Beginning Sunday, if you hear thunderous sounds in the air and catch glimpses of fighter jets, don't freak out — it's not Jade Helm. Most likely, it's pilots getting ready for the Fort Lauderdale Air Show.
In fact, Maj. Scott Petz, the advance pilot for the Air Force Thunderbirds — basically the synchronized swimmers of the aviation world — is expected to arrive in the skies over Fort Lauderdale Beach at approximately 7:30 p.m. on Sunday evening. Get out there to catch the sight.
The official air show — the so-called "Super Bowl of Air Shows" — is set for next Saturday and Sunday, May 7 and 8. It's an exciting return of a big-deal event for Fort Lauderdale. The event, formerly called the Air & Sea Show, was canceled in 2007 when McDonald's withdrew its sponsorship. Similar events were tried in 2012 and 2013 but had problems with weather and pilots canceling due to federal budget cuts. This year, South Florida Ford is sponsoring the show.
There will be a demo of the F-18 Hornet, a "heritage flight" featuring an F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (a single-pilot stealth fighter currently being finalized by the Department of Defense), and a display by the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds. Other demos include skydivers and search-and-rescue teams. The Canadian Royal Air Force's "Snowbird" flying team will come all the way from its base in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, too.
For $34 for adults ($22 for kids), you can get tickets to watch the festivities from the "Drop Zone" — the center of Fort Lauderdale Beach, where you can best see the action as the jets maneuver just offshore. Food and drinks (including beer and wine) will be for sale here, and restrooms will be available. Alternately, shutterbugs can buy passes for the "Photo Pit" for $129, or VIP tickets ($169) get you access to covered, private seating, with lunch included.
Here's the schedule of flights for Saturday; Sunday's will be released when finalized. Check the air show's Facebook page.
Parking during events on the beach is always a hassle. In this case, VIP ticket holders get parking at Birch State Park; otherwise, you'll want to pay $20 to leave the car at the Galleria Mall and take a shuttle to the beach.
In addition to the weekend festivities, planes can be seen arriving throughout the week. According to planners:
The rest of the Thunderbirds "will arrive in the skies over Fort Lauderdale Beach on Monday, May 2nd at approximately 11:30 am. The Thunderbird delta formation will make a pass over the beach before landing at Fort Lauderdale International Airport."
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Two of the Canadian jets "will arrive in the skies over Pompano Beach "around 1:00 pm on Thursday, May 5th. The nine-jet Snowbird team formation will follow two hours later arriving around 3:00 pm. Depending on fuel level, the nine-ship formation may fly over Fort Lauderdale Beach before they land. "
The two F-35A Lighting II Joint Strike Fighters "will arrive from Luke AFB on Thursday, May 5th at approximately 3:30 pm. They will be visible in the skies over Fort Lauderdale Beach as they conduct an aerial site survey. "
Also, if you want to pick up a hot fighter pilot or skydiver (who doesn't?), try hitting up the free Taxi Before Takeoff party at the W Hotel Thursday night.
For more details, see the air show's Facebook page.