Luke Celebrates 75 Years of Airpower

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Airman 1st Class Shan Ridge

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Arizona — Luke opened its doors to a record 425,000 people during its “75 Years of Airpower” air show April 2 and 3. The show provided a glimpse into the history of the Air Force with jets such as the World War II A-26 Invader and a glimpse into the Air Force’s future with Luke’s own F-35 Lightning II.

“Simply stated, the air show was a tremendous success,” said Lt. Col. Christopher Bacon, air show director.

The show was headlined by the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds aerial demonstration team and the first-ever performance and appearance by the F-35 Heritage Team, which featured the F-35 Lightning II flying alongside the original Lightning, the P-38.

When they weren’t flying, the F-35 Heritage Team members were busy handing out and signing photos for thousands of visitors to the base.

Another highlight of the show was the close air support demonstration, during which the F-16 Fighting Falcons showed off their combat capabilities. This “live” demonstration featured pyrotechnic explosions to simulate bombs was a crowd favorite and highlighted the fact Luke AFB trains 97 percent of F-16 pilots in the Air Force.

“This was my first air show,” said Jowellyn Thomas, Goodyear resident who attended the air show. “It was breathtaking and I’m really looking forward to the next one!”

Putting together an air show with more than 40 static displays and 11 aerial acts takes a team effort.

“From successfully screening our guests to supporting the best air acts from around the world, my hat goes off to each and every member of my air show team and the countless volunteers who made it happen,” Bacon said.

The turnout highlighted the tremendous support for Luke AFB from the surrounding communities and allowed Airmen the opportunity to interact with and thank those community members for their unwavering support.

“The partnerships we have and the friendships we share are absolutely vital to what we do at Luke AFB” said Brig. Gen. Scott Pleus 56th Fighter Wing commander. “All year long we get unending support from our elected leaders, businesses and those who live throughout the Valley — and once every two years we get the opportunity to give something back in the form of an air show.  It is our way of saying ‘thanks’ for allowing us to be a part of this great community.”