More information has come out regarding the recent announcement that the Thunder Over Louisville airshow will be operating under severely restricted rules for aerobatic performances this year, and it does not sound good for airshow fans. The problem, which we covered last week, is that the FAA has denied the proposed 12,000 foot-long aerobatic box that is required by high performance jet aircraft due to what were at first described only as ‘obstructions’ near the flight path. This was later clarified to suggest that construction equipment and cranes near the bridges were to blame, and a video posted by WDRB showed tower cranes that are indeed very tall and very close to the flight path, as you can see in the screenshot below.
However, new comments from the FAA seem to indicate that long-standing bridges themselves may be considered obstacles in the future. The Courier-Journal quotes the FAA as saying that the bridges “would create obstructions in a larger aerobatic box”. This is surprising because the show has had aerobatic boxes of this size approved numerous times in the past, including for the Blue Angels last year. It is also worrying because if the FAA holds to this stance, the show will likely never be able to accommodate the large box again – even when the construction ends. The event holds the airshow only as a warm up before the fireworks on the river, and since a new location is surely out of the question, the lack of a large aerobatic box would almost certainly rule out performances by many of the most popular acts in the airshow industry, such as the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds. As it stands, the Thunderbirds and the US Navy’s F/A-18F Super Hornet demo team have essentially been forced to cancel their performances this year following the FAA’s decision this year and other performers will be forced to remove aerobatics from their routines.
No one knows what the future holds for Thunder Over Louisville, but at the moment it doesn’t look good.