Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Thunder Over the Valley had thousands cheering, buzzing

Published: Tue, May 20, 2014 @ 12:00 a.m.

There was a little bit of thunder over the Valley and a whole lot of rain on Saturday, which confined crowds at the Youngstown Air Reserve Station to about half of what had been anticipated, but Sunday was a whole new day.

The sun was out, the few clouds that dotted the sky allowed a wingwalker atop a biplane to emerge even more dramatically or provided a moment of cover for an F-16 flying straight up at 500 mph. Nature, man and machine all conspired to give some 21,000 people who attended Thunder Over the Valley a day they won’t forget.

It was the first airshow at the base of Youngstown’s 910th Airlift Wing in five years and it was worth the wait.

While the Thunderbirds are the main attraction wherever they go, there was more to see and do than anyone could take in during a day or two, with or without the ’Birds.

On the ground there were aircraft, ranging from small to colossus. There were four C-130s, from Youngstown and other bases, including one in aerial spray configuration from the 910th, one in hurricane hunter configuration, and one in aeromedical evacuation configuration. There was a 173-foot long C-17 Globemaster and a 250-foot long C-5 Galaxy. Throughout the day, thousands of people walked through the giant planes, always with an airman nearby ready to answer any questions that arose. During Saturday’s showers, their huge wings provided cover for the crowds.

There were two World War II era bombers, a B-25 and a B-17, which took to the air during the aerial Warbird Parade. That parade also featured a P-51 Mustang and a BT-13 Valiant, a trainer also known as the Vibrator.

Back on the ground there were trainers of other eras, including the T-38 jet and T-6. There was also a KC-135, KC-10 Extender, a C-47, a Lifeflight helicopter and an F-16 Fighting Falcon, similar to the planes flown by the Thunderbirds.

Most of the afternoon Saturday, despite showers, and all afternoon Sunday, aerobatic displays wowed those who had made the trek to the air base. All led up to the takeoff at 4 p.m. of the Thunderbirds. For the next half hour, six F-16s put on a gobsmacking demonstration of speed, precision and daring. The only thing more impressive than the capability of the aircraft was the expertise of the pilots, Lt. Col. Greg Moseley, Maj. Joshua Boudreaux, Maj. Caroline Jensen, Maj. Curtis Dougherty, Maj. Blaine Jones and Maj. Jason Curtis.

Supporting cast of hundreds

But while the performance of the Thunderbirds was breathtaking, it is important to acknowledge the hundreds of people who made the day possible. That includes staff at the airbase, reservists, volunteers, exhibitors, military units on the ground and more than a dozen other aerial performers, R/C plane demonstrators and, of course, the U.S. Air Force Drill Team. The weekend would not have been possible without the Youngstown Air Partners and dozens of sponsors that included community groups, companies large and small and individuals.

The only sour note came for some at the end of the day as thousands of people left the grounds through two gates, and those who left by the main gate stood and watched while every bus passed them by, having been filled with people who exited from a gate farther west on King Graves Road. After about 45 minutes, a military policeman took command, and buses began to be diverted to the waiting passengers.

When the airshow was last held in 2009, parking was available at the airport. This year shuttle buses provided the transportation, and some bugs will have to be worked out of the system the next time.

With luck, and a lot of hard work, that could be as soon as two years from now, although catching the Thunderbirds again might be a longshot. The team is in high demand, especially after being grounded much of last year because of sequestration cuts. This year they are scheduled for 66 performances in 26 states and demand far exceeds availability.

Source:  http://www.vindy.com

No comments:

Post a Comment