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Great Texas Airshow soars over San Antonio this weekend

Thunderbird pilots fly near Maverick Park in San Antonio.
Dominic Anthony Walsh | Texas Public Radio
The USAF Thunderbirds fly over San Antonio in May 2020

The Great Texas Airshow at JBSA-Randolph sent squadrons of fighter planes soaring over the Alamo City this weekend.

The Airshow was sponsored by the 502nd Air Base Wing and Joint Base San Antonio. It featured the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron “Thunderbirds,” the F-35A Lightning II Demonstration Team, Tora! Tora! Tora!, the Wings of Blue, the U.S. Air Force Parachute Team and many others.

It also celebrated the 75th anniversary of the U.S. Air Force.

Visitors saw an updated Thunderbirds routine this year.

“You'll see six aircraft flying 18 inches apart, going 500 to 600 miles per hour," explained Capt. Travis Grindstaff, the Thunderbirds team flight physician. "And if you've seen the show in the past, you're going to want to see this one because it's going to be the most exciting, loudest, fastest show you've ever seen.”

Grindstaff’s job is to keep the team’s pilots and crew healthy. He said performing the aerobatic routines is strenuous on them.

“For our pilots who are experienced, they would probably tell you, 'it's no big deal.' I mean, these guys are veterans. They have thousands of hours in this aircraft. But when you're pulling nine times the force of gravity — to put that into perspective, right now, if you weigh 200 pounds — when they're pulling nine times the force of gravity. In the (aircraft's) turn, that weighs almost 2,000 pounds, so that takes a toll on your body over time.”

The last time the Thunderbird team was seen in San Antonio was in May 2020, during the early days of the pandemic. The aerial demonstration team flew over several locations in the city to honor COVID-19 frontline responders and essential workers.

The event also included a STEM Expo with more than 15 exhibitors. The goal is for this event to be educational, with demonstrations and displays of science, technology, engineering and math from local San Antonio industries, colleges and organizations.

The Expo offered interactive exhibits, including robots the attendees can operate, virtual reality simulators, games and prosthetics. Visitors may speak with experts to learn more about STEM programs happening around San Antonio.

The Great Texas Airshow also includes support from all branches of service and features static displays of both military and civilian aircraft.

Gates are open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each day. Admission is free.

For more information go to greattexasairshow.com.

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Jerry Clayton can be reached at jerry@tpr.org or on Twitter at @jerryclayton.