This weekend, the skies over Inland Southern California will reverberate with the thundering sounds of the USAF Thunderbirds as the team performs during “AirFest 2008” at March Air Reserve Base.
The base, celebrating its 90th year, will once again open up the gates to the public during its annual open house/air show. The event, which attracts upwards of 250,000 people, has become the largest such air show in Southern California.
In addition to the Thunderbirds, flyovers will include the F-22, F-18, KC-135, C-130 as well an impressive short runway landing/takeoff demo performed by a March ARB-based Globemaster C-17. Also scheduled are precision parachute teams from the US Army “Golden Knights” and Canadian Skyhawks, a Red Bull MiG-17 aerial demonstration and several stunt pilots and vintage aircraft. On the tarmac will be over 50 aircraft available for up-close inspection, including several open for “walk-thrus.”
Gates will be open 8:00 a.m. – 6:30 p.m., Sat. May 3 and Sun. May, 4. Free parking is available on base grounds.
March ARB was initially established in 1918 during World War I as Alessandro Flying Training Field under the command of the fledgling Army Air Service (later to become the Army Air Corps.) The base, which is the oldest Air Force base west of the Mississippi, immediately took the name March Field in honor of 2nd Lt. Peyton C. March Jr.
Through the years, the base was home to many of the nation’s most celebrated pilots and commanders, including Hoyt Vandenberg, Curtis LeMay, Nathan Twining and Henry “Hap” Arnold. With its close proximity to Hollywood, March also played host to Bob Hope’s first major USO show in May 1941.
Following World War II, March became part of the newly-formed Tactical Air Command (TAC), housing the 1st Fighter Wing for the Army Air Force. Upon establishment of the US Air Force as an independent branch in 1948, the base was renamed March Air Force Base, becoming a major Strategic Air Command (SAC) bomber base and headquarters for the 15th Air Force. For several years, B-29s, B-52s and KC-135s dominated the tarmac — and the overhead skies.
In 1982, KC-10s replaced the last of March’s B-52s as the primary mission changed from bombardment to air refueling and support. In 1996, as part of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process, the base was renamed March Air Reserve Base.
Today, as the largest air reserve base in the nation, March ARB supports all branches of the US military. The base is home to the 4th Air Force HQ and several other units, including the 4th Combat Camera Squadron, the 163d Reconnaissance Wing, the American Forces Radio and Television Service, the Southwest Interdiction Unit of U.S. Customs as well as an air wing of Homeland Security.
- RaincrossSquare.com – March Field AirFest 2006 (April 2006)
Sources: March Air Reserve Base, March Field Museum, USAF, WikiPedia