The Melbourne Air and Space Show announced today that they have changed dates from March 17-18 to March 24-25. Organizers say that they decided to change dates in order to keep the US Air Force Thunderbirds as headliners.
The move is not entirely unexpected, as the two other airshows that originally planned to have the Thunderbirds in March also went on to change their plans.
First, Wings Over Atlanta at Dobbins ARB in Georgia canceled their March 24-25 show citing financial reasons. Then, the Luke Days airshow at Luke AFB in Arizona changed dates from March 10-11 to March 17-18 and picked up a commitment from the US Navy Blue Angels to replace the Thunderbirds as the headlining act.
This left Melbourne as the sole March appearance by the Thunderbirds, with an open weekend before and after. Now that they have slipped back to the original Wings Over Atlanta dates, they represent the first airshow of the Thunderbirds’ 2018 season.
All of this schedule churn is extremely unusual, but likely a result of the equally unusual dismissal and replacement of former Thunderbird #1, Lt. Col. Jason Heard after the 2017 season. The new Thunderbird #1, Lt. Col. Kevin Walsh, had not previously flown the demonstration and it is not surprising that he would require extra practice time to learn the profile. In fact, we speculated that this might end up happening at the time of the announcement. These schedule moves give the team an extra two weeks of training time, and by reconfirming their Melbourne appearance for March 24th, they seem confident that it will be enough.