This spring, a spectacular array of aerial acrobatics and speed will be on display in the skies above Montgomery. Headlined by the Air Force’s fighter demonstration squadron, the Thunderbirds, the 2020 Beyond the Horizon Air & Space Show at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base will thrill thousands.
But while all the energy and excitement will no doubt entertain, the event also serves several more meaningful purposes, the first being to showcase our state’s multiple and significant contributions to aviation and aerospace with a focus on “Made in Alabama.” According to the Chamber’s Vice President of Military and Innovation Strategies Joe Greene, our state is home to a large aerospace and aviation industrial base, including 300 companies that manufacture and produce goods in almost every segment of the sector, industry giants like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Sikorsky, GE Aviation, Raytheon, Airbus and GKN Aerospace. “Aerospace manufacturing alone accounts for around 13,200 jobs in Alabama, and the state also ranks among the Top 5 states for aerospace engineers,” he said. “The Air Show will provide an opportunity to display those industrial capabilities to the general public and show the world that defense systems made in Alabama play a large role in our national defense.”
The theme also highlights the area’s longstanding and highly successful relationship with Maxwell-Gunter, according to Lt. Col. Daniel Mendoza, Maxwell-Gunter Air and Space Show Director. “One of the reasons Maxwell-Gunter is truly one of the best ‘Hometowns in the Air Force’ is because of the strong partnerships we have throughout the River Region and the wonderful state of Alabama,” he said. “Our great partnerships with the local community, government and industry enable our airmen to execute their mission and enhance our national defense.”
Another purpose of the Air Show is to stress the importance of STEM and highlight the River Region’s offerings in that arena, as Greene explained. “Alabama and the River Region provide significant STEM-related technical services to the Department of Defense both here in Montgomery and across the state,” he said. “There will be robotics demonstrations and other activities associated with technical areas that will either occur the week prior to the Air Show or during the Air Show.”
These three objectives underscore this year’s event, but there are many other benefits too, positives the event delivers for both the River Region and the base. Greene pointed to the show’s ability to point tourism numbers skyward. “Everyone loves an Air Show and this one will be no different. It is expected to draw approximately 200,000 visitors locally and across the state and region,” he said. This is anticipated to result in an economic impact of more than $25 million.
Mendoza echoed Greene, noting the boost the Air Force’s image receives from events like air shows. “The Air Force hosts open house events like these to enhance the public awareness of Air Force preparedness, demonstrate modern weapon systems and capabilities, strengthen community and international relations, and to showcase our Airmen and our mission to 'Fly, Fight, and Win in Air, Space and Cyberspace,' ” he said.
And it shines a spotlight on Maxwell-Gunter’s powerful legacy, its current role and its bright future while inspiring the next generation. “The Air Show provides a great opportunity for the community to learn more about the missions on Maxwell-Gunter AFB and across the River Region,” Greene said. “These shows also help get young people excited about supporting our nation’s defense by either joining the military or looking at the multiple opportunities that exist within our defense industrial base.”
Mendoza again agreed with Greene. “Our primary goal is to inspire and educate the next generation of air and space power leaders, enthusiasts and visionaries,” he said. “As an all-volunteer force, we depend upon the strength of the bonds with our communities and their support.”
In addition to the Thunderbirds, the 2020 Air Show commemorates the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II and will feature a variety of military and civilian air acts and more than 30 different military, civilian and warbird aircraft, including World War II and other historic aircraft, as well as STEM displays. Lt. Col. Daniel Mendoza explained why the crowds come. “There is nothing more exciting to see than a military Air Show, especially with the Thunderbirds and other exciting aerial demonstration teams taking to the skies. It makes you proud to be an American just hearing the sound of freedom roaring past and seeing the amazing skills that our military aviators possess,” he said. “I think others love them too because it builds a strong sense of patriotism and pride in our country and our military who protect the freedoms we all enjoy. It also connects them to something unique and primal and is a positive experience that brings people together, no matter what age or demographic. It is a family-friendly event that has something for everyone.”
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Montgomery and Maxwell-Gunter Air Force base have always been close partners, and the capital city is proud to have a military institution of such stature as part of its community. In 2015, the warm welcome and strong support that Montgomery has consistently provided to all who live and work at Maxwell-Gunter earned the city a prestigious national award, the Altus Trophy. The city has also been named “The Best Hometown in the Air Force.”
Click here for info on the 2020 Beyond the Horizon Air & Space Show.