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Air Force Featured Stories

Shaw AFB hosts Air and Space Expo, connects with community

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Cody Sanders
  • 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Shaw Air Force Base held its first air show in six years, opening the gates to more than 75,000 people for the Shaw Air and Space Expo, April 2-3.

The show provided an up close and personal look at the military, from the celebrating significant milestones from the U.S. Air Force’s 75 years of service and Shaw’s 80 years in Sumter.

Blending old and new, the air show kicked off on Friday with the first ever Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Challenge and Expo for future generations while concurrently hosting more than 100 service members who deployed from Shaw AFB to serve in Operation Desert Storm more than 30 years ago.

Of the 20 individuals, Lt. JJ Ardis and Jessica Varney, were chosen for a flight in an F-16 Fighting Falcon with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds as part of the aerial demonstration squadron’s Hometown Hero program. The program salutes everyday American citizens doing amazing things in their communities all around the country.

“It was an honor to show air power on display for all to see,” said Maj. Christopher Beckett, Shaw Air and Space Expo director. “This was an opportunity for us to say thank you to the community for hosting us and always taking care of our families.”

The show began honoring 20 hometown heroes with a flag before the U.S. Army Special Operations Command Parachute Demonstration Team, the Black Daggers, opened the show with precise, formation parachute maneuvers and the presentation of the American flag.

The show days were full of civilian performers flying a variety of aircraft including vintage military trainers, high-performance aerobatic aircraft and a jet-powered car to highlight the longevity and heritage of aviation.



Showing off Air Combat Command’s mission, F-15 Eagles and F-16 Fighting Falcons flew a close air support simulation to showcase the combined strength of warrior Airmen across the Air Force.

The Shaw AFB-based F-16 Viper Demonstration Team, led by their new pilot, Capt. Aimee Fiedler, performed a combat capabilities demonstration showing off the maneuverability and power of the F-16 Viper. The Viper Demo Team also participated in the Air Force Heritage Flight with a P-51 Mustang to showcase airpower from the past to the present.

“Air shows are an incredible opportunity to inspire and recruit the next generation of pilots, maintainers and Airmen,” said Capt. Aimee Fiedler, F-16 Viper Demonstration Team commander. “Having a hometown show at Shaw gave us the chance to showcase what we do to the friends, family and community that support us.”

Headlining the show were the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds aerial demonstration team, who recently selected two pilots and a flight doctor from Shaw’s 2020 award winning squadron, the 79th Fighter Squadron. The Thunderbirds have been serving as America’s premier air demonstration squadron and has been recruiting, retaining and inspiring the next generation of American Airmen.

When the performers were not flying, they were interacting with the thousands of visitors in attendance.



The turnout highlighted the support from the surrounding communities and allowed Airmen the opportunity to thank those community members, as well as recruit the next generation of the world’s greatest Airmen.

“Team Shaw, which includes our spouses and community members, dedicated countless hours making this air show come to life,” Beckett said. “From contracting performers and vendors, to setting up security, to organizing the airfield and volunteering during the show, this event would not have happened without everyone coming together, thank you.”