Leader Blues

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

TOP STORY >>Record attendance at show

By HEATHER HARTSELL
Leader staff writer

More than 200,000 aircraft enthusiasts — a record — visited Little Rock Air Force Base over the weekend for the 2006 Airpower Arkansas air show. Unfortunately, they won’t be seeing anything but C-130s in the skies over LRAFB for three more years, when the next air show is scheduled to occur. AirPower Arkansas 2006 will be the last air show for at least three years, according to Brig. Gen. Kip Self, commander of Little Rock Air Force Base.

Deputy chief of the 314th Airlift Wing’s Strategic Information Flight, 2nd Lt. Kelly George confirmed that, as of now, the next air show will be in 2009 because of budget restraints and the stress placed on the base for an air show. But that didn’t keep more than 200,000 people from enjoying this year’s show. “We had 165,000 the first day alone,” George said. “Attendance last year was 150,000 for both days; we broke a record. The air show went great; all the feedback we’ve received was that everyone had a great time.”

Young and old alike meandered through the 46 aircraft parked on the flight line, many taking the time to wait in long lines to see the cockpit of numerous planes. Photo opportunities were plentiful this year both with the aerial demonstrations and the static displays. “My father-in-law probably took 140 pictures,” Danielle Pelletier of Austin said. “We walked through the C-130s and took pictures because that’s what my husband flies on. We took pictures in the Chinook helicopter because my brother-in-law flies them.”

The first time to LRAFB’s air show, Pelletier said her family loved it, and her two boys, ages three and four, had to go through every plane there. There were small planes, like the BT-13 World War II aircraft; big planes, like the C-130s; and really-really big planes, like the gigantic C-5 Galaxy; the Air Force even had little one-seater battery operated planes being driven around to help promote the Air Force.

The Army, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard were also all on hand at this year’s show helping to promote their unique services.
Children, and adults too, were awed by the speed of the jets and the precision of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels. “Wow” and “that’s loud” were heard numerous times from the mouths of children during the aerial performances.

“I like the jets the best,” Tammy Stark of Ward, who attends the air show every year, said. “Their speed is just amazing.” The LRAFB 314th Airlift Wing Public Affairs office reported that rumors of a major incident occurring Saturday during the air show were completely false. “There was no such incident,” George said. “We had an asthma attack Saturday near the end of the show, but no major incidents.” While some might have had a long wait getting off base, George said the traffic flow ran smoothly and most people had a relatively short wait.

“It took us two hours to get off base,” Pelletier said. “We sat in one spot for an hour and a half; if it hadn’t been for the fire trucks and ambulances being called, it wouldn’t have taken us long to get off base.” Stark also had delays getting off base, but for different reasons. “We couldn’t find our car when we went to leave, it took us 30 minutes to find where we had parked,” Ashley Holder, who rode with Stark to the air show, said.