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Thunderbirds ready to roar over Great Falls

USAF Thunderbirds in Great Falls, Montana (July 2022)
USAF Thunderbirds in Great Falls, Montana (July 2022)
USAF Thunderbirds in Great Falls, Montana (July 2022)
Posted at 6:34 PM, Jul 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-22 10:47:10-04

GREAT FALLS — Great Falls will host "Flight Over The Falls," a military air show and open house, headlined by the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds aerial demonstration team. The Thunderbirds last performed in Great Falls in July 2017.

The entry-free event will be held at the Montana Air National Guard/Great Falls International Airport on Saturday, July 23, and Sunday, July 24, featuring aerial demonstrations both days.

And while the aerial performances will be on the weekend, the skies over Great Falls began roaring on Thursday, as the planes arrived ahead of the show and conducted some training.

Personnel assigned to the Thunderbirds typically have two-year commitments, but some - including Major Kyle Oliver - are in their third year due to the pandemic. He called himself one of the lucky ones getting to fly a little longer. He was inspired as a kid at an air show and now wants to do the same thing to other kids.

Major Kyle Oliver, USAF Thunderbirds

Oliver said, “This is my third season on the team, hired back in 2019. I haven't had a chance to spend much time here, so I'm really looking forward to the weekend. Looks like a beautiful place to go fly an air show - clear blue skies. I’m looking forward to it, and hope everyone enjoys it. ”

For them, it's all about the people they meet and the family they're a part of. The Thunderbirds only have a handful of planes that fly across the country but are made up of more than 130 personnel who all work as a team.

Staff Sergeant Jessica Krystof has been with the Thunderbirds for a year and a half and loves the people she meets and works with. She is in charge of making sure the planes and pilots are safe - and also loves inspiring others.

Staff Sergeant Jessica Krystof, USAF Thunderbirds

“As a crew chief, I am responsible for inspecting the aircraft before and after each flight. I'm in charge of any kind of servicing, like refueling, checking the oil, the hydraulic fluids, and any kind of maintenance that comes up, from changing tires to pulling engines. My favorite part of being a Thunderbird is getting to travel to across the country and getting to inspire children, especially little girls. For me personally, it's a lot of fun. It's a lot of days on the road but it's all worth it. This team is really like a second family, and it's kind of like a big family vacation.”

USAF Thunderbirds in Great Falls (July 2022)

The event website says: "This event will surely thrill everyone during its two-day span, and it’s free and open to the general public. Static military and civilian displays and equipment will also be available for viewing."

The event is co-sponsored by the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom Air Force Base and the 120th Airlift Wing of the Montana Air National Guard.

Master Sgt. Devin Doskey of the Montana Air National Guard provided the following details:

Operating Hours

  • Parking will open at 8 a.m. in the south area and on 120AW property for civilians with an invitation
  • Gates to the Flight Line open at 9 a.m.
  • Opening Ceremonies at 10:15 a.m.
  • Air Acts end at 3 p.m.
  • Flight Line closes by 5 p.m.

Traffic Plan

  • Visitors arriving from Great Falls direction can access main parking via Gore Hill exit or travel to Ulm and take the frontage road to the parking area.
  • Visitors arriving from the Helena direction can access main parking via the Ulm frontage road.
  • After the show traffic will all route to Ulm until such time that local law enforcement deems that normal traffic flow will effectively move over the Gore Hill interchange
  • The Great Falls Ice Plex will be offering a Park and Ride option.
  • We are encouraging private organizations downtown to offer a similar service if they are able to help reduce traffic congestion
  • There will be no centralized shuttle service as in 2017
  • Law Enforcement will be in place to facilitate traffic flow
  • Estimating between 35,000 and 50,000 person crowd size for the weekend
  • Shuttle services will be provided from the main parking area to the security checkpoint and also on to the Flightline.

Aviation Acts

  • F-18 Rhino Demo Team
  • Jelly Belly aerobatics
  • Third Strike Wing Walkers
  • A-26 Invader “Miss Kay” with Firewalkers Pyro
  • P-51 Mustang “Dakota Kid” with Firewalkers Pyro
  • Undaunted Airshows with Firewalkers Pyro
  • Ace Maker T-33 with Firewalkers Pyro
  • Brad Wursten Airshows MX-2
  • USAF Thunderbirds

Safety

  • Event will be patrolled by a Multi-Agency law enforcement presence
  • First Aid will be available and staffed by members of the 341st and 120th Medical Groups
  • Emergency services will be available by our local healthcare agencies and Great Falls Emergency Services
  • Aviation safety will be supported by the FAA, Ralph Royce Airboss Services, and the 120th Operations Group

NOTE: At this point, organizers have not said what time the Thunderbirds will perform - however, they are usually the final act to perform, so it likely they will perform between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m.

The Thunderbirds last performed in Great Falls in July 2017. KRTV reporter Margaret DeMarco got the ride of her life in one of the jets:

KRTV reporter takes flight in an F-16