As the 2013 air show season draws to a close, it was set to go out with a bang at the Salute America Air Show near Atlanta. The show, held on Oct. 5-6 at the Paulding Northwest Atlanta airport in Dallas, Ga. (airport details can be found on GlobalAir.com) featured a variety of aviation acts. Saturday night’s show included rare twilight aerobatic acts.
Many 2013 air shows were canceled due to the sequester budget cuts enacted earlier this year. The military jets and helicopters often featured at local air shows were in short supply due to the cuts in the defense budget. For the first half of the summer, the Air Force Thunderbirds and the Navy Blue Angels were grounded, prompting the cancellation of many air shows. The Thunderbirds resumed flying in July when the Air Force found money to fund the unit. At Wisconsin’s Oshkosh air show, the FAA charged the Experimental Aircraft Association to operate a temporary control tower at the field.
It is ironic then that the only active duty military aircraft featured at the Salute America Air Show were a pair of Canadian Air Force CF-18 Hornets. A star attraction was the Royal Canadian Air Force Hornet Demonstration Team which performed daylight and twilight routines. A second CF-18 was on hand as a static display.
Although no U.S. military aircraft were present at the Salute America Air Show, the pilot of the Canadian CF-18 unfurled an American flag from his cockpit in a show of friendship as he taxied in from his first performance on Saturday. In a return salute, a Lucas Oil skydiver in an American flag parachute streamed a Canadian Maple Leaf flag from his back later in the day.
Aficionados of World War II aircraft thrilled to a North American P-51 Mustang and Chance Vought F4U Corsair. Both warbirds performed separately and then joined for a formation flight in front of the crowd. The P-51, flown by Stan Musak, is a veteran of both WWII and Korea. Although Corsairs are also famous for their service in WWII, this particular airplane was built in 1945 and served primarily in Korea. The Corsair was flown by Jim Tobul.
The Aeroshell Aerobatic Team also performed in both the daylight and twilight shows. The team, sponsored by Aeroshell, a division of the Shell oil company that produces aviation lubricants and fuels, flies vintage North American T-6 Texans that were used to train military pilots in WWII. The four airplanes wowed the crowd with their coordinated formation aerobatics.
A second aerobatic team to perform was Team Aerostar. The team uses Yakovlev Yak-52s, Soviet-era Russian military trainers. After watching the three Russian airplanes perform, airshow fans could go to the vendor area to get a firsthand look at what it is like to fly formation aerobatics at the AOPA/Redbird Simulator trailer.
There were several solo performers as well. Lucas Oil sponsored Mike Wiskus and his Pitts biplane as well as a team of skydivers. “Skipper” Hyle performed in another AT-6 Harvard, the British version of the Texan trainer. Chuck Coleman flew an Extra 300L and Gary Rower demonstrated another WWII trainer, the Super Stearman biplane. Gary Ward performed in the ultramodern, carbon fiber MX-2.
Another popular performer was Bill Braack in the Smoke-n-Thunder jet car. The car is powered by a Westinghouse J34-48 jet engine that was originally used to power a North American T-2 Buckeye trainer jet used by the U.S. Navy. The 26 foot long car can be driven to almost 400 miles per hour by the engine’s 6,000 pounds of thrust.
During the day show, Braack in the jet car raced Mike Wiskus in the Lucas Oil Pitts. In the evening show, Braack thrilled the crowd with bursts of afterburner in a nighttime speed run down the runway.
The final act of the show was aerobatic pilot and musician Elgin Wells flying his one-of-kind Starjammer. The Starjammer is an aerobatic airplane that is equipped with lights and speakers for a unique after-dark performance that must be seen to be appreciated. A fireworks display followed Saturday’s show.
There were also many static displays for airshow patrons to enjoy. In addition to the Canadian Air Force CF-18, there were two vintage DC-3s. One was in the livery of a classic airliner while the other was a restored U.S. Air Force AC-47 gunship owned by the American Flight Museum. Phoenix Air, a local Georgia company that contracts with the military, also had one of its Learjets on display. Civil Air Patrol recruiters were on hand and a variety of general aviation aircraft that included a Pilatus PC-12, a classic Stinson 108, and Hughes 600N helicopter.
In a normal year, airshows are one of the largest spectator sports in the United States with tens of millions in attendance. Airshow fans can only hope that by next year, the federal budget crisis will have been averted and the 2014 season will see a return of the U.S. military demonstration teams and aircraft that are so popular.
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Originally published on Aviation Examiner