50th anniversary Dayton Air Show opens with crowds, heat, aerial adventures

‘It’s amazing that we have this in our backyard,’ one spectator said

Hot or not, the CenterPoint Energy Dayton Air Show took flight Saturday at Dayton International Airport, marking its 50th anniversary of turning heads and showcasing flight in some of its most captivating forms.

Shortly after 11 a.m., visitors craned their heads skyward at the traditional singing of the national anthem, as a lone U.S. Army Golden Knight parachutist pirouetted gently to the ground, trailing smoke, with aerobatics pilot Rob Holland circling him nearly all the way to the ground in his carbon MXS-RH plane.

With that, the show officially opened. A full Golden Knights performance was next, with flying starting in earnest around noon. The first performances would come courtesy of a Coast Guard MH-65 helicopter, followed by T-38 and T-35 trainer plane fly-bys, then a demonstration of the mighty C-17 Globemaster.

Gates to the show grounds off North Dixie Drive opened at 9 a.m. to general admission ticket holders, allowing crowds to revel in “static” ground displays of airplanes such as the C-5 Galaxy and the C-17 Globemaster ― from nearby Wright-Patterson Air Force Base — and newer attractions like the F-35 Lightning II.

Andrew Anderson of Vandalia and Gerry Anderson of Harrison Twp. were among the first general admission ticket holders waiting in line early Saturday.

“We were first in line last year, same spot,” Gerry Anderson said from his canvas chair near the show’s main gate.

“We actually come here so we can get a good spot, close to the flight line,” said Andrew Anderson, Gerry’s nephew. “We like to be as close to the action as possible.”

“I’ve loved aviation ever since I was about 9 years old,” he added. “Our dad paid for us to go up in an airplane. I’ve loved airplanes ever since.”

Chris Kurka made the trip to Dayton from Cleveland. He said he was looking forward to the show-capping performance expected from the Navy Blue Angels jet team.

“I just love aviation,” he said.

Jacob Lee, of Centerville, visited the show for the second year in a row. With him was his family, including his parents from Morgantown, W.Va.

Lee said his visit to the show last year was his first, and he was hooked. He knew he had to return this year.

“It’s amazing that we have this in our backyard,” Lee said.

Milena Black, from Cleveland, brought her 24-year-old son Dorian. It was her first visit to the Dayton show.

“We have a good air show, too, on Labor Day weekend,” she said, referring to Cleveland. “But we really wanted to come see this one.”

A trip to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force was also on her to-do list.

Representatives of Joby Aviation Inc., a designer and producer of eVTOL aircraft — electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicles, sometimes called “air taxis” — were also at the show with a simulator trailer, including two single-seater virtual reality (VR) simulators outside the large trailer under a tent.

Users could don the VR goggles and immerse themselves in the experience of flying a nimble (but virtual) Joby electric six-rotor aircraft along a beautiful (but virtual) shoreline. A Dayton Daily News reporter tried it and managed not to crash.

Don Robinson oversees the full-scale Joby simulator, with actual Joby aircraft software, at Springfield Beckley Municipal Airport.

“I had a young gentleman come by,” Robinson said. “He was in a wheelchair. It was awesome to see him fly the aircraft.”

Though based in California, Joby is becoming a familiar name in the Dayton area. The business has purchased a former postal facility at Dayton International to begin eVTOL manufacturing in Dayton.

50th anniversary performances

Aviation shows in the Dayton area go back to spectators watching in awe as the Wright brothers honed their flying skills over Huffman Prairie in northwestern Greene County more than a century ago.

But this show traces its lineage to 1974, when a “General Aviation Day” was held on a Sunday at the Montgomery County Airport, now the Dayton-Wright Brothers Airport in Miami Twp.

By 1975, the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce and the Dayton Aviation Department brought military and commercial aircraft to the James M. Cox International Airport, expanding the event to an entire weekend.

Visitors this weekend were looking forward to headline performances by the Blue Angels flight demonstration squadron Saturday and Sunday afternoons, weather permitting.

They’ll also see the Air Force F-16 Viper demonstration team, based out of Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina; the T-34 Association, making its Dayton debut; the Tora, Tora, Tora! reenactment of the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and much more.

The National Weather Service predicted a high of 96 Saturday, and it was already 90 at noon. The predicted high temperature Sunday is now lower, at 89, with a chance of rain around midday.

Premier Health was on the air show grounds Saturday with a medical care tent, an ambulance and a mobile intensive care unit.

There were air-conditioned RTA and Buckeye Charter buses parked at various spots on the show grounds, as well as mist and spray stations, for anyone who needed relief from the heat and humidity. The show also had a free water refill station located not far from the main gate, near the Sinclair Community College maintenance hangar.

But there were plenty of tips on staying safe in the heat from air show announcer Rob Reiner, who has said he will be retiring after this summer.

Even if you’re a veteran of the outdoors, Reiner advised, apply sunscreen throughout the day and stay hydrated.

“Just do what we do on the announcers’ stand,” Reiner said. “Just stay cool.”

How to go

When: Gates open at 9 a.m. and close at 6 p.m. Sunday. Air show organizers ask visitors to arrive early. Expect large crowds and heavy traffic.

Tickets: Go to daytonairshow.com. There is no call booth. Tickets include general admission parking.

Where: East side of Dayton International Airport: For general admission parking, take the Northwoods Boulevard exit from Interstate 75 and follow the signs.

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