UPDATE [2:47pm]: We are hearing reports that more restrictions have been imposed on the performers than previously announced. Rumor has it that acts such as the T-33 Shooting Star (“Ace Maker”) and F-86 Sabre will also be restricted to non-aerobatic maneuvers. We will update further as we learn more.
ORIGINAL POST: Thunder Over Louisville announced their airshow lineup today, and it features some significant and disappointing surprises. Much of the excitement around the show this year came from the return of the USAF Thunderbirds as the headlining act, announced in December. That excitement can be forgotten now, as show officials, just a week and a half before the event, reportedly announced that the FAA has refused to allow the Thunderbirds to perform at the show and the typical 45-minute, 6-ship aerobatic routine will be replaced with a single flyby by two Thunderbird jets. No information has been given as to why only two jets will appear instead of the normal six, but our best guess is that it will be Thunderbirds 7 and 8, the advance liasions for the team.
The FAA’s refusal to approve an aerobatic box large enough for the team to perform stems from concerns over bridge construction equipment and cranes in the area. As you can see in the map below, the show is held over the river in downtown Louisville with numerous tall bridges crossing nearby. The US Navy’s F/A-18F Super Hornet demo team, also scheduled to be at the show, will not be able to perform either as it requires the same size box as the Thunderbirds. It is not listed on the lineup released today. The planned USMC AV-8B Harrier demonstration will go on as scheduled as it does not include any aerobatic maneuvers.
The rest of the lineup features various aerobatic and warbird acts that will presumably be able to perform aerobatics within a smaller box. No special military flyovers were mentioned in today’s announcement, although WLKY reports that 80 aircraft (10 of them military) will participate in the show, we can count no more than 40 in the currently announced lineup. This leaves the large question of where the extra aircraft will come from or if the number is even accurate.
We have already seen comments online from furious airshow fans who made plans based on the Thunderbird and Super Hornet performances, demanding to know why the airshow did not prepare for the obstructions that surely were not a surprise. It certainly is a valid question as to why it took until this soon before the show to uncover these issues, but the organizers do deserve some benefit of the doubt. Comments from organizers appear to indicate that the show held FAA approval until Friday, when it was overturned after a review.
Here is the lineup that was announced today:
Greg Colyer – T-33 Shooting Star “Ace Maker”
Bill Leff – T-6 Texan
Billy Werth – Pitts S-2B
Cliff Robinson – Stearman
Flash Gordon – L-39 Albatros
USMC AV-8B Harrier Demo
Kentucky Air National Guard C-130 Hercules
Lee Leet – Super Tucano
Nick Coleman – Taylorcraft
US Army Golden Knights
We want to hear from you. Were you planning on attending Thunder Over Louisville? Does this news change your plans? Let us know on the AirshowStuff Facebook page or in the comments below!