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Inaugural Martinsburg air show deemed a success

September 29, 2005|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Nic Diehl knew he'd be looking upward a lot last weekend, but he became nervous Saturday morning when he saw the one thing he was dreading - clouds.

Thankfully, he said, the weather cooperated and the first Spirit of America Over Martinsburg Air Show was a success.

"It went very well," Diehl said Wednesday. "I was very pleased with the attendance, based on the weather and based on the fact that this was our first year."

Between 25,000 and 30,000 people attended the event Saturday and Sunday at Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport, he said.

The show featured 11 flying acts and 70 planes displayed on the ground, including a jumbo Air Force C-5 jet acquired at the last minute.

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Air ahow organizers do not expect to know for a couple of weeks how much money was raised, but Diehl said plans are already being discussed to hold the show again next year.

Admission cost $10 in advance and $12 at the gate, with children younger than 12 admitted free. Parking cost $5.

"I think that we have made enough money to at least secure a couple of big acts for next year," Diehl said, adding that the acts he hopes to book require an early deposit.

Diehl reported seeing several touching moments during the show, including a father and son looking over a red Stinson plane used during World War II to detect submarines.

Diehl said he overheard the father saying that his grandfather fought in the war and was saved when a plane like the one on display spotted a submarine near his grandfather's ship.

On Sunday, a man piloting an F-16 was unable to fly because of a mechanical problem. After apologizing to the crowd, the pilot walked over to a boy in a wheelchair, removed a patch from his uniform and handed it to the boy, Diehl said.

Some changes will need to be made before next year's show, but Diehl said the aspects of the show that need tweaking likely were not noticed by the crowd. Programs were not distributed for several hours and air show organizers only remembered to sell T-shirts on the second day of the show. A vendor also lost power, Diehl said.

Air shows typically tend to become bigger over time, but Diehl hopes to temper such growth.

"There was just so much community there, it was just amazing," he said. "My mission is to keep it a community event."

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