Leader Blues

Saturday, November 04, 2006

TOP STORY >>Weekend air show

IN SHORT: Air Force flexes military muscle this weekend.

Leader staff writer

Little Rock Air Force Base plans for 150,000 people to pass through the gates during this weekend’s air show.

Last year, more than 150,000 attended the base’s 50th anniversary air show. Temperatures for this weekend’s air show at Little Rock Air Force Base are predicted to be in the mid-60s, with clouds and possible showers on Sunday.

More military aircraft will be on display and performing at this show compared to previous years. The gates for the air show open at 8:30 a.m. and the planes take to the air at 10:30 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.

The Air Force Academy Wings of Blue parachute team opens the show on both days with aerial skills and precision landings. Each member is a qualified jumpmaster and instructor in the Air Force Academy parachuting program.

Following the Wings of Blue is a demonstration of LRAFB’s very own C-130J cargo aircraft, the newest version of the Hercules. LRAFB has seven of the $65 million planes. The C130J is 15 feet longer than previous models. When it is parked, the plane can easily be identified by its uniquely curved propellers.

Afterwards, a native of Arkansas, Mike Rinker will take to the air in “Pink Floyd,” a Russian built Sukhoi SU-26.

The F-16 Viper East Demonstration Team located at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C. will follow Rinker. The F-16 performing at the show is one of the operational fighters from the 20th Fighter Wing.

The Shockwave Jet Truck will be having two performances each day, streaking down tarmac at 300 mph. The modified Peterbilt has a spot in the Guinness Book of World for reaching 376 mph.

A B-52 Stratofortress will fly by just before the Canadian Air Force’s CF-18 aerial demonstration. The CF-18 is similar to the F-18 Hornet used by the Navy Blue Angels. The Canadian version of the F-18 incorporates a sky-blue underside of the fuselage to confuse an opponent in the heat of a dogfight as to which side is up.

John Melby, a former loadmaster from LRAFB, will perform in his Pitts bi-plane followed by an F-117 Nighthawk flyby.
LRAFB’s older C-130s will take part in the show with a cargo drop demonstration by dropping heavy equipment, cargo and approximately 400 paratroopers with the 82 Airborne, Fort Bragg, N. C. The paratroopers will load up and be flown back to North Carolina in a C-17 Globemaster.

Retired Navy pilot Capt. Dale “Snort” Snodgrass will fly a F-86 Sabre with the F-15 East Strike Eagle and F-16 Viper demonstration teams as an Air Combat Command heritage flight.

The Red Baron Pizza Squadron performs in vintage Boeing Stearman biplanes built between 1941 and 1943. The eight planes of the squadron will fly in formation less than a wingspan apart while performing aerobatic maneuvers such as loops, clover leafs, avalanches and barrel rolls.

On Saturday only, a B-1 Lancer bomber will fly over before the E-2C Hawkeye reconnaissance aircraft demonstration.
Melby will take to the skies again, flying low over the tarmac to race the ShockWave Jet Truck just before the F-16 Viper “Fire and Fury” demonstration.

The Navy Blue Angels F-18 Hornet aerial demonstration team is the featured performance for the show, tentatively scheduled to fly at 2:45 p.m. both days. This year has marked the Blue Angels 60th year of performing during air shows. The biggest member of the Navy Blue team is a Lockheed Martin C-130T Hercules, known as Fat Albert Airlines. The plane has jet-assisted take-off (JATO) capability with eight solid-fuel rocket bottles, four on each side, attached near the rear paratrooper doors. Fired simultaneously, the JATO bottles allow the transport aircraft to take off within 1,500 feet, climb at a 45-degree angle, and propel it to an altitude of 1,000 feet in approximately 15 seconds. The Fat Albert joined the Blue Angels team in 1970 and flies more than 140,000 miles each season. It carries more than 40 maintenance and support personnel, their gear and enough spare parts and communication equipment to complete a successful air show.

The Blue Angels demonstration lasts about an hour and a half.

Spectators will also get a chance to get up-close and personal with static displays of both modern and vintage military aircraft and the crewmembers that fly them.

All visitors and their vehicles will be subject to search. Due to security restrictions, recreational vehicles will not be allowed on base. No coolers, pets, backpacks, skates of any kind or large bags are allowed at the air show.

Due to safety concerns, there will be designated smoking areas. Lawn chairs and folding chairs are allowed. For more information about the air show visit www.littlerock.af.mil.