It’s The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds the crowds will gather to see, and as a bonus they’ll get warm-up acts to entertain and amaze all day Saturday and Sunday.
Thunder Over the Sound starts at Keesler Air Force Base, with gates opening at 7:30 a.m. and the action beginning about an hour later. The afternoon performances move to the beach, starting at 1 p.m. and building up to the flight of the Thunderbirds around 3:30 p.m.
Admission to the airshow is free and free shuttle buses will make continuous loops between the five parking areas, the base the beach and back from 7:30 a.m. until all passengers are returned to their vehicles after the airshow.
More than a dozen performances are planned at Keesler and then over the beach as planes dance across the sky, some with humorous routines, others with daring maneuvers; in groups and solo flights. .
In addition to the Thunderbirds are three featured performers and a jet truck with a top speed of 350 mph. They include:
▪ Army Special Ops — Black Daggers
Always a favorite at Keesler airshows are parachute teams, and this year The Black Daggers, the official U.S. Army Special Operations Command Parachute Demonstration Team, will launch themselves out of a plane over the base. All are volunteers from throughout Army special operations, the team members normally jump from an altitude of 12,500 feet and then free fall for about two miles at approximately 120 miles per hour.
“Long before they can be seen, the thundering roar of T-28 radial engines announce the arrival of Trojan Thunder,” according to the team’s website. The pilots, with military precision, fly in aerial formations and perform aerobatic maneuvers amid rolling clouds of smoke that trail the planes.
The distinctive black and white checkerboard noses mark these these planes that were designed as a basic trainer for the United States Army Air Corps. The North American AT-6 Texan first appeared in 1938 and was what many pilots trained on during World War II to prepare them to fly the P-51 Mustang and F4U Corsair, which also will be among the performers at the Biloxi airshow.
Hot Streak II isn’t a plane but the twin jet engine 57 Chevy pickup is powered by two Westinghouse J34s engines, rescued from a Navy T-2A Buckeye airplane. Those engines deliver 25,000 horsepower and to demonstrate the power of the truck, it will race one of the planes performing in this weekend’s airshow. Smoke-n-Thunder can be seen only at Keesler Air Force Base.
The schedule of performers is nearly identical Saturday and Sunday, with the exception of a B-2 Stealth bomber and a B-52 Stratofortress flyby over the beach only on Saturday.
Among the performers will be Greg Koontz and the Alabama Boys, with Koontz talking to the crowd from the cockpit as he performs loops, rolls and inverted passes. The crowd will feel the power of the MiG-17 Fighter Jets, which were flown during the Vietnam War, roaring down the beach.
Several planes can be seen on the ground at Keesler so the community can see and feel the honor of the C-130 J Hurricane Hunters and Flying Jennies that are based at Keesler. Also on display will be an MQ-9 Reaper, C-17 Globemaster, B-25, T-6 and T-45.
Food and fun
Kids can run and play at the bounce houses and obstacle courses set up at Keesler, and then exercise their minds at the science and technology center with its Air Force Performance Lab that provides an interactive experience with mental and physical challenges.
Spectators are welcome to bring water and can fill their bottles for free at Keesler.
Vendors will sell airshow memorabilia and other products and food trucks will be at the base and at the beach for those who want to buy lunch, cold drinks or treats. Among the food choices are:
- Ben’s Back Alley Kitchen — jambalaya, red beans and rice
- Burger Burger — hamburgers, corn dogs
- Selim — Turkish cuisine (gyros)
- Weenie Kings — po-boys
- Kona Ice (2 trucks) — shaved Ice, snow cones
- Mo Kettle Corn
- Colonel Mustards hot dogs
- T&J Concessions — chicken on the stick, nachos, funnel cakes, Polish sausage
- B&B Land and Sea — wraps, specialty fries, cheese sticks
- Pop Brothers Ice Cream — fruit pops
- Smac Smoq ‘N Shack — wings, stuffed sandwiches
- Taste Budz (2 trucks) — Jerk chicken, fried shrimp, fried catfish, curried chicken
- P’s Ribs and More — ribs, dummettes, sides
- Inspired by You — cotton candy
- Smoothie ‘N Things — smoothies, paninis
- Dickey’s — barbecue and sides
- Nanay’s Kitchen — empanadas, lumpia
- Catering 2 You — brisket, sandwich, stuffed potato, taco, nachos
- Papa John’s pizza
- Jerry Fresh Cherry Lemonade (6 Stations)