This year, the Thunder Over Louisville Air Show drew massive crowds at the 85-acre Louisville Waterfront Park. Thousands of aircraft enthusiasts went on over to the banks of the Ohio River to watch some lively and impressive aircraft maneuvers in the sky to celebrate the US Air Force’s 75th anniversary.
This year’s air show marks the full-on return of the festivities as the 2020 edition (along with the entire Kentucky Derby Festival) was canceled due to public health concerns due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The same concern was raised in the 2021 edition of the air show, which went forward as “pop-up” festivities to be held in 5 different sites.
In a fitting 2022 fashion, this year’s theme was “The Legend Returns,” and rightfully so! The highly anticipated return of the air show was met with great excitement and thrill from not just the organizers but also the general public.
“We can’t wait to be back at the waterfront for Thunder Over Louisville this year and celebrate one of our favorite traditions together again,” Festival President and CEO Matt Gibson said.
“It’s going to be phenomenal!” air show producer Wayne Hettinger told 89.3 WFPL. “You’ll see the best air equipment this country has on Thunder Day.”
Of course, the Air Force was at the center of the festivities. One such highly anticipated team of performers was the US Air Force F-22 Raptor Demo Team led by their commander, Major Joshua “Cabo” Gunderson. In the video below, Maj. Gunderson is seen doing various flips and rolls to energize the crowd below him, showing off what the F-22 Raptor can do.
Maj. Gunderson dropping in hot to kickoff our demo at Thunder Over Louisville 🇺🇸
Come out to the Kentucky Air National Guard Base to talk with our team, see the jets up close (and a lot of other aircraft!) today during the static display! 🙌
— F-22 Demonstration Team (@F22DemoTeam) April 24, 2022
Spectators were also out to see the Kentucky Air National Guard’s C-130J Super Hercules.
A memorable portion of the event was when airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron parachuted from a C-130J Super Hercules, kicking off the show by jumping with banners for the US and Kentucky.
Other Air Force servicemen also performed at the event using aircraft such as the B-2 Spirit (13th Bomb Squadron, Whiteman, MO), C-17 Globemaster III (437th Airlift Wing, Charleston AFB, SC), F-15E Strike Eagle (4th Fighter Squadron, Seymour-Johnson AFB, NC), F-16 Viper (112th Fighter Squadron, Toledo OH and 176th Fighter Squadron, Madison, WI), and the KC-46 Pegasus (305th Air Mobility Wing, McGuire AFB, NJ).
The spectators also got a great glimpse of the Commemorative Air Force’s B-29 Superfortress, B-24 Liberators, B-25 Mitchell Medium Bombers, and iconic P-51D Mustang. US Navy E/A-18 Growlers also did not miss a beat in the festivities.
For many people and airmen attending the show, the B-25 Mitchell was specifically memorable this year as the final Doolittle Raider, Lieutenant Colonel Richard “Dick” Cole, Doolittle’s co-pilot during the Doolittle Raid in Japan, had passed away last 2019. He was honored in the final silver goblet ceremony just a few weeks ago. To those unaware of the significance of the aircraft historically, they would recognize the bomber from the Pearl Harbor film of 2001 starring Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett (however, many military history experts would say that the movie was inaccurate and had missed the mark).
The B-2 Spirit was also eye candy for many, most popular for being alien and UFO-like with its design. It’s also the only aircraft that can carry large air-to-surface standoff weapons in a stealth configuration.
Check out this B-2 Spirit Bomber! pic.twitter.com/hu6aeUiCFC
— WLKY (@WLKY) April 23, 2022
Making an appearance this year was the A-10C Thunderbolt II Warthog, the first Air Force aircraft specifically designed for close air support for ground forces and known for its maneuverability at low airspeeds and altitudes. For our SOFREP hardcore fans out there, we saw how many of you in the comments section were calling for some A-10s to destroy that 40-mile Russian convoy near Kyiv last month. It would’ve been a sweet target for the A-10s if the Ukrainians knew how to fly it, but according to A-10 pilots, it would still be quite hard to pull off. Nonetheless, we saw those memes and jokes you’ve posted, and we had quite a laugh as well from it!
Men and women from the 123rd Airlift Wing provided much of the maintenance and logistical support from the ground as the Thunder operated from the Kentucky Air National Guard Base.
It’s important to note that the 123rd Airlift Wing is a mainstay in the US Air Force’s operations, having participated in every major operation since Desert Storm, according to a release by the Air Force themselves. They were active during 9/11 and were sent to Iraq, Afghanistan, and other countries during times of humanitarian crisis.
“The Kentucky National Guard and the 123rd Airlift wing have a fairly significant heritage themselves that is helping host this show, and we could not be more proud of their team effort to do that,” Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David W. Allvin said.
He specifically had a lot of pride and joy with the C-130J, which he referred to as “the premium tactical aircraft in the world.” He revealed that he was one of the first developmental test pilots of the aircraft in 1995, which is why he felt some attachment to the aircraft.
Allvin, the guest honor at the show, said that it was his first “Thunder” and expressed that it would not be his last.
“It’s great to be here celebrating our birthday as an independent service. We’ve built up a proud heritage over these past 75 years with some outstanding capabilities, and we’re seeing some of that on display here today.”
All in all, it was a great show for the people who attended. Fireworks, airplanes, food, what could go wrong? If you’ve ever been to one of these air shows, we know how the tingle feels when these aircraft fly by. We hope to see you soon at one of these air shows! Maybe you can share a few memories with us about your previous experiences at the Thunder in the comments section!