The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds arrived in Duluth with a roar Thursday morning, in preparation for the Duluth Air and Aviation Expo this Saturday and Sunday.
The Thunderbirds and their F-16c jets will perform precision maneuvers in the skies over the Duluth International Airport this weekend. This is the first Minnesota performance by the Air Force team since 2006.
Organizers expect 30,000 people for the event. The weather will probably cooperate and it's even possible to avoid Interstate 35 construction in Duluth.
While the Thunderbirds are the main attraction, there will be plenty of other high powered aircraft, including Air Force F-15 and F-4s; a Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet; a Marine Corp Harrier which can take off vertically; and F-16s from the Duluth-based Minnesota Air National Guard.
Organizer Dave Boe said the jets are always a big draw.
"We love the jets," Boe said. We love the high octane action that they bring, the loud noises that they bring," he said. "But we've got a lot of vintage aircraft coming that the crowds always really appreciate."
Vintage aircraft include a World War Two era B-25 bomber and a P-38 Lightening fighter.
But many will be coming for something from the other side of that war. An air unit calling itself "Tora Tora Tora" flies replica Japanese Zero airplanes, performing an exploding recreation of the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.
Boe says the show isn't intended to honor the Japanese surprise attack, but to recall a key part of U.S. history.
"I think there's a lot of education and a lot of history involved in this, and they put on a pretty good show that frankly gives some of the younger folks in the audience a chance to reflect and think about maybe what their parents or their grandparents did a long time ago," he said.
The Japanese Zeroes are actually movie props, built for the 1970 film "Tora Tora Tora." The six airplanes are flown and maintained by volunteers with the Commemorative Air Force.
BEAT THE TRAFFIC
A major road project has slowed Duluth traffic this summer, but Minnesota Department of Transportation spokesman John Bray said visitors coming to the show from the Twin Cities and other points south don't need to worry about the Interstate 35 reconstruction.
View a map of the detour.
"When they get to the Midway road they'll see signs there that tell them that if they're going to the air show that they should exit I-35 northbound at Midway Road, and just follow Midway road to Highway 53," he said.
This is the sixth Duluth Air and Aviation Expo, which has become an every other year event.