This weekend marks the return of the USAF Thunderbirds to March Air Reserve Base near Riverside. The precision flying team has been making regular stops at the base’s air shows for many years, the last being 2004.
This weekend’s show marks the homecoming of sorts for one of the Thunderbird pilots, Maj. Nicole Malachowski, who spent part of her childhood in Upland. She’s also the first female pilot in the history of the Thunderbirds. Many of her relatives will be at this weekend’s airshow.
“It’s exciting to be back in Southern California,” Malachowski said Thursday after a practicing with the Thunderbirds over March, Riverside, Moreno Valley and Perris. “It’s overwhelming and exhilarating and I’m enjoying this.”
Included in this weekend’s airshow will be flight demonstrations of the Air Force’s primary aircraft, including the F-15E “Strike Eagle,” F-16 “Viper,” C-17 “Globemaster,” C-130 “Hercules,” B-52 “Stratofortress,” KC-135 “Stratotanker,” as well as the F-22 “Raptor,” and F-117 “Stealth Fighter.”
A U.S. Navy F-18 “Hornet” and Russian MiG-21 are also part of the flight demonstrations along with historic Air Force aircraft B-17, B-25, P-38 and P-51. Vietnam War-vintage helicopters, precision parachute teams and stunt pilots help round out the flight demostration activities. Numerous aircraft will also be on display — and for walk-thrus — along March’s large tarmac.
The airshow is the only such USAF show held in Greater Los Angeles and is usually one of the largest in the country. And due to the proximity to the Thunderbirds’ home base of Nellis AFB in Las Vegas, family members of many of the pilots will be making the trek to March ARB for this weekend’s airshow.
The March Field AirFest is Saturday and Sunday, April 29-30, from 8 a.m. – 5:30 p.m., with the Thunderbirds performing at 3:15 p.m. both days. Admission is free.
Photo Gallery: AirFest 2004
- March Field – AirFest 2006
- Riverside Press-Enterprise – Restored helicopters to fly air-show missions
- Riverside Press-Enterprise – Flying home
Sources: The Press-Enterprise, March Field AirFest