The March Air & Space Expo at March Air Reserve Base hosted an air show the weekend of April 7-8. Thunder Over The Empire Air Show was a free event that marked the 100th anniversary of the March Air Field and Base
There were exhibits, food trucks, vendors, and a beer garden hosted by local brewery Hangar 24. A variety of activities were available on the grounds, such as photo booths sponsored by the Air Force Reserve. Jets and planes did aerial demonstrations, with USAF Global Force, Korean era planes, military jets, Navy F-18 Hornet, the Cold-War era B-52 bomber and its younger version, the B-1B, a P-40 World War II fighter and an MQ-9 Predator, all performing aerial stunts with pyrotechnics.
The Thunderbirds decided not to perform in lieu of mourning the death of one of their pilots, due to a plane crash during training in Las Vegas a week prior.
The show went on with the weekend festivities as planned, despite The Thunderbirds cancellation, Thunder Over The Empire was filled with vendors and spectators.
The two-day event featured bomber planes, arial maneuvers, defying stunts, and the much anticipated Wall of Fire.
This year the show was named “Air and Space Expo” focusing in STEM programs and activities for children. In addition to the air show, the event featured rock wall climbing and robot demonstrations.
“This kind of event is great for the community, getting your kids out here giving them a chance to see what the pilots and our military aircraft is capable of, leaves them awe. I think it also inspires others to maybe join the military, or become a pilot one day.” Moreno Valley resident, Allan Curry said.
The purpose of the show is not just to exhibit aircraft but to honor, preserve and promote history. Patriotism and pride play an important role in drawing crowds to air shows. Many spectators, attend the air shows for entertainment, such as the stunts and the vendors. People enjoy being able to get an up-close look at military equipment, and a personal experience meeting the pilots.
“It is a great way for families to get out and have some fun. You can see the planes up close, and the kids really like that,” William Baker, a local resident said. “It is really cool to see the jets fly over. It sounds like a huge roar. It’s an amazing feeling.”
Adjacent to March Air Base is the March Field Air Museum which displays one of the largest collections of military aircraft, and offers tours for many of the planes. During the air show, the museum offered RV parking, allowing spectators to park their own RV vehicles along the fence and enjoy the show.
While the museum is not directly affiliated with March Air Base or planning of the air show, they take great pride celebrating the festivities, and helping educate the community by sharing their knowledge.
Local residents look forward to this event every year and are proud to support local military base and troops.