QC Air Show returns to the skies June 22-23

Lineup includes Saturday Nightime air show, concert 

Bob Carlton and his sailplane put on a show during the Quad City Air Show on Saturday. PHOTO BY DAVE THOMPSON

The Quad City Air Show will mark its 33rd year in style with the back-to-back return of the USAF F-22 Raptor Demo Team – piloted by Quad Cities native and U.S. Air Force Captain Sam “RaZZ” Larson – and a performance by the Dual Demo of the USN EA-18G Growler. 

This year’s show – themed “Sounds of Freedom” –  will be Saturday and Sunday, June 22 and 23, at the Davenport Municipal Airport and promises to again have the very best in military, civilian and warbird aviation in the air, organizers said.

The long-standing community tradition returned to the skies in 2023 after being grounded back in 2020 by the COVID-19 pandemic. That led to a three-year break for the show, which annually draws tens of thousands of spectators to the city-owned airport at 9230 N. Harrison St.  

“Attendance last year was about 70,000 over the whole weekend … ,” Evan Hopper, the show’s vice president of ground operations, told the QCBJ in an interview last week. “It’s not the most we’ve ever had, but it definitely was in the Top 5. We’re definitely back to normal.” 

He attributed the strong attendance to the exclusivity of the event “because (the show) it hasn’t been every year now.” 

Looking to this weekend’s show, Mr. Hopper said “We’re doing pretty well. For not having a jet team (the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds or U.S. Navy Blue Angels), we’re just slightly under what we had last year. In the past when we’ve not had a jet team, we’ve been at about half in pre-sales. But not now.” 

In fact, he said early ticket sales are “running at about 75-80% of this point where we were at this time last year. It’s in the last two weeks we get a huge inflow of ticket sales – once people start to hear the jets in the sky.”  

Asked if the air show is back to its annual schedule, he said “We already are planning for the next one,” he said. That show will feature the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and will be moving to August. “It’s nice to be able to tell fans and showgoers we’re gearing up for another show. We’re thrilled to be back.” 

For Mr. Hopper and his extended family, the Quad City Air Show has been a longtime family tradition beginning with his father Ken Hopper, who founded the air show in 1987 and remains its chairman.  

“We’re promoting Sunday as family day (for spectators),” the younger Mr. Hopper said, attesting to how the whole event is a family affair. He is part of the leadership team that also includes his sisters Lori Hopper and Michelle Payne, their significant others, and about 15 other family members. Over the course of the weekend, he said another 15 to 20 cousins and extended family join in the fun and work.   

The air show’s sponsors include: Eaton, Bally’s Quad Cities Casino & Hotel, Isle Casino & Hotel Bettendorf, Arconic, Republic Services, One Step and J&J Ventures. 

The 2024 QC Air Show welcomes back Captain Larson, a 2011 Bettendorf High School and U.S. Air Force Academy graduate, who will fly the F-22 Raptor along with the USAF F-22 Raptor Demo Team. 

“Having Razz (Mr. Larson) and the F-22 Raptor back is huge,” Mr. Hopper said. “Normally, they don’t come to the same shows back-to-back years. But he’s from Bettendorf and wanted to come back to his hometown,” he said, adding that his demo pilot assignment is only for two years.

Also sharing the skies will be the U.S. Navy Demo Two Ship EA-18G Growler. “It’s a very similar aircraft to the one in Top Gun (the 2024 movie). It came here last year but was a limited demonstration,” Mr. Hopper added. 

Mr. Hopper said in addition to the action overhead, the grounds will feature various new and old military aircraft on display, a large U.S. Air Force exhibit, a flight simulator, a Kids Space, and the opportunity to take a helicopter ride over the fields of Iowa.  

Also new this year will be three hours of live music Saturday followed by a night air show that will begin at dusk (about 8 p.m.) Country star Aaron Tippin is the headliner and will perform on the stage near the airport entrance. The winner of six gold albums and one platinum has released more than 30 singles including such hits as “You’ve Got to Stand for Something,” “My Blue Angel,” “I Wouldn’t Have it Any Other Way,” “Kiss This,” and “Workin’ Man’s Ph. D.” 

The Quad Cities regional rock band, Electric Shock, will perform first. Other music will be part of the daytime festivities. 

Among the other acts in this year’s lineup are:  

  • KC Flyers Formation Team – KC Flight, an RV Formation Team, is Kansas City’s largest homegrown, civilian formation team. Founded in 2009 with four members, it now has 14 members who are all Formation Flying Inc. carded pilots and SAC Formation DM & Solo qualified. NOT AT NIGHT
  • Bob Carlton, Fox JetMr. Carlton, one of the most versatile airshow performers in North America, features performances that include barnstormin’ biplane aerobatics, helicopter sailplane tow, night aerobatics with strobes and pyro, and two twin jet sailplanes. 
  • Randy Ball, MiG-17 – Mr. Ball, North America’s PREMIER Jet Demonstration Pilot, has performed more than 1,500 performances. In fact, he is the only Jet Demo pilot (military or civilian) to be granted both a day and night unlimited aerobatic rating in jet fighters by the Federal Aviation Administration. He has flown over 44 different types of aircraft, manufactured in nine different countries.
  • Nathan Hammond, GhostWriterGhostWriter Airshow is a true three-act performer flying at 200 mph looping and rolling across the sky. 

The night show will include: Mr. Larson and the F22 Raptor, Mr. Ball, and GhostWriter. Other air show performers are: Hot Streak Jet Truck; a P47 Thunderbolt flown by Steve Hinton Jr.; the USAF Heritage Flight; the USN Legacy Flight; and more. 

Air show hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, June 22, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday, June 23. Gates open at 10 a.m. Guests are encouraged to bring their own lawn chair, although chair rentals are available. Food and beverages will be available for purchase from a number of vendors. 

For ticket information and purchases, visit here. For more information, visit www.quadcityairshow.com or its Facebook page and other social media. 

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