted on PB and J on raisin bread and we grubbed on chips and salsa and sunshine.

Pioneer Woman Restaurant Salsa (photo by Ree Drummond)


This friendly man had a radio tuned to the Thunderbird airband so we could listen to the crew during the performance. Next time I’ll bring my own radio and tune in. You can find the airshow radio AM settings on the Internet.

The park was lightly populated with other folks sharing the same idea. I covered the picnic tables under the ramada with colorful blankets and anchored them from the wind.


Around 1PM we saw bi-planes perform barn storming manuevers. Davis-Monthan publishes a schedule on their website so we could follow the activities from the park.


Nonna played soccer with the boys (We all took turns. They didn’t stop for a second)

We played frisbee, kicked a soccer ball, petted dogs.


For the boys, chasing the ice cream truck and picking what they wanted was a highlight of the day.

The weather was amazing for Tucson, sunny but not too hot. An ice cream truck patrolled and Papa bought the boys snow cones for $1.50.

The Thunderbirds typically close the air show, coming on around 3:30 PM and flying for nearly a half hour. The six planes filled the sky in every direction. As four planes flew in diamond formation near the mountains the other two planes flew low over the airfield inverting, tightly passing and peeling off striping the sky with white trails of smoke. The sound of the jet engines swelled and shrank against the Santa Rita mountains. A beautiful day, well spent. You can catch the Thunderbirds in upcoming shows by following them on Facebook or checking their calendar.

Breaking the sound barrier,

Mrs. Kenney

p.s. This article about riding in a Thunderbird is laugh out loud funny, I had to share it with you!

They put the wild blue into the wild blue yonder. Thank you for your service!