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Fiesta of Flight airshow at Laughlin makes a comeback

  • Published
  • By Capt. Christine Del Aguila
  • 47th Flying Training Wing

Over 16,000 spectators found their way to Laughlin Air Force Base to witness the historic 2024 Fiesta of Flight Open House, Airshow and STEAM Expo March 9.  

The Fuerza Aerea Mexicana (Mexican Air Force) made their first U.S. debut since 1944 with their T-6C+ Aerobatic Demonstration team, making Fiesta of Flight an international celebration. This was the first time the Fuerza Aerea Mexicana T-6C+ team performed at a U.S. airshow and hopefully will not be their last. 

Headlining this year was the U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II Demonstration Team, and this show marked the first one for the newly certified commander, Capt. Melanie Kluesner.   

In conjunction with the airshow, Laughlin partnered with local elementary schools from the San Felipe Del Rio Consolidated Independent School District and Del Rio’s Gerardo J. Maldonado Career & Technical Education (CTE) Center, hosting Laughlin’s first Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics Expo the day prior to the airshow, March 8.  

The STEAM Expo provided a unique opportunity for attendees to engage with interactive exhibits, hands-on activities, and career field demonstrations. The STEAM Expo transformed into display exhibits March 9 for the public to view during the Airshow.   

The airshow kicked off with a 6-ship dissimilar formation flyover unique to the pilot training airframes of Laughlin AFB comprised of the T-1A Jayhawk, T-6A Texan II and T-38C Talon, which roared over the crowds at the tail end of the national anthem.  

Static displays included the RC- 135V Rivet Joint, KC-135R Stratotanker, KC-46A Pegasus, A-10Cs, F-16Cs, and F-35As. Army displays included the UH-60 Blackhawk and AH-64D Apache, and the Navy had a T-45 Goshawk on display. Border patrol brought an AS350 Helicopter.  

Additionally, Fiesta of Flight featured performances by Randy Ball, North America’s premier Jet demonstration pilot, the U.S. Air Force Wings of Blue parachute team, Darnell Family Racing’s Jet Car, Adam Baker Extra 300,  "Tora!, Tora!, Tora!” the Commemorative Air Force's recreation of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, along with a C-47 and B-25 from San Marcos, TX, and the C-17 and KC-135 Altus AFB Demonstration Team.  

Fiesta of Flight was also livestreamed in Spanish by U.S. Air Force Veteran and children’s book author, Graciela Tiscareno-Sato, also known as “Captain Mama.” 

"The Fiesta of Flight airshow is a celebration that welcomes our local community onto Laughlin Air Force Base,” said Col. Kevin Davidson, 47th Flying Training Wing commander. “We want to share with you who we are, what we do, and how we Build Combat-Ready Airmen, Leaders and Pilots.” 

Airshows like Fiesta of Flight serve as an opportunity to thank the community for their continued and dedicated support while also providing several recruitment opportunities to a diverse demographic. These events are a powerful tool for inspiring the next generation of Airmen.  

“The triumph of these events is a testament to what Laughlin AFB and the greater community can accomplish together,” said Maj. Patrick Doyle, Fiesta of Flight Airshow director. “The dedication and contributions from countless units, organizations, and volunteers guaranteed an unforgettable experience for everyone in attendance.”  

Multiple base agencies and squadrons under the 47th Medical Group, 47th Operations Group, 47th Mission Support Group, 47th Maintenance Directorate, and Wing Staff Agencies played critical roles in the success of the event. 

“Thank you to all the vendors that came out to support Fiesta of Flight making it a memorable event,” said Doyle. “Without you taking the time to sign up and work this show, it could not have been a success without you.”  

The event featured support from 30 local food vendors and 25 non-food vendors.  

Team XL looks forward to continuing a tradition of Fiesta of Flight in the years to come, further strengthening the base and the local community partnership to foster a passion for aviation and education.  

“In the true spirit of service, the Airmen of Laughlin went above and beyond, demonstrating their excellence to our community,” said Davidson.  “This weekend was about giving back, and it couldn’t have happened without the team effort put forth by Team XL and our community partners.”  

Fiesta of Flight 2024 is the first airshow at Laughlin AFB since 2018.