REVIEW: Great Texas Airshow 2024


The 2024 edition of the Great Texas Airshow took place over the weekend of 6th-7th April at Joint Base San Antonio, headlined by the USAF Thunderbirds.

Perhaps the biggest draw in the static park came from the Lewis Air Legends with their C-121A Super Constellation, the only airworthy Constellation in North America, which was restored to flight in 2023. Other statics included CT-133 “Red Knight”, a USAF C-5M Galaxy, C-17A Globemaster, F-16s, F-15s (including the 173rd Fighter Wing’s heritage schemed jet) and no fewer than four F-35s. The planned EP-3 signals intelligence aircraft, MH-47 and water bombers did leave a few holes in the static. Several of the base’s own assets took part, with a T-38 and T-6 appearing on static display. A dissimilar flypast was also staged, featuring a T-1, T-38s in striking heritage tails and a pair of T-6 Texan IIs, with one being a heritage tail.

While the weather was calm and sunny for Friday rehearsals, Saturday’s show was affected by low cloud, pushing the start of the show back by 90 minutes. The flying got underway with Rick Kelly in his CJ-6. This weekend would see him bow out from airshow flying. He was followed by Tom Larkin in his Subsonex Minijet, Tora Tora Tora, Kirby Chambliss in his Edge 540 and Randy Ball in the MiG-17F – one of the most exciting jet warbird acts around with low passes and plenty of afterburner.

The airshow then made a switch to the modern era and featured a combined Close Air Support demonstration with an HH-60 Pavehawk II, two A-10Cs from the 442nd Fighter Wing in Kansas, and – on the Friday and Sunday – a pair of F-15s from the 122nd FW in New Orleans. The A-10s were lead by Capt. Joe Shetterly, who ensured the passes were photogenic and dynamic thanks to his considerable experience as an aerobatic airshow pilot. The helicopter dropped some special tactics team members who then called in for air support from the A-10s, while the F-15s provided top cover, with pyrotechnics adding to the spectacle. Towards the end, the special tactics team popped smoke and the Pavehawk returned to collect them, before doing a victory-type pass displaying the US flag. To close out the demonstration, the HH-60 hovered a show center and the A-10s flew by in close formation, accompanied by a wall of fire; let’s hope that more demonstrations in this style become a regular fixture at airshows.

Following that, Capt. Melaine Kluesner and the F-35A demo team took the stage, bringing plenty of noise and vapor. She was also joined by a P-51D Mustang “Fragile but Agile” for the Heritage Flight.

Another big pull was undoubtably the Rolling Thunder act presented by SRC airshows. Its announcer, Allen Mitchell, brings a sheer energy that makes it even more exciting. The act combines Stephen Covington in the Fury Pitts and Mark Smith in a Corvette body car with a T34 jet engine in it. There is not another act like it on the airshow circuit as of now.

Flying only on Friday and Sunday was the US Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II from VMFAT-502, with a series of high-speed passes. A weapons bay door pass and a transition to the hover. This was followed by more civilian performers, including the Shetterly Squadron (again featuring A-10 pilot Joe Shetterly) flying the DR107, RV-8 and T-6, and Bill Stein in the Edge 540. Air Mobility Command brought the Altus Role Demonstration with a KC-135R Stratotanker and C-17A Globemaster III, and the show was closed by the Thunderbirds.

There were several unfortunate absences from the flying display – and not just due to Saturday’s low cloud. The Wings of Blue parachute team was present, but did not jump on either day due to weather, and planned C-5M Galaxy and bomber flypasts did not occur.

The parking at JBSA is typically to the north and on the runway with buses that shuttle the crowd to and from the main show area. Because of that, it is common to hear some complain about the walking distances at the show, but the showground is filled with points of interest, bathrooms and food stands spread throughout. Overall, the show was a huge success despite the weather, and many were talking about the F-35 and Rolling Thunder as the favourites; we look forward to the show’s return in 2026.