It's a plane!

September 21, 2008|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - It looked as if things were going to end badly for Charlie Schwenker Saturday afternoon as his airplane careened toward the ground, turning over and over in jerky loops.

But at what seemed like the last possible moment, Schwenker pulled back the control column and the plane lifted toward the sky in a slow, graceful arc.

While it might have looked dangerous, Schwenker insisted afterward that the aerobatic stunt, one of many that he did during an air show at Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport, was perfectly safe.

"I have great control," Schwenker said. "These planes are built to do these kind of tricks."

Schwenker was one of about 10 pilots participating in this year's Spirit of America Over Martinsburg Air Show, which benefits the United Way.


The air show drew thousands of people, most of whom split their time between the performances, food vendors and aircraft on display in the airport's yard.

Some people set up folding chairs in the grass, others laid blankets in the shade of a cargo plane's wings and others stood and watched.

"It's awesome to watch these planes do some of the things they do," said Eric Martin of Hagerstown. "Some of this stuff is crazy."

When Schwenker ended his performance, Walt Pierce and his Wing Walkers, Jenny Forsythe and Nicole Hansen, prepared to take off.

As the plane headed toward the runway with Forsythe and Hansen hanging on the wings, 7-year-old Michael Kane watched in awe.

"Are they going to be OK, dad?" Michael asked as the plane prepared for takeoff.

"They'll be fine. Watch them," said Michael's father, Russell.

Minutes later, Pierce's plane was roaring through the air with the Wing Walkers balancing on top.

On the other side of the airfield, 3-year-old Ashley Green pointed toward Bob and Chris Baranakas' World War II-era planes parked at the side of the runway.

"There's a plane, daddy! Right there!" said Ashley, pointing with one hand while clutching a miniature American flag in the other.

"I'd say she's pretty excited," said her father, Greg Green.

Green said he grew up flying radio control planes and going to air shows in the Midwest.

"I'm one of those people who would have been a pilot if I could see," said Green, who wears glasses.

This year was his first visit to the air show in Martinsburg.

As they walked to another part of the airfield, Ashley spotted another plane.

"There's another one, daddy," she said.

"Pretty cool, aren't they?" Green said.

"Yeah," Ashley said.

If you go

What: Spirit of America Over Martinsburg Air Show

When: Today, gates open at 10 a.m., show from 1 to 5 p.m.

Where: Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport, south of Martinsburg, W.Va.

Cost: $15; free for ages 11 and younger

For information, call 304-263-2106 or go to

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