By Karen Di Piazza
“Arizona Days,” held April 27-28, at the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, defiantly had a patriotic theme this year.
Col. Paul Schafer, 355th Wing Commander, pointed out that more than 6,000 dedicated Davis-Monthan Air Force Base military and civil service members welcomed the public.
“This event is a salute to all those who serve our communities—firefighters, police officers, emergency services, military and civil servants—all working in concert in the pursuit of freedom,” he said.
Even though the Thunderbirds weren’t performing this year, cars still lined up along the sides of roads, with people standing on their cars—in spite of the fact that there was no admission fee and plenty of free parking.
Heightened security meant that everyone entered through a metal detector and exited the air show through a separate gate.
Airshow features included a performance by Tim Weber in his Sanmina-SCI.
Watching gliders and tow planes, Weber’s interest in aviation grew and at age 14, he became a line boy at Turf Soaring School in Phoenix.
After soloing in a Schweitzer 2-33 glider, he started flying the single place Schweitzer 1-26 and Blanik L-13. It wasn’t long before aerobatics became his passion and “unusual attitudes” were part of his life. He flew the Yak 55M on the airshow circuit, and then started flying a German-built Extra 300 prior to the 1999 airshow season.
Weber’s routine consisted of tumbles, lomcevaks, torque rolls and other maneuvers choreographed to music that he wrote and recorded for his performance.
Ed Hamill, flying his Pitts, was another aerobatic pilot that aviation enthusiasts enjoyed. Hamill has been in the last three U.S. National Aerobatic Championships.
After watching an F-16 perform at an airshow, he decided to follow his heart and become a fighter pilot. He spent 10 years in the U.S. Air Force, accumulating more than 2,500 flight hours.
Greg Poe flew his Crucial Edge 540, one of the top aerobatic airplanes in the world today. Born in Boise, Idaho, Poe has logged more than 5,000 hours of flight as a pilot, performer, and instructor and is currently an aerobatic competency evaluator.
A former test pilot, he’s flown more than 100 different planes in the past 25 years. He placed second in the 1999 World Freestyle Sportflying Competition held in Stockton, Calif.
Currently, Crucial Technology is sponsoring Poe; he will perform in 20 airshow events around the U.S. and Canada this year. Coverage on his flying has been featured on the History Channel’s “Modern Marvels” as well as “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not.”
If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to parachute out of a plane, just ask a “Leap Frog.” Spectators watched as the 15-man team of U.S. Navy Seals—sea, air and land commandos—formed an amazingly perfect formation. Each member comes to the team on a three-year tour, and then returns to full duty as an operational Seal.
The team began in 1969; it was officially named the United States Navy Parachute Team “Leap Frogs” in 1974. Their mission is to demonstrate naval excellence throughout the U.S.
The “Leap Frogs” are renowned for complex formations and are the only demonstration parachute team in the world to execute the quad-by side formation.
Another attention getter was the F-117A Stealth Fighter, developed and built at Lockheed’s famed Skunk Works plant in Burbank, Calif.