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Thunderbirds Overcome Tragedy and Return to Utah Skies

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On May 25, 1953, the United States Air Force, barely celebrating its sixth anniversary as a branch of the U.S. Military, formed a unique air demonstration team and gave it the name of “Thunderbirds.” Since this time, this specialized unit has continued to exhibit not only the might and skill of the Air Force but entertain crowds across the country in their exhilarating aerobatics speeding through the sky at hundreds of miles an hour.

However, tragedy struck this brave group of pilots on April 5, 2018, when Maj. Stephen Del Bagno was killed during a routine demonstration in Nevada, the first death for the group in over 36 years. Due to Del Bagno’s death, all future operations were suspended until further notice, including their scheduled appearance this summer at Hill Air Force Base. However, HAFB spokesman Micah Barbarino recently announced that although investigations into the causes surrounding the crash are still ongoing, the Thunderbirds have resumed their schedule and will be performing at this year’s air show “Warriors Over the Wasatch” on June 23rd and 24th.

HAFB hosts the two-day long air show every other year and accommodates over 500,000 visitors. This year’s show by the Thunderbirds will include an F-35 attack demonstration, parachuting teams, and other aerial demonstrations. Several different military displays will also be on exhibit, including an entire hangar dedicated to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) education, geared toward students of all ages. A full schedule of all displays and demonstrations can be accessed at hill.af.mil. While the show itself is free, HAFB only provides approximately 8000 parking spaces and encourages attendees to arrive early and use public transportation where possible. The show begins at 9:30 a.m. each day and gates will open at 8:00 a.m. UTA will run Frontrunner commuter trains on both days of the show, as well as shuttle buses running from the Clearfield Station to the base. Other shuttles will be available at Weber State University Davis Campus and Northridge High School.

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