Look, up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's a - whole bunch of planes!

Martinsburg Air Show organizers promise high-flying fun

Martinsburg Air Show organizers promise high-flying fun

September 22, 2005|by JULIE E. GREENE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Oh, she floats through the air with the greatest of ease, this daring young lady on the flying ... wing?

Wing-walker Melissa Hawks and pilot Walt Pierce are among 10 flying acts expected to perform Saturday and Sunday at the Spirit of America Over Martinsburg Air Show at Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport.

As many as 30,000 to 40,000 people are expected to attend the air show, organizer and air show Co-Chairman Nic Diehl said.


The rain or shine show starts at 10 a.m. Saturday.

A Chambersburg, Pa., skydiving team will do a parachute jump and stunts around noon Saturday.

The show will feature a ground display of about 100 airplanes, including war birds, antique planes and modern experimental aircraft.

Other flying acts expected are the U.S. Air Force F-16 demonstration team, Viper West; the U.S. Jet Team; stunt pilot Jim LeRoy; aerobatic pilot Scott Gerow in a Pitts Special biplane; the Swift Magic Aerobatic Team; aerobatic pilot Lee Graves in a Pitts biplane; stunt pilot Bill Finagin in a Giles 202; aerobatic pilot Skip Stewart in a modified Pitts biplane; and 80-year-old Charlie Kulp, aka "Silas the Flying Farmer," an aerobatic pilot.

Most of the flying acts are internationally known and have won show competitions, Diehl said.

"It ought to be a lot of fun. It's a really neat family affair," Diehl said.

"When they come out to this air show they're going to see a vast variety of airplanes. They're going to see airplanes that are several decades old and they're going to see ... experimental aircraft that are brand new designs," Diehl said.

Some of the aircraft, such as the military planes, cost millions of dollars to build, he said.

Some of the antique planes are rare, with only 20 or 30 such planes in existence, he said.

Visitors will be able to actually touch, feel and walk through some aircraft, including a

C-5 expected to be flown in from Dover, Del.

The C-5 is the huge cargo jet that the 167th Airlift Wing of the West Virginia National Guard plans to fly into and out of Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport as early as 2007, Lt. Col. Roger Sencindiver said. The

C-5 can haul six times the amount of cargo flown by a C-130, which the guard now uses.

The air show will have food and merchandise vendors selling Texas beef barbecue, hamburgers, hot dogs, nachos, T-shirts and more. There will be a beer garden, rides and children's activities, Diehl said.

Airplane and helicopter rides will be available for a fee before and after flying acts.

Diehl said the air show is the brainchild of Bill Walkup, airport manager and administrator; George Smith, owner of Aero-Smith; and Bill Finagin, a retired admiral from Annapolis.

After about 65,000 people attended an Air National Guard-sponsored U.S. Thunderbirds show in 1992, there's been a desire to do another local show, Walkup said.

An attempt by an out-of-state group to hold an air show at Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport last year failed. Then fate intervened, according to Walkup.

Finagin, on his way to the world's largest air show in Oshkosh, Wis. in July 2004, had to stop at the Martinsburg airport to dodge thunderstorms.

Finagin heard about the attempt to organize an air show and said locals should try organizing one and with his air show and military connections, he would help.

Then the need arose for a sponsor coordinator.

Diehl, who has experience with the United Way, got involved when his wife ran into Walkup and Smith at the airport.

Walkup calls finding Finagin and Diehl "a fortunate twist of fate."

Tickets for the show cost $10 in advance and $12 the day of the show. Ages 11 and younger get in free. Parking is $5.

Some ticket proceeds already have been donated to United Way of Berkeley & Morgan Counties and their agencies, Diehl said.

After the show, a portion of the proceeds will be donated to Hurricane Katrina victims who are relocating to West Virginia, Diehl said. The money will be funneled through the local United Way chapter; no administrative fees will be taken out of the donation.

The air show has more than 50 sponsors with Hunter Company of West Virginia and Charles Town Races & Slots as major sponsors.

Plans are already in the works for an air show next year.

If you go ...

WHAT: The Spirit of America Over Martinsburg Air Show

WHEN: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 24, and Sunday, Sept. 25.

WHERE: Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport near Martinsburg, W.Va.

COST: Advance tickets cost $10; ages 11 and younger are free. Day of show, adult admission is $12. Buy tickets at Martinsburg Mall, Berkeley County Chamber of Commerce, ROCS Food/Gas Marts or online at Parking is $5. Park between Tiger Aircraft and Sino Swearingen Aircraft Corp.

DIRECTIONS: Take Interstate 81 south to West Virginia exit 8 for Tabler Station Road. All traffic using this exit will be directed to air show parking, turning left on U.S. 11 north and turning right on Novak Drive. At some point in the day, the traffic direction will be reversed with all traffic heading one way in the opposite direction. The Maryland and Virginia highway departments will have signs along I-81 directing people to the air show.

MORE: For more information, go to There will be a security checkpoint. Coolers are not permitted.

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