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Gulf Coast Salute: Celebrating 70 years of history

A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor aircraft assigned to Tyndall Air Force Base flies in formation with a World War II-era P-51 Mustang, April 22, 2017 over Panama City Beach, Fla. The aircraft flew in support of the opening ceremony of the Gulf Coast Salute Airshow at Tyndall. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Couillard)

A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor aircraft assigned to Tyndall Air Force Base flies in formation with a World War II-era P-51 Mustang, April 22, 2017 over Panama City Beach, Fla. The aircraft flew in support of the opening ceremony of the Gulf Coast Salute Airshow at Tyndall. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Couillard)

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --

Air Combat Command’s premier air show, the 2017 Gulf Coast Salute open house and air show, concluded April 23.

Aircraft from across the Air Force and the country gathered at Tyndall Air Force Base for the air show to celebrate 70 years of Airmen breaking barriers and to thank the local community for 75 years of support to Tyndall.

“Our main goals were to open up and show the next generation of Airmen what the Air Force is all about,” said Maj. Jesus Figueroa, 301st Fighter Squadron flight commander and air show director. “The other half was to thank the public and our local community for the support they have given to Tyndall and its mission.”

A Tyndall F-22 Raptor and a World War II era P-51 Mustang flew over Tyndall’s flightline in a heritage flight to kick off the ceremony that highlighted the 70th anniversary of the Air Force’s designation as an official branch of the U.S. military.

The show featured more than 20 acts and more than 30 static displays including the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, F-22 Raptor Demonstration Team, P-51 Mustangs, aircraft from different eras and many more attractions for visitors to enjoy.

Several acts demonstrated the different eras of Air Force history, but none was more educational and heartfelt than “Tora, Tora, Tora,” the Commemorative Air Force's recreation of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor signaling the beginning of America’s entrance into World War II.

“The performances were all amazing,” said Star Lammers, an air show attendee. “But my favorite one was the Tora [Tora, Tora] one. It gave you a small look at what it was like during Pearl Harbor, and it just sent chills down my spine.”

An estimated 80,000 visitors attended the two-day event and had the opportunity to gaze upon that historical affair, and others saw the future as a new generation of Airmen enlisted in front of their families, friends and the Thunderbirds.

To close the ceremony, the Thunderbirds performed their world renowned aerial demonstration for the Airmen, Sailors, Marines, Soldiers, Coastguardsmen, veterans and visitors in attendance and reached more than 300,000 people through a live social media broadcast, an advent of technology not available in prior airshows.

“I have come out to see the Thunderbirds on a couple of different years,” said Edward Johnson, a 96 year-old veteran in attendance. “But, all of this new stuff they got now is amazing.”

To make sure the open house and air show ran smoothly, more than 300 volunteers were tasked to handle parking, traffic, security, medical needs, a kid zone and different vendor booths.

“The volunteers were pivotal to making sure we had a successful air show,” Figueroa said. “They went from performing everyday military operations to setting up and hosting an air show the next, and that to me was nothing short of incredible.”

With the roar of American air power still fresh in their mind, attendees now reflect on their memories of the 2017 Gulf Coast Salute open house and air show. The Thunderbirds have an exciting countrywide tour ahead of them ending at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, November 11-12, their final celebratory event for the Air Force’s 70th Anniversary.