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Air show to temporarily displace some residents south of airport

Thunderbirds and Navy F-18 Demo Team to perform in United Way fundraiser

April 06, 2010|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

o 'Hometown Heroes' contest offers opportunity to fly with The Thunderbirds

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Residents of about 80 homes south of Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport will be invited to be "special guests" at the Thunder over the Blue Ridge Air Show on Labor Day weekend at the airfield.

Even if they decline the West Virginia Air National Guard 167th Airlift Wing's invitation to the show, the residents will not be allowed on their property for about an hour while the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds (www.airforce.com/thunderbirds) and Navy F-18 Demo Team perform, Airlift Wing commander Col. Roger Nye said Tuesday in a press conference.

"Whenever we have an air show ... we have to sterilize certain areas on the ground" to comply with Federal Aviation Administration safety requirements, Nye said.

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The Thunderbirds, along with the Army's Golden Knights parachute team, are headlining the two-day air show, which is expected to draw 60,000 to 80,000 people Sept. 4 and 5. The show is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and coincides with an open house for the Airlift Wing's base.

Nye said the open house will offer the community an opportunity to see the more than $280 million in improvements at the base, which has undergone a mission conversion with the arrival of C-5 aircraft.

"It is an opportunity to really show the community what we have here out at the Air National Guard," Nye said.

The area to be cleared for safety reasons is called a "show box," and the box for the Thunderbirds -- 6,000 feet by 8,000 feet -- will be an even bigger area than what is needed for other acts in the show, Nye said.

The Airlift Wing partnered with the United Way of the Eastern Panhandle and the Eastern West Virginia Airport Authority to form Thunder Over the Blue Ridge Inc., a nonprofit corporation, to make the show possible.

Airlift Wing Vice Commander Brian Truman, who is chairman of the organization's board, said the air show and open house are free, and there will be no charge for available parking, but organizers are asking for a $10 donation at the gate.

Most of the spectators will be shuttled to the airport by buses for the show, officials said.

Donations will be tax-deductible. After bills are paid, any proceeds will be donated to the United Way, Truman said.

"If we can make this air show a success, then we can give back to the community through the United Way, and that's something's we're all pretty excited about," Truman said.

In addition to the Thunderbirds, Golden Knights and F-18 Demo Team, board member Lt. Col. Stuart W. Brown said civilian acts will include air show pilots Bill Finagin, Jerry Wells and Scott Yoak. Finagin performed at the 2008 Spirit of America over Martinsburg show.

"We have a very robust list of performers and we're also looking to include a few more before the show," Brown said.

On the ground, two of the Airlift Wing's C-5s will be open for touring, and military aircraft from other units also might be on hand, depending on the budget, Nye and Brown said.

Additional civilian acts will be particularly dependent on sponsorships, officials said.

Nic Diehl, vice chairman of the board, said they have 20 sponsors for the show and would like to have "at least double that." Sponsorships range between $500 and $50,000.

Because of the economy, Diehl said they were "quite concerned" when they started planning the show.

"But we have had several businesses step up and say, 'Yes, we'd like to support this.' And we've actually had several local businesses that have called us and said, 'We want to do whatever we can to support this great event,' so we are hopefully optimistic that we going to be able to at least exceed our sponsorship levels from ... two years ago."

Diehl said they would like to raise more than $90,000 in sponsorships. A little less than $90,000 was raised two years ago for The Spirit of America over Martinsburg Air Show and that show cost about $160,000, said Diehl, who played a leading role in organizing previous airshows.

Diehl said the event offers businesses a great opportunity for exposure, given the turnout expected.

"We have companies planning on using the air show as their company picnic," Nye said.

Aside from business sponsorships, Diehl said they will be selling a limited number of tickets to the Friends of the Airshow Chalet, which will offer choice seating, food and drinks for $20 each. Companies will be able to have their own chalet by becoming a sponsor, Diehl said.

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More information about the Air Show is on the Internet at http://www.martinsburgairshow.com/

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