11/06/05 — Thousands watch as Seymour Johnson shows off aerial maneuvers

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Thousands watch as Seymour Johnson shows off aerial maneuvers

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on November 6, 2005 2:21 AM

Little planes, big planes, gray planes, colorful planes, planes with propellers and planes with jet engines -- all this and more headlined the annual Wings Over Wayne Airshow Saturday at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

The noise of plane engines filled the air, thrilling young and old alike.

Parents pushed babies in strollers and pulled young children in wagons. Many toted portable chairs to relax in as they watched the aerial demonstrations throughout the day.

Several aircraft demonstrated their capabilities with aerial performances.

One of these was Rob Holland, a stunt plane pilot. He did several spirals. At one point, he climbed high into the sky and then back down toward the earth, pulling his plane up just before smacking into the ground.

He flew upside down above the runway and did loops in the sky.

Another group of aerial acrobats were the Geico Skytypers, a group of six pilots out of New York who fly the North American SNJ plane. They did such maneuvers as the diamond S pass and a reverse arrowhead formation.

Mort Arken, owner of the Geico Skytypers, has been with the group for 37 years. He said the pilots do formation maneuvers with much precision.

They averaged speeds between 140 and 160. He said he thinks the spread formation is the hardest and his favorite. "We come in in a V formation and every airplane spreads in a different direction then we all break together in the same direction," he said.

Arken said the Skytypers "write" at 10,000 feet in the air. "We write 25 to 30 letters in one minute," he said. "We make a message that's 1,000 feet tall, six to eight miles long and visible in a 30-mile circle, which is 400 square miles."

Other aerial performers included a KC-135R Stratotanker flyby, the A-10 Warthog East Coast Demonstration Team, the Yak Demonstration Team, the Starfighters $-104 Team, the Canadian F-18 Hornet Demonstration Team and the Flying Farmer Piper J-3.

An unusual performance was the Speed For Hire Jet Outhouse. Strapped to a 750-pound jet engine, the outhouse reaches speeds at up to 46 miles an hour. As it roared down the runway, it shot fire out of the back and there was the occasional loud boom.

One of the planes on display was the AT-19, which served in the British Royal Navy in 1944 and 1945. It was one of 350 planes sent to Great Britain under the Lend-Lease Program. It was returned to the United States in 1946 and eventually sold for civilian use.

Several helicopters were on display including a Coast Guard helicopter and the Wayne County Sheriff's Office helicopter.

The "Hollywood" Memphis Belle seemed to be a crowd pleaser. The original Memphis Belle B-17 was the first heavy bomber to complete 25 combat missions and keep the entire crew alive.

The Hollywood version that was used in the 1990 movie "Memphis Belle" was built in 1945 and never saw any combat during World War II. During the war, it was a reserve plane. However, it did serve as Gen. Curtis Lemay's aircraft during the Korean War and was used as a fire bomber in the 1960s.

Next to the Memphis Belle sat the Spirit of Freedom, one of 330 Skymaster planes used by the Air Force and Navy to overcome the blockade of Berlin, Germany, from June 1948 to May 1949. On the inside of the aircraft are displays that tell the story of the great Berlin airlift.

There were also various fighters and tankers and a B-52 bomber along with several vintage planes. Some of the names on the tails of the display aircraft included Banshees, Red Bulls, Hounds and The Rock.

Children could get out some of their energy at the Kid Zone, complete with small pedal planes, a slide, a moon walk, a duck pond and cow milking.

And when visitors to the airshow needed to refuel, they had their choice of pretzels, hot dogs, fries, chicken, hamburgers, gyros, chicken fingers, Italian sausage, corn bread and mozzarella and funnel cakes.

Mayor Al King said he was having a good time at the airshow and thought it was a good turnout even without the Thunderbirds as a draw.

Jesus Cruz, 49, was at the airshow with his wife, Ana, and 7-year-old granddaughter, Nena Cruz-Black. Cruz is originally from Puerto Rico but retired from the Air Force and moved to Goldsboro. Three of his children live here and a son is in the Army deployed to Iraq.

The former air traffic controller said they walked through all of the exhibits and went through the aircraft on display. "We do it every year," he said. "It's good. The Thunderbirds aren't here, but I think we have a lot more aerial demonstrations than we have had."

He said the F-15s were his favorite part of the show this year.

Nena said she really enjoyed the front of the planes on display. "It's very cool," she said. "And I like the pilots' jackets."

She said it was fun to sit in the pilots' seats. She said she felt like she was flying the plane.

Tracey Sherman's husband is stationed at Seymour Johnson AFB, and they walked around looking at the aircraft and eating the good food.

She said her favorite part was watching the planes do stunts.

A young visitor to the show was 6-year-old Cameron Pilkington of Brogden. He said his favorite planes on display were the Memphis Belle and the Spirit of Freedom.

The future pilot said he enjoyed watching the aerial demonstrations. "I want to have a job driving the planes," he said.

The base's public affairs office estimated that more than 15,000 people attended the airshow this year. Staff member Staff Sgt. Angela Shepherd said it went very well. "There's a lot of excitement out here and a lot of cool stuff," she said.

She said she hoped that people came from not only the Goldsboro community, but even from surrounding areas like Raleigh, Greenville and others. "We had some aviation photographers out here from Georgia and South Carolina."