Organizer's spirits are high for Martinsburg Air Show

May 11, 2005|by CANDICE BOSELY

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - A large crowd is expected to attend an upcoming air show in Martinsburg that has as its premier act a small plane.

For his Bulldog Air Shows, Jim LeRoy pilots a Pitts plane that measures 18 feet by 19 feet.

"It's a small plane and it's nothing but power," said Nicolas Diehl, who is organizing the first Spirit of America over Martinsburg Air Show, scheduled for Sept. 24 and 25. "It can do things you don't think airplanes can do."

Five flying acts have been booked so far for the show, which will be held at Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport outside Martinsburg.


Tickets, expected to go on sale June 1, will be $10 in advance and $12 at the gate.

Other flying acts include the USA Jet Team, which features three training jets flying stunts in unison, Diehl said.

Walt Pierce will walk on the wings of a plane without any harness or other type of support.

Members of the Swift Magic Aerobatic Team will use two planes to fly stunt maneuvers, and also have smoke trailers that can be used to draw pictures or write words in the sky, Diehl said.

Last is Charlie Kulp, a World War II veteran known as "the flying farmer." Diehl is tight-lipped when it comes to describing Kulp.

"The only thing I can say about him is it's a really interesting act. I hate to give away his show," Diehl said.

More than 30 planes will remain on the ground during the air show, including biplanes, military aircraft, corporate jets, rare planes and helicopters.

Plane and helicopter rides will be offered.

Diehl moved to the Eastern Panhandle recently from Beckley, W.Va., where he worked as the executive director of the United Way for southern West Virginia.

Although organizing the air show has been "quite an undertaking," Diehl said he expects it to be a showcase for the airport and for sponsors who take part.

Attendance is expected to be at least 10,000 to 15,000, he said, with spectators likely coming from the four-state region, along with Delaware, Ohio, Tennessee and Kentucky.

Future annual air shows in Martinsburg could be even larger. Air shows that feature acts like the Blue Angels typically attract 75,000 to 200,000 people, Diehl said.

"Air shows are the most attended event in the country after football," he said.

Putting on the show will cost more than $100,000. Enough has been raised so far to pay for the booked acts, but Diehl hopes to obtain additional sponsorships and partners to schedule more acts.

While this is the first air show Diehl has organized, he is no stranger to what happens during them, having attended a few as a spectator.

"Anytime that I have an opportunity to see a plane in flight, I always take a second to take a peek at it," he said. "It still amazes me that we can fly."

The Herald-Mail Articles