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Power, precision thrill air show spectators

September 25, 2005|By TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.VA.

Sabrina Harmison said her 17-month-old son, Jack, didn't cry over the sights and often loud sounds Saturday at the Spirit of America Over Martinsburg Air Show.

Not even the repeated thunderous roars from an F-16 fighter aircraft were enough to jolt Jack.

"He actually liked it," said Harmison, of Martinsburg. "He didn't cry. I was impressed."

The air show, at Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport, was the first one Harmison attended. She said she probably will return.

"Oh, yeah. Definitely," Harmison said.

Thousands gathered Saturday at the airport for the show. The event continues today at noon, with gates opening at 10 a.m. As many as 30,000 to 40,000 were expected to attend the two-day event.

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Melanie Mastermonico of Bunker Hill, W.Va., whose trip to the air show was a birthday present, said her favorite performance was by Skip Stewart.

"I love it," Mastermonico said.

Stewart had his custom-built plane doing tricks immediately after taking off, then impressed the crowd with his many twists, tumbles and other daring stunts.

On several occasions, Stewart flew nose-down toward the ground and leveled the plane off just feet before touching the runway, then shot back up in the sky.

Another daredevil, Melissa Walker, who was flying with pilot Walt Pierce, climbed from the cockpit while the plane was in the air to the middle of the upper wing.

According to the air show's Web site, martinsburgairshow.com, the wing-walker moves from the cockpit flying at speeds between 75 and 100 mph.

As Walker stood strapped to the wing, the plane picked up speed and flew upside down several times while she waved her hands in the air.

John and Joicey Thew of Kearneysville, W.Va., said they enjoyed the show, especially the F-16.

"I love airplanes and always wanted to come to one, and I have never been to one before," Joicey Thew said.

Several others in the crowd said they had been waiting for the F-16 Fighting Falcon to lift off. When it did, they said it delivered.

The performance caused some spectators to cover their ears, and many cheered during the aircraft's precision maneuvers and ultrafast speed.

"The F-16 was really neat," said Jackie Snodderly of Maugansville.

She attended the show with her husband, Tony, and their 7-year-old son, Matthew.

"It was well worth it," she said.

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