Thunderbirds' Return Could Draw Big Crowds for OC Air Show - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Thunderbirds' Return Could Draw Big Crowds for OC Air Show

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Thunderbird in flight.  (Photo: U.S. Thunderbirds) Thunderbird in flight. (Photo: U.S. Thunderbirds)

OCEAN CITY, Md. - With the Thunderbirds locked and loaded for this weekend's OC Air Show, show organizers believe the return to flight for the team could draw big crowds.

A Thunderbirds pilot crashed earlier this month in Colorado.  Since the crash, the U.S. Air Force team has been on stand down.  The OC Air Show will be the first show for the Thunderbirds since that crash.  The previous two appearances for the Thunderbirds, in New Mexico and Rhode Island, were canceled.  While there was never an official cancellation in Ocean City, there was some speculation over whether the team would fly in the 9th annual show.  For organizers, getting official confirmation the Thunderbirds were coming was a big relief.

"A standdown isn't over until the boss says it is.  So when they got that official word and they put it out publicly, obviously we were very happy and it was a weight lifted off our shoulders," said Bryan Lilley, President of the OC Air Show.

With that official return to flight happening this weekend, Lilley said the air show is looking for more volunteers because of the expected increase in crowds.

"I believe it will based upon the interest level we've been seeing.  People are just really excited to have them back in the sky.  To be able to come here and support the team and support the military in their first show back," Lilley said.

And big crowds are music to the ear of local businesses along the boardwalk, like Peppers Tavern, which is at the heart of the action this weekend at 16th and the Boardwalk.

"Oh, we are so packed," said bar manager Jean Sabia.  "It's elbow room.  It just means everything.  We're just so busy we can barely handle the crowd.  But we do!"

OC Air Show officials said if you are planning to attend the show either day this weekend, be sure to come early.  Large crowds meant a lot of backups on the bridges into town last year so organizers encourage visitors to plan accordingly.  Air show officials estimate three quarters of a million people saw the show last year and believe a similar-sized crowd this year would be a huge success.

For those attending, here is the schedule for the first day of the show on Saturday.

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