Local News

Thunderbirds Help Mark Veterans' Day

Posted November 11, 1996 12:00 a.m. EST

— Despite bitter cold and threat of rain, an estimated 200,000 people made their way to Pope Air Force Base for an air show staged jointly with Fort Bragg.

The appearance of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbird F-16s helped attract the massive crowd, according to officials.

The Thunderbirds, based at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, dazzle spectators with close formation acrobatic maneuvers that are designed to show the fighter jet's capabilities.

Periodically, a communal "ooooohhhh" rose from spectators as they appreciated a particularly intricate movement, executed in unison.

Also on hand Sunday was the fly-by of a B-2 Stealth bomber, that demonstrated its stealth by being virtually whisper quiet -- until it was moving away from the crowds.

Kids enjoyed the day, too. They got to peer into cockpits, and some lucky ones even sat in front of the controls -- whose size and complexity virtually dwarfed the youngsters. Still, they could imagine soaring through the clouds like the military they were saluting with their presence.

Apache attack helicopters and the enormous C-130 Hercules cargo plane were also brought out for the show, and paratroopers parachuted from cargo planes. In a nearby area, soldiers explained uses of various weapons that were on display.

"An open house like this gives the general public a chance to see what goes on at a military installation so they can understand more of what the military is about," said John Birk, of Pinehurst.