Storm, lightning go away, Thunder Over Utah brings grand aerial, ground display; STGnews Videocast, Photos

The Blue Angels fly F/A-18 Hornets in standard blue and yellow Navy colors, St. George, Utah, July 26, 2014 | Photo by Dave Amodt, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – Weather was the watchword of the day as dark clouds, wind and occasional flashes of lightning could be seen by spectators at Thunder Over Utah 2014 air show Saturday.

Morning spectators lined the barricades Saturday along the airstrip at St. George Municipal Airport with folding chairs, umbrellas and plenty of water in anticipation of Thunder Over Utah 2014. With the sun to their backs and clouds overhead the crowd grew as the morning progressed.

(story continues below)

Videocast by Samantha Tommer, St. George News

Before the official start of the air show, spectators meandered around a variety of vintage war planes, snapping photos while a variety of food vendors prepared to serve the masses expected to be in attendance.

At 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m., a reenactment of WWII takes place at the Thunder Over Utah Air Show at the St. George Municipal Airport, St. George, Utah, July 26, 2014 | Photo by Dave Amodt, St. George News
At 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m., a reenactment of WWII takes place at the Thunder Over Utah Air Show at the St. George Municipal Airport, St. George, Utah, July 26, 2014 | Photo by Dave Amodt, St. George News

At approximately 10:30 a.m. and again at 2 p.m., onlookers experienced a World War II re-enactment complete with tank-to-tank battles and ground artillery.  The Americans squared off with the Germans in this two-part show, which ended when the Americans were able to overtake and capture the Germans, much to the delight of the crowd.

The Golden Knights, the United States Army Parachute Team, were ready to take to the sky at about the same time the wind started to pick up and a lightening storm started to move in.


See more about The Golden Knights here: Army’s Golden Knights drop in at Thunder Over Utah; STGnews Photo Gallery

After several test ribbons were dropped to gauge the wind, the air show was officially underway. Wind speeds, which started at a mild 5 mph, picked up to 15 mph before the end of the Golden Knights’ exhibition.

Demonstrations were flown by the Commemorative Air Force Red Tail Squadron, a MiG 15 Fighter Jet, and the TA-4 jet-powered carrier attack aircraft. Wide-eyed children, some with their fingers in their ears, squealed with delight as the aircraft twisted, turned, spun and dipped over the airstrip.

Utah’s own Brad Wursten of Logan flew an MXS-R in an exciting solo aerobatic routine. One could hear gasps from the crowd as airplanes appeared to stall and start falling out of the sky only to recover just in the nick of time.

The Blue Angels fly F/A-18 Hornets in standard blue and yellow Navy colors, St. George, Utah, July 26, 2014 | Photo by Dave Amodt, St. George News
The Blue Angels fly F/A-18 Hornets in standard blue and yellow Navy colors, St. George, Utah, July 26, 2014 | Photo by Dave Amodt, St. George News

An intermission was scheduled before the main event, the Blue Angels, took to the skies.  As storm clouds moved in closer and winds picked up in an unsettling fashion, safety of the pilots as well as the spectators became a concern.  

Spectators were encouraged to seek shelter in their cars and avoid standing around the large vendor canopies in the event of a lightning storm or more violent winds moving into the area. After 20-30 minutes the air show was once again underway.

The School Time Jet Bus appeared to soar down the runway, though its wheels never left the ground. Though this bus is nearly 10-feet high and 35-feet long, it seats only three people.  The rest of the bus is filled with a 42,000 horsepower engine.  As it speeds along at 367 mph, it spews out a trail of fire behind it. Though the bus resembles a converted school bus the entire bus was custom built to withstand the speeds that it travels.

Finally the time came for the main attraction, the F/A-18 Hornets known as the Blue Angels. The dark clouds in the sky provided for a beautiful backdrop, blocking out sun for easier viewing. Though six F/A-18 Hornets were scheduled to fly only five were on hand as Nlue Angel No. 3 was experiencing technical difficulties during rehearsal and was flown to Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas.

