Thunderbirds Fly for Airfest

The Thunderbirds, the demonstration squadron of the U.S. Air Force, will be part of the AirFest coming to Chicago/Rockford International Airport (RFD) Friday through Sunday, September 22 to 24.

OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center is one of the air show sponsors and is serving as the trauma hospital for the Thunderbirds.

Thunderbird pilots will be visiting pediatrics, Lifeline and other departments as time permits beginning at 8:30 a.m. on Friday, September 22.

OSF Saint Anthony was selected to serve as the trauma hospital for the Thunderbirds because it provides official Level I services, including having a trauma surgeon on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Officials at RFD expressed their appreciation to OSF Saint Anthony for providing the services required by the Thunderbirds in order for them to perform in the area.

The Thunderbirds squadron is an Air Combat Command unit. The air demonstration is a mix of six aircraft performing formation flying and solo routines. The four-aircraft diamond formation demonstrates the training and precision of Air Force pilots, while the solos highlight the maximum capabilities of the Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon. The pilots perform approximately 40 maneuvers in a demonstration.

With approximately 30,000 visitors at the inaugural event in August of 2005, AirFest officials expect attendance to be doubled or tripled this year. The theme for Rockford AirFest 2006 will be "Celebrating 60 Years of Flight: 1946 - 2006" with performances by the Thunderbirds and civilian acts in addition to static displays. Other highlights of the event include fireworks, performer autographs, and food and souvenir vendors.

The Thunderbirds will perform Saturday and Sunday only; the Friday show features all performers except the Thunderbirds, including the F-117 Stealth Fighter and B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber. The Friday show also features a fireworks display, which is not part of the Saturday or Sunday shows.