Martinsburg air show readies for takeoff

August 28, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. -- The air space above Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport south of Martinsburg will be cordoned off next month for a two-day air show that organizers hope will be an annual fixture.

"It's a perfect venue for it," said stunt pilot Bill Finagin, who visited Shepherd Field Wednesday to help organizers "tie up all the loose ends" for the Spirit of America Over Martinsburg Air Show.

Finagin, 70, of Annapolis, is one of 11 aerial acts scheduled to take to the skies above the airport on Sept. 20 and 21.

The United Way of the Eastern Panhandle is selling advance tickets for $12 until Friday. Tickets cost $15 at the gate and can be purchased at


A retired dentist, Finagin offers aerobatics and spin training through his company, Dent-Air Ltd. He also is a national dealer of Aviat Aircraft, which are built in Afton, Wyo. He is flying a Pitts S2C manufactured by the company in the show.

Finagin's involvement in the air show came about after thunderstorms forced him to stop at the airport in July 2004 while on his way to the world's largest air show in Oshkosh, Wis. During the stop, Finagin said he heard about the efforts to organize a show in 2005, and offered his connections in the world of aerobatics and military aerial teams.

Airport runway improvements prevented organizers from staging air shows in 2006 and 2007.

In addition to the aerial entertainment for the Martinsburg event, Finagin said there will be "loads" of static military and vintage aircraft on display as well as a "kid's village" this year.

Finagin said parachutists will kick off the show, and the first act - " The Heritage Flight" - will be two fighter planes from World War II - a P-40 and a P-51.

"We've just got a tremendous amount of variety," Finagin said of the lineup.

"We got the inside scoop (on the weather forecast)," Finagin said. "We're all praying for good weather ..."

Finagin said Wednesday that he began flying when he was 17, the minimum age allowed. His older brother, Chester, a fighter pilot in World War II, was a guiding role model, Finagin said.

"It's more addictive than I think drugs would be," Finagin said of his love of flying. "You're independent, you're totally in control of your destiny up there ... No traffic jams ... plus, the scenery is spectacular."

In October, Finagin will be inducted into the International Aerobatic Club Hall of Fame in Oshkosh.

Finagin downplayed the recognition as something he was surprised to receive.

"Apparently to everyone else, it's a super big honor," he said.

Event organizer Nic Diehl said Wednesday that a hot-air balloon launch demonstration will take place Sept. 9 at Martinsburg Mall as well as demonstrations of a couple of power gliders.

Free parking will be available at the airport for the air show, but Diehl said a $5 shuttle service will be available from Martinsburg Mall.

More information on the air show can be found at

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