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Gunfighter Skies: From idea to airshow

Image of a graphic of Gunfighter Skies Air and Space Celebration. The airshow is scheduled to be held June 2nd and 3rd. Gates open at 8:30 a.m. (U.S. Air Force Graphic by Airman 1st Class Janae Capuno)

Gunfighter Skies Air and Space Celebration is scheduled to be held June 2nd and 3rd. Gates open at 8:30 a.m. (U.S. Air Force Graphic by Airman 1st Class Janae Capuno)

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE, Idaho -- Witnessing jet teams performing aerial displays can be a surreal experience. Listening to the announcer over the sound of jet engines roaring, alongside tens of thousands of people is an experience that few would want to miss.

Spectators will soon be able to experience this June 2nd and 3rd when Mountain Home Air Force Base hosts Gunfighter Skies Air and Space Celebration.

The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds Demonstration Team, Wings of Blue - the U.S. Air Force Parachute Team, and the Air Combat Command F-22 Raptor Demonstration Team are just a few of the acts that are scheduled to perform.

“All of the maneuvers that you see in the show are designed to showcase the capabilities and the professionalism of the U.S. Air Force pilots, and of the jet,” said Capt. Angelina Urbina, U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds executive officer.

With an estimated 100,000 people expected to attend, it takes tons of coordination and preparation to make an event of this magnitude happen.

But how does this evolve from a concept to an event?

Two years in advance paperwork is started to request the acts wanted to headline the airshow.

Next, the airshow director position is given to a qualified leader 18 months before the show.

The airshow director is a full-time position and their primary responsibilities consist of being the wing commanders direct representative and lead the show’s coordination.

Maj. Christopher Henderson is dual-hatting this year as an evaluator pilot and as the airshow director for Gunfighter Skies. He works closely with approximately 35 people who lead various organizations around base to ensure the commander’s vision for the show is carried out. Almost every agency on base plays a part in making sure Gunfighter Skies comes together.

“This is the wing commander’s opportunity to bring the public in and see our assets, show them what we do and to see our Airmen hard at work,” Henderson said.

He’s realized while managing coordination for such a big event, that it’s more effective to tell people what the vision is and to encourage people to be creative and use their expertise to make it happen.

“I can tell you what I think is a good idea, but you being the expert at what you do, you’re going to provide me a product that’s 10-times better than anything I could come up with.” Henderson said. “I view it as another opportunity to showcase our Airmen, and to allow them to use their ingenuity.”

Planning a show of this magnitude definitely has its fair share of challenges, but it doesn’t worry Henderson.

“Every challenge is potentially an opportunity,” Henderson said. “You could easily spend millions of dollars putting together an airshow, and some places do. We don’t have that kind of budget, and it’s important that we are fiscally responsible.”

It’s a big task to accomplish, but the anticipation of seeing the smiles of the people as they’re leaving the airshow keeps him motivated.

“Sometimes in the Air Force you get assigned tasks that you never see the end result of, but with this there will be an end date, when we get to see how happy and excited people are,” Henderson said. “That’s something that will be forever etched into everyone that gets the opportunity to participate in this.”

For more information about Gunfighter Skies click ‘Home’ and the ‘Gunfighter Skies’ tab, or like the Facebook page ‘Gunfighter Skies Mountain Home AFB’ for regular updates.