Double trouble: Thunderbirds, Blue Angels ready for memorable weekend in Dover

By Mike Finney
Posted 5/20/22

DOVER — Just watching the hulking C-5M Super Galaxy and C-17 Globemaster III cargo planes maneuvering across the skies of Dover on a normal day is enough to take a person’s breath …

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Double trouble: Thunderbirds, Blue Angels ready for memorable weekend in Dover

Posted

DOVER — Just watching the hulking C-5M Super Galaxy and C-17 Globemaster III cargo planes maneuvering across the skies of Dover on a normal day is enough to take a person’s breath away.

Sprinkle in extremely rare co-headline performances by the United States Air Force Thunderbirds and U.S. Navy Blue Angels aerial demonstration teams — and a wide array of other sights and sounds — and this weekend’s Thunder Over Dover Air Show and Open House promises to be one for the ages.

Besides a skyline full of aircraft, temperatures are also expected to soar into the mid-90-degree range at Dover Air Force Base Saturday afternoon and reach 90 degrees on Sunday.

Even scorching temperatures won’t slow down Col. Matt Husemann, commander of the 436th Airlift Wing at Dover AFB, and his airmen, who will be busy helping to keep thousands upon thousands of visitors to the free air show safe, informed and entertained.

“To have the airmen here, to be able to have this showcase … the airmen, like everybody you see walking around in uniform, what they do every day, to be able to show that to the public is something special,” Col. Husemann said.

“This weekend we get to showcase that with a bunch of different performers.

“Every other day, we showcase that by delivering (cargo) all across the globe. It’s awesome to have the airmen here. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to have both the Thunderbirds and Blue Angels today and throughout the weekend.”

The gates to the air show will open at 9 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, with the opening ceremony taking place at noon both days.

The United States Army Special Operations Command Black Daggers will open each day’s events with a parachute team demonstration followed by a National Anthem Flag Jump.

From that moment until around 5 p.m. both days, some type of aircraft will be in the air — with several other static displays of airplanes on the ground open to see and tour — to keep aviation enthusiasts and families entertained.

Weekend of double headliners

The stars of the show will undoubtedly be the ear-splitting, heart-pounding USAF Thunderbirds and the U.S. Navy Blue Angels acrobatic flight teams.

“It’s an absolutely incredible opportunity to be able to fly with our U.S. Navy and Marine counterparts,” said Maj. Kyle Oliver, lead soloist in F-16 No. 5 for the Thunderbirds. “We’ve had the opportunity over the last couple of years to do some joint training with them, which I think has really made both teams better.

“Over the last couple of years, we’ve learned from each other and we’ve definitely put our best foot forward and you’re definitely seeing the best version of each team right now.

“It’s a really unique opportunity to be able to put that training into good use and put on a show here at Dover together.”

Taking a joking jab at the Blue Angels, Maj. Oliver added, “It’s OK being the second-best jet team in the country. Somebody’s got to do it.

“No, they’re incredible professionals. Nobody understands what we do better than they do. So, it’s definitely a friendly rivalry.”

Capt. Daniel Katz, who is the Thunderbirds’ opposing solo pilot in his No. 6 F-16, knows that whether a pilot is with his outfit or with the Blue Angels, it’s still a really cool occupation.

“I would say I have the best job in the world,” Capt. Katz said. “I definitely have the best office in the world. Any time we go across country, I get to see the world, I get full access to look around and it’s a good 360 degrees of a beautiful view.

“Whenever I’m flying, it always reminds me that this is the best country on earth, and I definitely have the best job on earth. I get to show people the capabilities of it all.

“I pull about 7½ G’s in the profile and I get to go from about 100 feet above the ground all the way up to three miles straight up.”

The last time the two air demonstration teams flew together was at the Navy Air Facility El Centro in Imperial County, California, over the winter training season. The last time they flew together in a show was in Kansas City last summer.

“We don’t often have the opportunity, so this is very unique and very special for us,” Maj. Oliver said.

Today was a special day as it not only served as a practice day for the weekend’s shows, it was also open to retired veterans and families of servicemen and women.

“The practice is especially important for the safe operation of the show,” Maj. Oliver said. “We take our same demonstration on the road to a different show site each week and we’ll travel to about 35 different show locations this season.

“So, our Friday practice is basically to get the lay of the land, make sure that we’ve got all the landmarks that we need identified, and that we’re able to put on a safe and effective demonstration each and every show across the weekend.”

Lt. Col. David Caswell, director of Thunder Over Dover, was called out on duty during practice. However, before this weekend’s event arrived, he was busy making all the necessary preparations.

“Featuring both demonstration squadrons at the same event has never happened at Dover and is the perfect representation of this event’s theme — ‘Reunite,’” Lt. Col. Caswell said. “We have an entire lineup of world-class performers and ground displays that will be unmatched by any other event of its kind in the region.”

Besides the air demonstrations, visitors will also be able to get an up-close look at a C-5M Super Galaxy, C-17 Globemaster III, KC-46A Pegasus, North American B-25 Mitchell “Miss Hap,” UH-1N Huey, F-15E Strike Eagle CH-53D Sea Stallion and more.

One big thunderous celebration

Col. Husemann is hoping that as many people from Delaware who can attend the event will make the trip because the airmen always appreciate the communities’ support.

“This community rallies itself around the base. They take care of the base. They help us a ton with everything,” Col. Husemann said. “When I talk about moving mountains, that’s nothing here. We don’t have to move anything.

“The Delaware community is so extremely supportive and that comes all the way from the governor, to the senators, to the congressmen. The (Dover) mayor here (Robin Christiansen) is the best. We get to spend time, to break bread, to have fun as a community and as a family. Delaware is amazing supporters of us.”

This year is a special one to have such a phenomenal air show and open house. It is the 75th birthday of both the U.S. Air Force and Dover Air Force Base and next week the USAF Thunderbirds will be celebrating their 69th birthday.

This weekend promises to be one memorable weekend of flying, fun and families, according to Maj. Oliver.

“The flying is definitely one of my favorite things, obviously, but by far my favorite part of any show weekend is interacting with the public,” he said. “After we land, we’re actually going to have a chance to meet with a couple of our exceptional family members here in our Thunderbird tent.

“Then, throughout the weekend after we fly each day we’ll be able to approach the crowd line and go sign some autographs and just meet and greet with some folks after we fly. It’s definitely a really cool pick-me-up.

“You go fly a great demonstration and then go out and meet the folks and hear about the great people here at Dover. You just can’t beat that.”