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Thousands enjoy thundering air show at HAFB

HILL AIR FORCE BASE — Man-made thunder. Dizzying feats of aerial acrobatics and precision, resulting in plenty of "wows," "oohs" and "aahs." Vintage planes and sleek, cutting-edge aircraft, in both displays and action. Access to a military base that the public rarely gets to see.

The thrills at the 2009 Hill Air Force Base Open House and Air Show were numerous Saturday afternoon. About the only downsides were sore necks from looking skyward so much and the heavy traffic in and out.

The aerial performances are ones that no resident of north Davis County or portions of Weber County could likely ignore, with the entire open sky as the planes' thunderous stage.

Thousands of people entered the base and enjoyed the show from ground zero. Thousands more could easily see the aerial displays from their yards. Others stopped or camped out along roadways by the base to view the show.

The show was extra exciting this year because the last one held here was in 2006.

And then there were the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, the climax of the day. Their 30-minute performance easily stole the show as the six planes commanded everyone's attention and got most people on their feet.

With whistles, claps and roars from perhaps some 300,000 people on base, this is what many came for.

But there were other highlights, too. Clint Petersen of Kaysville said getting to stroll through numerous aircraft was a thrill.

"It's something you don't get to do every day," he said.

His wife, Nikita Petersen, said she liked feeling the vibrations from the day's early air shows. She also appreciated seeing the base and all its buildings and facilities. A good thing, since the Petersens left early and missed the T-Birds to attend a Real Salt Lake soccer game.

Jordan Vonniederhausern, 10, from North Salt Lake, said, "I liked seeing the helicopters."

"The air shows have been really good," his father, Bryce Vonniederhausern, said. "We just sit here and watch the planes and enjoy the roar."

Jordan's mom, Karlene Vonniederhausern, said "It's been kind of fun to see the base."

"I like all the airplanes," said Bryan Duncan from West Jordan. He was especially thrilled by the C5 Galaxy transport, the largest plane at the show, which visitors got to walk through from end to end.

Greg Poe of Boise, piloting a Fagen MX-2 prop plane, said via his radio and loudspeaker as he peered down during his performance, "What a huge crowd it is."

The two-day air show is the culmination of Air Force Week and is expected to draw as many as 600,000 to 700,000 people to the base over the weekend. The periodic air shows first began at Hill in 1956.

The open house and air show run from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. today. Access to the base will be available via the base's south gate in Layton, west gate in Clearfield and Roy gate at 5600 South. No weapons are allowed on base, not even concealed-carry weapons. Gates open at 8 a.m.

The Thunderbirds will fly again for an encore today, about 3 p.m. or 4 p.m., depending on the weather.

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