Scott G Winterton, Deseret News archives
The Air Force\'s Thunder Birds perform as hundreds of thousands turn out for the Hill Air Force Base air show, June 6, 2009.

HILL AIR FORCE BASE — Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to visit Hill Air Force Base this Memorial Day weekend for the “Warriors Over the Wasatch: A Legacy of Valor” air show and open house.

The last time it hosted the event was three years ago. The show used to be held every other year, but it was postponed last year due to the poor economy.

"We were able to rally the troops and raise some funds and bring it back this year," said Kevin Ireland, one of the event's organizers.  

The featured performance will be from the Air Force Thunderbirds. Lt. Col. Edward Case, a pilot with the 388th Fighter Wing and one of the event coordinators, is also a former Thunderbird pilot.

"They have six airplanes that fly for the demonstration, four that stay together in what we call the diamond formation, showing precision flying capabilities of Air Force pilots," he said. "They'll do some really interesting maneuvers."

Two solo pilots will show off the capabilities of the F-16s. "They're going to be flying low, fast, upside down, coming at each other head-to-head, really exciting stuff, the kind of stuff that really takes your breath away," Case said.

Some of the other performances scheduled include the Red Bull helicopter, plane and jump team, the Red Eagles and the Smoke-N-Thunder jet car.

The Air Force is scaling back participation in some air shows in an effort to cut costs and ensure its pilots are getting the training hours they need in a time of shrinking budgets. The Viper West F-16, based with Hill's 388th Fighter Squadron, will not perform at this year’s air show.

Officials at Air Combat Command eliminated the solo performances of five of its crews based in Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Utah.

Eliminating solo performances by the A-10, which provides air support for ground forces, and the F-16 and F-15E, which are capable of air-to-air and air-to-ground combat, is expected to save the Air Force $15.5 million and allow about 970 training flights that otherwise would have been canceled.

"It's going to be an awesome weekend," Ireland said.

An estimated 300,000 to 400,000 people attended the event in 2009. Up to half a million people are expected this year, but participants shouldn't be intimidated by that.

"We've got a great crew, a great group of people who know how to handle that traffic," Ireland said. "The base absorbs it really fast."

The current parking lot for F-16s will become a parking lot for the public. Buses will shuttle others from different parking lots to their destinations.

UTA will have shuttles run between Clearfield Station, 1250 S. State, to HAFB and back approximately every 20 minutes from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, with drop-off and return pickup on base. The round-trip fare will be $3 with a wristband that can be purchased with cash or check only.

Passengers riding FrontRunner with a valid fare purchased for Saturday, May 26, may ride the shuttle for free. No monthly or electronic passes are valid for the shuttle. 

FrontRunner will run its regular schedule on Saturday — one train per hour — for most of the day. Two extra trains will depart southbound from Clearfield at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. and one extra train will depart northbound at 5 p.m. There is no FrontRunner service on Sunday.

The base opens at 8 a.m. and performances start at 10 a.m. The gates close at 5 p.m.

Ireland pointed out that besides being entertaining, this is an important community event. "It's not just important because it's fun to come and watch the planes fly, but it's also a recruiting tool for the Air Force. Little kids who come out for the first time, boys and girls, see these planes and go, ‘That's what I want to do,'" he said.

The event also includes static planes that the public can look through and talk to pilots about. This year, visitors can buy food at the event or bring their own food, but coolers are prohibited. Free water will be provided.

More information is available at www.hill.af.mil/warriorsoverthewasatch/index.asp.