11/08/04 — Air Show thrills 70,000

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Air Show thrills 70,000

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on November 8, 2004 2:00 PM

The sound of freedom -- as secured by the U.S. Air Force -- roared loud and long Sunday at the 2004 Wings Over Wayne Air Show.

An estimated 70,000 people attended the event at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

The highlight of the show was a performance by the Thunderbirds who thrilled the crowd with close-formation maneuvers at speeds in excess of 1,000 miles an hour. Four planes flew only 18 inches from one another in one formation. Another aerial stunt had two planes flying down the runway, one upside down over the top of the other.

B-25 bomber at Wings over Wayne

Bobby Williams

A crowd gathers around a B-25 World War II-era bomber.

The Thunderbird pilots did slow rolls and 360-degree rolls. They performed a diamond roll, which is a 360-degree roll in a diamond shape with all four planes rolling as one unit.

They also did a five-card loop and aileron rolls while going straight up into the sky.

For the six-ship delta formation, dedicated to the men an women of Seymour Johnson who are currently deployed, the six Thunderbird planes flew in a pass-and-review formation with one taking the lead in front, two behind him and the other three behind them.

A highlight of the Thunderbird performance was the high bomb burst, a spectacular sight, performed to the song "God Bless America." During this maneuver, four planes fly straight up into the sky trailing white smoke. Then they each veer off in separate directions while a fifth plane flies straight up through the middle of them also trailing smoke.

Another big part of the air show was a performance by two pilots with the Red Baron Pizza Squadron. They did various loops, coming within just feet of one another. Using white smoke, they also made a heart shape in the sky and dedicated it to military men and women.

Another impressive sight was the C-17, which has a tactical advantage in enemy territory by being able to stop within 1,000 feet on any runway and making a fast ascent. It has more than six times the power of the Indianapolis 500 lineup, according to the show's narrator, Maj. Bill Walsh.

After its demonstration, the C-17 stopped on the runway in front of the crowd, then backed up. It turned and headed right for the crowd, stopping to take a bow by bobbing its nose up and down, and backing up once more to taxi to the end of the runway.

Sean Tucker kept the crowds thrilled with his flying skills in the Oracle Challenger, a small stunt plane. Tucker has been named by the Smithsonian as one of the 25 living legends in aviation.

He flew down the runway upside down and spiraled straight up into the sky. He did stunts just 20 feet above the runway. He also did various loops.

As a salute to the men and women of the Armed Forces, Tucker did a low-altitude, low-speed pass. One amazing stunt was a harrier pass, where he flew less than 20 miles an hour. The plane appeared to be sitting in the air, with its nose up.

The crowd cheered as the Dodge Ramjet truck raced a fighter jet down the runway and won. The truck is equipped with a jet engine and spits fire and smoke out the back. It goes more than 350 miles an hour.

Other activities included demonstrations by the YAK attack team, an F-4 and a MIG 17, the GEICO Skytypers and the F-15E Strike Eagles. There was a combined armed demonstration by the C-17, F-15s and A-10s.

Among the many military aircraft on display was a B-52 from Barksdale Air Force Base, La., one of whose crew members was Maj. John Anderson, electronic warfare officer. He is the son of Wayne County Commissioner Andy Anderson.

He said the question he gets asked most frequently about his plane is how many bombs can it carry. People also want to know how much it weighs, he said.

"You got some of the top pilots in the world here at the air show," he said. "My dad was an F-4 pilot in Vietnam and shot down MIGs, so the demonstration today reminded him a lot about that."

Larry and Lois Pitts of Mount Olive went to the air show to see the Thunderbirds. "I love air shows," Pitts said. "This was only the second time we've ever seen the Thunderbirds, and we really enjoyed them."

Mrs. Pitts said she enjoyed it so much that she wanted to come back to next year's show.

Nine-year-old Kimberly Radford said the Thunderbirds were "cool because the way they were spinning around. That was the good part. I like the way that all the Thunderbirds came together to make the diamond."

She also had the chance to take a look at some of the planes on static display. "It was cool because I got to get into the seat," she said.

Her parents, Eric and Kimberly Radford, also enjoyed the air show. Mrs. Radford said she liked the aerobatics. "It was awesome the way they went around and twirled," she said. "It was just a great show."

She said the best part was the Thunderbirds' performance. "I've wanted to see them since I was a little girl and never had the opportunity," she said. "They were awesome and wonderful to watch."

Radford agreed the Thunderbirds were the highlight. "I really enjoyed when they did the diamond," he said. "There was lots of support for the military today."