Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Vintage warplanes and more at air show

JOINT BASE The event took five months of planning and will be among the largest ever held at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.

Just to make room for the displays and crowds, the Air Force has scheduled a so-called elephant walk of about 18 massive cargo and tanker aircraft for May 6. They'll taxi onto the runway and take off for other bases.

In their place will be the famed B-52 bomber and World War II aircraft such as the P-51 Mustang, Spitfire and C-47cargo plane, once used to drop paratroopers and tow combat gliders.

Up to a quarter-million people are expected to turn out May 10 and 11 for the 2014 Open House and Air Show, which will include the Air Force F-16 Thunderbird flying team, the U.S. Army's Golden Knights parachute team, and more than 60 aircraft.

"We're opening our gates so people can see what the Department of Defense is all about," base spokeswoman Angel Lopez said. "It's to show America's strength."

Scores of Air Force, Army, and Navy active duty, reserve, and guard members will participate in the show, to be held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. Performances begin at 10 a.m.

"This is the only tri-service joint base in the country to do this," said Lemitchel King, another base spokesman. "It will be a really fun two days."

But a lot of work goes into making it a success. Personnel have to be assigned to security, transportation, and medical duties. Up to 14 ambulances, along with doctors, nurses, and medics will be available, said Senior Master Sgt. Andrea Lee.

"The logistics nightmare has not yet started," said Air Force Capt. Ryan O'Dea, one of the planners.

Some Thunderbirds will arrive Tuesday and rest on Wednesday. Positioning the aircraft will also take time but must not affect the base's daily routine. "The mission will not be stopped by the air show," O'Dea said.

Visitors will enter the Burlington County part of the base - where the show will be held - at one of three gates: on Route 68 and the other two on Wrightstown-Cookstown Road.

They will be directed to parking lots where buses will be provided.

Visitors won't have access to the whole base, said Master Sgt. Christopher Wright of the Security Forces Squadron.

Officials recommend spectators bring earplugs, bottled water, folding chairs, sunscreen, and comfortable shoes. Pets will not be allowed.

The first air show at the base was held in December 1945, displaying the most advanced aircraft of the time: the P-38 Lightning, P-51 Mustang, and P-59 Comet, the first U.S. jet fighter. The biannual event was last held in 2012, when at least 48 aircraft were displayed or used in performance. About 100,000 visitors attended the first day and about 180,000 on the second.

Among aircraft to be shown this year are the Bell UH-1 Iroquois, C-5 Galaxy, and T-1A Jayhawk. The Coast Guard will have a boat on display.

"We take great pains to learn from all events," said Steven Roberston, a civil engineer the planners. "We took the 2012 plan and tweaked it and improved it. There are lessons learned from every event."

For more information, go to www.jbmdlspecialevents.com.

- Edward Colimore

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