Flight conditions close to ideal for 2012 Thunder Over the Blue Ridge Air Show

September 15, 2012|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD |
  • Wing walker Jane Wicker performing at this year's Thunder Over The Blue Ridge Air Show in Martinsburg on Saturday.
By Yvette May/Staff Photographer

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — About 10,000 people turned out Saturday for the 2012 Thunder Over the Blue Ridge Open House & Air Show, according to organizers.

More than $13,000 in donations to United Way of the Eastern Panhandle were collected Saturday at the entrance gates, according to spokeswoman Tiffany Lawrence, who noted the support of dozens of volunteers.

“The generosity has been overwhelming,” Lawrence said.

Gates open Sunday at 9 a.m. for the second day of the show at Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport. Admission is free, but organizers encourage a donation of $10 per person.

In the “Kids Village” set up in an aircraft hangar Saturday with his wife and two young sons, Jason Wolf of Martinsburg said he had attended the two prior air shows hosted by the Airlift Wing.

“This right here is what it’s all about,”Wolf said while watching one son bob up and down while suspended from an arching pole that appeared to simulate sky diving.

“They like to walk through the C-5 out there,” Wolf said the large aircraft that is flown by the Airlift Wing on state and federal missions.

Seated in the commander’s tent, retired Col. Richard Sutherland of Martinsburg said he gave his two tickets to the VIP tent to his 14-year-old grandson and his friend.

Sutherland, who retired in 1995 after serving in the Air National Guard for 42 years, was entertained by a jet-powered outhouse that sped down the runway Saturday afternoon.

“Only in West Virginia,” Sutherland said, laughing. “They had the appropriate music on there, too.”

As the brown, red-roofed outhouse zoomed by on a go-cart chassis, show producers played the song associated with the movie “Deliverance.”

The outhouse, dubbed the “Port-O-Jet,” and a school bus that belched out huge flames and smoke are creations of Indiana-based Indy Boys Inc., a motorsports entertainment company that is featured at this year’s show.

Held in partnership with the United Way, the Airlift Wing and Eastern West Virginia Airport Authority for the third consecutive year, the air show offers the Air National Guard the opportunity to thank the community for their support and allow residents the opportunity to understand what the military unit does for the state and the nation, West Virginia National Guard Brigadier Gen. Eric W. Vollmecke said.

“I’m hoping people can take advantage of this nice open atmosphere and go talk to our military members about what they do,” Vollmecke said, acknowledging Saturday’s lower turnout than the past two shows. In 2010, show organizers estimated turnout topped 80,000 over two days.

Last week, guard members with the Airlift Wing returned from a deployment to Rota, Spain, where they had staged and then flew to and from Afghanistan as part of the war mission, Vollmecke said.

With temperatures in the low 70s and bright sunshine, Vollmecke said flight conditions Saturday were close to ideal. The optimal flying temperature is 60 degrees, he added.

While this year’s show lacks a marquee military act, such as the Blue Angels, the U.S. Navy’s flight demonstration squadron, organizers secured the return of aerobatic performers Bill Finagin, Jerry Wells, and Charlie Schwenker.

The 130th Airlift Wing based in Charleston, W.Va., also flew in a C-130 for static display and the Mississippi National Guard flew in a a C-17, Vollmecke said.

An F-16 from Hill Air Force Base in Utah also is part of this year’s show.

The Herald-Mail Articles