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Organizers pleased with air show

September 06, 2010|By DAVE McMILLION
  • Specatators walk through the cargo hold of a C-5 airplane Sunday at Thunder Over The Blue Ridge Air Show at West Virginia Air National Guard base in Martinsburg, W.Va.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer,

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    MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Besides the high-performance planes zooming past in a deafening roar, the two-day Thunder Over the Blue Ridge Air Show at the Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport offered spectators a chance to see planes representing a variety of aircraft ingenuity.

    There was the V-22 Osprey, which takes off like a helicopter, but then flips its rotors forward and flies like an airplane.

    Streams of people on Sunday walked through the belly of a MH-53E Sea Dragon, a helicopter used to search for sea mines, among other assignments.

    A B-25 bomber was on display, along with a fighter jet and the giant cargo planes that are stationed at the airport as part of the 167th Airlift Wing of the West Virginia Air National Guard.

    A lot of effort went into bringing the aircraft to the airport for the air show, and the process of setting them up started Wednesday, said Melissa Shade, spokeswoman for the 167th Airlift Wing.

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Spectators waited in long lines Sunday to walk through some of the planes. Kids posed for photographs inside the aircraft.

Although show organizers first estimated that up to 35,000 people attended the show on Saturday, they revised the Saturday attendance figure to 45,000. The attendance on Sunday was estimated at 40,000, Shade said.

"Everything went as planned, except the wind," Shade said.

Windy conditions prevented the U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute team from performing Saturday, but its members were able jump Sunday, although the last leg of Sunday's performance could not be conducted because of varying weather conditions, officials said.

The team cannot perform in winds moving at more than 20 mph, Shade said.

The V-22 Osprey, one of about 15 airplanes on display at the show, is unusual looking with its rotors pointing straight up like a helicopter. The rest looks like a plane.

The advantage of the V-22 Osprey is that it does not need a runway to take off -- like a helicopter does -- but it can travel twice as fast as a helicopter, according to air show officials and http://www.boeing.com.

When the plane takes off, it lifts up like a helicopter as the rotors remain pointed up. Then the rotors are pointed forward, allowing the aircraft to move forward like an airplane, said Kellen Mollahan, who was stationed by the aircraft Sunday.

Designing the plane took about 20 years and it was put into operation in 2000, Mollahan said.

Besides searching for land mines, the MH-53E Sea Dragon can be used to transport troops and cargo, said Jacob Aldach, who was stationed inside the aircraft as people walked through it. The helicopter, which flies up to about 150 mph, is also used in relief efforts, among other assignments, Aldach said.

The planes sat on display while just a short distance away, the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and other high-performance planes rocketed through the air on the second day of the air show.

The performances, displays and other attractions were a hit for Ike Dodd of Bunker Hill, W.Va.

"Love it. Love it. Great show. Better than it was two or three years ago," Dodd said.

"I'm glad I came. It's pretty wild," said Jeff Moats of Waynesboro, Pa.

Gita Mathieux said it was a relief to come to an event and discover that many of the attractions for kids were free.

"When you go with kids, it's nice to be able to say, 'You can do whatever you want,'" said Mathieux, of Ashburn, Va., who came to the show with her father-in-law, who lives in the area.

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