The Blue Angels fly F/A-18 Hornets in standard blue and yellow Navy colors, St. George, Utah, July 26, 2014 | Photo by Dave Amodt, St. George News
The Blue Angels fly F/A-18 Hornets in standard blue and yellow Navy colors, St. George, Utah, July 26, 2014 | Photo by Dave Amodt, St. George News

The other five aircraft provided an exhilarating experience for everyone present.  The Blue Angels came to please, and they did not disappoint.  They provided an ongoing performance of heart-stopping maneuvers as they appeared to be heading towards one another from opposite ends of the airstrip only to pull up at the last minute to avoid a collision, or flying so close to one another they appeared to be one massive aircraft.  

Fat Albert, a C-130, considered to be the “workhorse” of the Blue Angels team was also grounded during rehearsals after it collided with a bird, the show’s announcer said, causing damage to the plane.

Saturday’s performance was the Blue Angels’ 32nd demonstration this year. Though the speed-defying acts are the crowd pleasers, the main purpose of the United States Navy’s Blue Angels air shows is to promote continued enthusiasm and interest in the naval flight program.  The audience was reminded that, though this is a fun event, there are members of our military who perform such maneuvers all over the world in areas of combat.

The first team of Blue Angels performed their first exhibition in June of 1946 in Jacksonville, Florida. They flew an F6F Hellcat.

Planning an air show

Herb Gillen, spokesman for the show, started planning Thunder Over Utah more than two years ago.

“The planning process for the show has been more than a two-year process,” Gillen said. “We applied for the Blue Angels to come here approximately two years ago,” he said.  

Approximately six months later it was confirmed that the Blue Angels were able to make the show.

Once the main event of the show was confirmed then the planning began, working with a budget of $300,000 to $350,000, contacting other performers, planning logistics for parking, marketing the show.

Everyone is looking at the sky to catch a glimpse of the Blue Angels, St. George, Utah, July 26, 2014 | Photo by Dave Amodt, St. George News
Everyone is looking at the sky to catch a glimpse of the Blue Angels, St. George, Utah, July 26, 2014 | Photo by Dave Amodt, St. George News

“All that planning comes down to a three-day window here at the show,” Gillen said. “The St. George community has been overwhelmingly supportive to come out and help with the show,” Gillen said, noting the hundreds of volunteers involved.

The federal government’s sequestration of the Blue Angels for 2013 didn’t dampen Gillen’s spirits. His team kept working on Thunder Over Utah in hopes that the issues would be resolved by this year’s show. Thankfully the funding came through.

Gillen encourages anyone who wants to see the Blue Angels to make the trip on Sunday.  “We don’t know when they are coming back. We don’t know when this air show will be back. So if you want to see the Blue Angels come out on Sunday,” Gillen said.

Gillen is hoping to top 2013’s attendance of 50,000 spectators.

Click on photo to enlarge it, then use your left-right arrow keys to cycle through the gallery.

Related posts

Email: rtommer@stgeorgeutah.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!

3 Comments

  • lp July 27, 2014 at 6:33 pm

    It was pretty fun to watch…even with the heat. I hope they come back soon.

  • Incognegro (Josh Dalton) July 28, 2014 at 9:19 am

    Thank you Utah Highway Patrol for not giving me a speeding ticket on the way out to the show! So….I never even made it to the parking lot. I was not going to negotiate a dirt road in my 2013 Golf GTI. Needless to say I wasted money on a ticket. So I get home and coolant is leaking all over the place. Now i need a new water pump. Its covered under warranty…I think I am just going to work every weekend from now on. Every time I get a Saturday off and try to do something in town I am shut down. I am sorry Saint George I can’t contribute to the community anymore. The onlt contribution I can give back is here on Saint George News.

  • Super Grover July 28, 2014 at 6:59 pm

    Had a good time at the show on Sunday. It was 100 degrees or more, but it was cloudy and therefore FAR more pleasant than I had anticipated. Not quite as big a show as 2012, but a lot easier to maneuver about and see everything.
    I would imagine that not every attraction is available all the time, and that some would simply forego the opportunity to hang out on a hot asphalt tarmac in St George in late July. I hope they can put another one together in the next few years….maybe in the fall since the weather for aviation and for being a spectator is fabulous then.
    I am a small aircraft pilot myself and it’s absolutely amazing to see what some of these folks can do.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.