2016 Event Review

March Field Airfest: Thunder Over The Empire, April 16-17 2016
Location: March ARB, CA
Admission: Free ($25 at Museum)
Parking: Free
Value: Excellent
Rating out of 10: 9.5

Greg Colyer T-33 Shooting Star "Ace Maker II"

For the first time since 2012, the March Field Airfest known as Thunder Over The Empire made it's return in 2016. The biannual event at March Air Reserve Base took place on April 16-17, the week of the Air Force Reserve's 68th birthday. The major headline for the show was the United States Air Force Thunderbirds who are into their fifth show of their season. What makes this airshow venue so unique is the March Field Air Museum that's located on the opposite side of the base. The museum side gives photographers many advantages including better sun lighting, a more scenic background with the mountains, and a closer distance to the runway.

Gates opened at 9:00 a.m. and there were many ground activities open for the public to view before the show started. There were plenty of static aircraft on display including a wide variety of U.S. Air Force aircraft and local warbirds from the Planes of Fame Air Museum and Commemorative Air Force. Other ground displays included the incredible Robosaurus and recruiting stations with various activities for the crowd.

Flying activities opened with the National Anthem. Jumping during the anthem were the Canadian Forces Skyhawks Parachute Team who started their season by taking the place of the Lucas Oil Jump Team who were forced to cancel their appearance at the Airfest. Once the Skyhawks finished their outstanding routine, the aerial performances officially started. The show featured a nice variety of aerobatic performers including the world renowned Matt Chapman in his Extra 330LX sponsored by Embry Riddle and Jon Melby in his Muscle Pitts who proudly supports our American Veterans. Other aerobatics included Vicky Benzing in her vintage Boeing Stearman biplane and Kent Pietsch in his Jelly Belly Interstate Cadet.
In addition to the solid performer lineup was a vast array of warbirds taking to the sky. This included formation flights by the March Aero Club T-34 Mentors and the Red Eagles team in their Yak-52 trainer aircraft. The show featured a trainer parade consisting of the L-29 Delfin, T-6 Texan, C-45 Expeditor, PT-22 Recruit, and PT-19 Cornell. The Commemorative Air Force offered a great performer lineup which included a demonstration with the P-51 Mustang, F6F Hellcat, F8F Bearcat, Spitfire, and A6M Zero along with the C-53 Skytrooper known as "D-Day Doll" which dropped a group of parachuters simulating a jump routine for soldiers during D-Day. One of the rarest performances in the warbird lineup was the Northrop N9M Flying Wing provided to the show courtesy of the Planes of Fame Air Museum. John Collver performed in his SNJ Texan known as the "War Dog" and even challenged Bill Braack in a race with his Smoke 'n' Thunder Jet Car. One of the top highlights of the show was the superb lineup of jet performers. Representing Team March in the air was the C-17 Globemaster III and KC-135 Stratotanker both making flybys in front of the crowd. On Saturday, the show featured an F-16 Fighting Falcon from the South Dakota Air National Guard making a takeoff for an alert mission. In addition to the modern jet aircraft in the Air Force inventory, the show included classic demonstrations by the T-33 Shooting Star "Ace Maker II" flown by Greg "Wired" Colyer, a T-39 Sabreliner paying tribute to the legendary Bob Hoover, and the Bitcoin L-39 Albatross. Another great highlight was a Korean War Reenactment with the F-86 Sabre and MiG-15 Fagot both from Planes of Fame. An F/A-18 Super Hornet from VFA-122 was originally going to perform a tactical demonstration but due to scheduling conflicts, the team was forced to cancel.

Concluding the 2016 Airfest was the United States Air Force Aerial Demonstration Squadron known to the world as the Thunderbirds. It's the third show of the year for the team in their full 6-ship demonstration since the team's Lead Solo made his return from a minor medical issue. Throughout their entire performance, the Thunderbirds amazed the crowd of the Inland Empire with their incredible formations, high speed sneak passes, and remarkable precision

After the flying events came to a close, the crowd was able to continue visiting the static aircraft and ground activities before the gates closed at 5:00 p.m. Special thanks goes to the active duty, volunteers, performers, and sponsors who helped make the 2016 March Field Airfest: Thunder Over The Empire happen.
Performers included:

United States Air Force Thunderbirds

F-16 Fighting Falcon South Dakota ANG

Patriots Jet Team

Royal Canadian Skyhawks Parachute Team

C-17 Globemaster III & KC-135 Stratotanker Flybys

Planes of Fame F-86 Sabre vs. MiG-15 Fagot Dogfight

Greg Colyer T-33 Shooting Star "Ace Maker II"

T-39 Sabreliner Demonstration

Bitcoin L-39 Albatross

CAF SoCal P-51 Mustang, F6F Hellcat, F8F Bearcat, A6M Zero, & Spitfire

Planes of Fame N9M Flying Wing

Trainer Parade - L-29, T-6, T-34, C-45, PT-22, & PT-19

C-53 "D-Day Doll" Parachute Drop

John Collver SNJ Texan "War Dog"

March Aero Club T-34 Mentor Formation Flight

Red Eagles Formation Team

Kent Pietsch Aerobatics

Vicky Benzing Stearman Aerobatics

Matt Chapman Embry Riddle Extra 330LX

John Mebly Muscle Pitts Aerobatics

Bill Braack Smoke 'n' Thunder Jet Car


Static displays included:

F-16C Fighting Falcon

F-15C Eagle

NASA F/A-18B Hornet

A-10C Thunderbolt II

T-38A/C Talons

B-1B Lancer

B-52H Stratofortress

C-17A Globemaster III

C-5B Galaxy

KC-135 Stratotanker

RC-135 Rivet Joint

P-8A Poseidon

C-130 Hercules

T-6 Texan II

HH-60 Pave Hawk

MQ-1 Predator

MQ-9 Reaper

L-29 Delfin

L-39 Albatross

CH-149 Comorant

P-51D Mustang

P-38J Lightning

P-47G Thunderbolt

P-40N Warhawk

P-63 Kingcobra

T-6 Texan

T-28 Trojan

T-34 Mentor

B-17G Flying Fortress

B-25J Mitchell

PB4Y-2 Privateer

DC-3 Dakota

Report and photography by Geoffrey Arnwine

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