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Aviation Nation Launches at Nellis | Community Spirit

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Aviation Nation Launches at Nellis

More than 100,000 people are expected to turnout for one of the biggest free events in southern Nevada: Aviation Nation.

The annual open house starts Saturday morning at Nellis Air Force Base. While the event opens for everyone this weekend, the base opened its doors Friday to veterans and their families for a special preview.

"It is a great place to take my son. It feels a lot closer to what my husband does on a daily basis out here and seeing all this stuff going on and flying," said spectator Sarah Bond.

The show features more than 100 different forms of aircraft spanning 70 years of American air power. The skies over Nellis were filled with a deafening aerial display Friday afternoon. From modern fighter jets to World War II planes, the sky was full of the best the Air Force has to offer.

Thousands of kids with the day off from school had their eyes glued to the skies. Event organizers and pilots say those kids are a big part of their audience. They say this weekend is about more than just military might; it is about showing kids the opportunities the Air Force has to offer.

"To be honest, that is one of the main reasons why we do this. It is for entertainment, sure, but it really is one of our missions to inspire kids. Just like we were inspired as young kids," pilot Rob Mitchell said.

People at the event, including curious kids, can get close to the planes on display. They can even get behind the controls. One of the biggest highlights of the weekend is the Thunderbirds. The Air Force demonstration flying team will perform at around 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Aviation Nation is free and open to the public, but visitors must use the shuttle service provided from the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. There are designated handicapped parking spaces and specially designated handicapped shuttles. People can not walk onto the base to see the show. Food, beverages and novelties will be available for purchase.