Saturday, May 17, 2014

Cape Girardeau Regional Air Festival: Air show attendance meets organizers' expectations

American-Canadian camaraderie was strong Saturday at the Cape Girardeau Regional Air Festival, where a crowd of 12,000 to 15,000 watched an afternoon of fancy flying capped by the Canadian Forces Snowbirds' nine synchronized pilots in red-and-white CT-114 Tutor jets.

The annual festival at the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport, with plenty of vintage airplanes to see and with children's inflatables and concessions available, featured two members of the Golden Knights diving from their black and gold C-31 Troopship on Saturday afternoon.

Streaming red smoke, the first carried an American flag and the second a Canadian flag. Six Golden Knights followed, slowly descending and hitting or nearing a circular target on the runway.

Airport manager Bruce Loy said moderate cloudiness, temperatures in the low 60s and winds under 5 mph had helped bring out the crowd. "We were expecting something in the 12,000 to 15,000 range, and when I looked around it seemed like we were close to meeting that number," Loy said.

"The weather is beautiful, and it should be even better Sunday."

With the Snowbirds waiting as the closing act before the show ended at 5 p.m., Dacy followed the Golden Knights in her souped-up "Big Red" 1942 model Super Stearman biplane.

Dacy looped, rolled and did maneuvers that would have seemingly been unrealistic in a normal aircraft, and Younkin went up in a twin engine Beechcraft Model 18 that the announcer said wasn't designed for the strenuous aerobatics Younkin sent it through.

Patrick McAlee, Paul Stender, the Friends of Jenny, the Aerostars and Michael Vaknin all will demonstrate their talents again Sunday afternoon.

John Amelunke of Gordonville said numerous veterans take part "for the camaraderie and to look at the military displays.

"Most of the aviation advances have been made because of the military," said Amelunke, who served with the Army in Vietnam in 1967 and 1968.

"We're always picking on each other," he said, chuckling. "There were more Canadians who went south to join our military than there were draft dodgers who went north. A number of us fought alongside them."

Billy Thomason Jr. of Marble Hill, Missouri, said for him the festival was a given because he is an aircraft mechanic and Air Force veteran.

"The Air Force taught me to love aviation," Thomason said. "I have never seen the Snowbirds."

Charles Smoot of Cape Girardeau also reported an intense interest. "I like airplanes, period," Smoot said, watching Younkin rumble low over the runway and zoom high into a loop.

"I wanted to be a pilot, but that was something I never could do. I used to build scale models, and I can name almost every plane out here. That's what they called a Beech Bomber."

Referring to a 1950s TV series, Smoot said, "It's the Sky King plane. They built it for the British in World War II, but they didn't want it because it was too slow."

Smoot's wife Annette enjoys the planes but is not an authority.

"I don't know much about them, but I like to look and learn," she said.

The air show continues at 1:30 p.m. today at the airport, southwest of Cape Girardeau off Interstate 55. The Snowbirds will again top a lineup of the Army Golden Knights in their flexible-wing gliders, stunt pilots Susan Dacy, Matt Younkin and others.

The gates open at 10 a.m. Admission is $13.50 for adults and $8.50 for children.

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