F. E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo. --
The cancellation of Cheyenne Frontier Days and even the cancellation of the demonstration of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds could not stop the Wings over Warren Air Show on F. E. Warren Air Force Base July 22, 2020.
With the Thunderbirds sidelined by COVID-19 infections among their team, Wings over Warren pushed forward with demonstration teams from all over the country, including an F-22 from Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, an F-35 from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, and an A-10 from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, with a flyover by a B-1 Lancer from Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota. In addition to those aircraft, skydivers with the Wings of Blue from the Air Force Academy opened the show during the singing of the national anthem and pilots from F. E. Warren's 37th Helicopter Squadron performed their own demonstration for the thousands in attendance.
This year presented several challenges to the Air Show, with considerations to limit the spread of COVID-19 chief among them, especially as it pertained to ensuring the safety of those parking on base.
“The biggest challenge was to find a plan where we could still bring a large group of people together in one area, but then to keep them socially distant at the same time,” said Major David Kohlhepp, air show Ground Boss. "The solution we came up with was to use the drive-in movie format for the parking area, where everyone would come in and park with their vehicles spaced out so the spectators could all have their own area and watch the show without being all grouped together."
The variety of aircraft and aerobatic performers from multiple major commands and physical locations came to Cheyenne not just to fill the hole left by the Thunderbirds, who typically make an appearance for CFD every year as a part of their long legacy of connection to the city of Cheyenne, the site of their very first public appearance, but to exceed the expectations of those spectators on the ground. While their presence was missed by many, the fans present were still wowed by the variety of aircraft over the skies of F. E. Warren.
“As a resident of Cheyenne, I am deeply appreciative of the relationship we have with the military community,” said spectator Lorrell Walter. “While I miss Cheyenne Frontier Days and the Thunderbirds’ participation in the festivities, I am grateful that we are able to have some sense of ‘normal’ by having this air show. It was so cool to have such a variety of aircraft flying overhead.”
This was only the second year after a hiatus of 25 years that the base opened its doors to the public for an air show, and there were a number of logistical hurdles to be overcome by a number of organizations across the Air Force.
“Wings over Warren was an integrated effort for organizations all across the base, the local community, the state, and the Air Force,” said Major Michael Hartfield, show Air Boss. “But we maintained open lines of communication, pressed forward keeping the health and safety of everyone paramount, and made it happen for thousands of people in the Cheyenne community.”
For some, though, the most important part of the show was not specifically the aircraft, but rather the joy that those aircraft would bring to the community.
"I've seen all of these aircraft before when I've been stationed all over the world, and I love every single one of them," said Col. Peter Bonetti, 90th Missile Wing Commander. "While I don't have a favorite aircraft out here today, I will tell you that my favorite thing is going to be hearing from the folks in attendance how much they love the show."
Nearly 1,000 vehicles came through the gates at F. E. Warren to attend Wings over Warren while maintaining social distance to ensure the health and safety of those who came to watch the aircraft.