LOUISVILLE, Ky. –
The Thunder Over Louisville air show will return to the banks of the Ohio River April 23 for the first time in three years with a salute to the United States Air Force, organizers announced here Thursday.
“We can’t wait to be back at the waterfront for Thunder Over Louisville this year and celebrate one of our favorite traditions together again,” said Matt Gibson, president and CEO of the Kentucky Derby Festival, for which Thunder serves as the kick-off event. “After a couple of years away, we’re bringing Thunder back home to one of the best venues on the continent.”
The air show and fireworks display, which has drawn up to 1 million spectators to the waterfront in past years, was cancelled outright in 2020 because of COVID-19. A scaled-down air show with no public attendance was telecast from Bowman Field in 2021, while fireworks displays were staged at various locations around the community rather than downtown.
This year marks a reversal to previous form with the slogan, “The Legend Returns.” Officials promise an extensive display of military aircraft, including the U.S. Air Force’s F-22 Raptor and C-17 Globemaster demo teams, F-16 Fighting Falcons, A-10 Thunderbolt IIs, the B-2 “stealth” bomber, and the Kentucky Air National Guard’s brand-new C-130J Super Hercules — all in addition to the return of the largest fireworks display in North America.
The 2022 show will celebrate the 75th anniversary of the United States Air Force and Air National Guard, said Wayne Hettinger, who has served as Thunder’s lead organizer since its inception in 1990.
Historical aircraft scheduled to perform include the P-51 Mustang, F-86 Sabre, F-100 Super Sabre, and the Commemorative Air Force’s B-29 Superfortress, B-24 Liberator and B-25 Mitchell.
“We've been working on this particular show for five years because we knew the 75th anniversary of the Air Force was coming up,” Hettinger said. “You're going to see the best air equipment that this country has. We'll be able to do an entire history of the Air Force. If there was ever a year for air show enthusiasts to bring a camera to get pictures of airplanes, boy, this is the year to do it.”
The Kentucky Air Guard is again serving as the base of operations for Thunder’s military aircraft, providing logistical and maintenance support from its facilities at Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport.
“It’s a pleasure for the Kentucky Air National Guard to serve our awesome community in any way, and Thunder is a very special way for us to do that,” said Lt. Col. Josh Ketterer, a Kentucky Air Guard pilot who coordinates the participation of military units for the show each year.
“This will be a truly outstanding event. We will have many aircraft we have never seen here at Thunder, and it will be truly nonstop from 3 p.m. right until the best fireworks demonstration you're ever going to see.”
Gibson noted that Thunder is returning this year to the larger “Category 1” aerobatic box, which allows for more robust participation from fast-moving, high-performance aircraft.