Excitement building over Thunderbirds return to Biloxi

The Thunderbirds are coming back to Biloxi April 29-30, and the excitement is building.
Published: Feb. 10, 2023 at 6:47 PM CST
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GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - The Thunderbirds are coming back to Biloxi April 29-30, and the excitement is building.

They look awesome in the air.

And a little intimidating up close.

If you think they are fun to watch, it’s even better to fly them.

“Oh, man, how can you not like this? I mean, look at this jet,” said Maj. Jeffrey “Simmer” Downie, Thunderbird 8 pilot. “The exhilaration. It’s a roller coaster times 10. It’s an incredible ride.”

The ride and the view should be better this year than ever.

Downie gave a preview of what spectators can expect while making at stop at the Gulfport Combat Training Readiness Center on Friday.

“We consulted with some Disney executives, and we came up with a new show,” he said. “We kind of designed it to be like a fireworks display. It opens with a bang. It’s got a lot of loud noises, sneak passes, loops and rolls and just really incredible maneuvers. So, it’s a very coherent show, great music, just an incredible experience.”

The show will require a big collaboration between Biloxi and Keesler Air Force Base.

“It’s a very unique show site in that Thunderbirds are actually going to be performing over the Gulf down on the beach, and there’s also civilian performers that are going to be over Keesler Air Force Base,” he said. “So, the coordination that’s going on between the city and the base is just incredible.”

It’s exciting for Biloxi officials as well.

“It shows a great partnership we have with the military, Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi. It’s really an asset to have like this and to bring these types of performances to the city of Biloxi for anybody to come see,” said Cecilia Dobbs Walton, Biloxi Public Affairs Manager.

The preparation for the pilots is long and continuous.

“These pilots are flying twice a day from Monday to Saturday with one day off at best,” Downie said. “They’ve been slaving away since November - they started the training season and end of the training season is rapidly approaching here and we’ll start getting into our first public appearances.”

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