MONROE, N.C. -- At the Warriors and Warbirds Air Show, thousands crowd the tarmac to watch vintage planes fly overhead and do aerobatic stunts. This year, spectators will notice a few more emergency responders, and they’ll be closer to the runways.
That’s the most obvious change at the annual air show following two high-profile crashes at an Reno, Nevada, air race and a West Virginia air show in September.
One of those crashes killed Jack Mangan, a former Air Force pilot who lived in Cornelius. Mangan died while performing with the “Trojan Horsemen” Aerobatic Team at a show in Martinsburg, West Virginia, on September 17th.
Fellow Trojan Horseman Jack Mitchard said the news of Mangan’s death hit him hard.
“The sudden loss of a friend like that can be like a knife in the heart,” said Mitchard. “It really hurt.”
Mitchard is flying his 1957 T-28 this weekend at the Monroe Air Show. It is similar to the plane Mangan was flying when he crashed. He opened the cockpit and talked about the emphasis pilots and organizers place on safety.
"You have to hit the proper place at the air show -- at the right place, at the right speed to do your maneuver, or it isn't going to work,” said Mitchard. “You concentrate on that more than anything else."
And he knows the risks every time he flies low aerobatic twists and turns.
“There’s no room for error,” he said, “and there’s a lot of things that can happen, and things can happen very fast.”
The Federal Aviation Administration regulates air shows, and organizers of the Warriors and Warbirds show said they follow them to a “T.”
“We have the crowd line at 500 feet and a 1,000 feet, and all the emergency personnel we need,” said Bob Yanacsek, one of the organizers. Rules require spectators sit 500 feet from planes who just fly by, and 1,000 feet from planes doing aerial stunts.
Yanacsek said the show added more first responders, and brought them closer to the runways in case of an emergency.
“We’ve never had a problem with the crowd, or a safety issue crop up,” said Yanacsek.
Mitchard is confident that following the rules minimizes the risk for pilots and spectators.
“It’s very safe for the crowds, and it’s also very safe for us,” he said.