With aerobatics above and explosions below, Dayton Air Show aims to please

Air Force Thunderbirds and much more wow crowds at Dayton International Airport

With chest-thumping, window-rattling performances, the 49th edition of the CenterPoint Energy Dayton Air Show Presented by Kroger aimed to please a large crowd Saturday.

Highlights included performances by a B-25 bomber and a MiG-17 (complete with ground explosions), Kevin Coleman’s Red Bull aerobatics, the Hot Streak Jet Truck (on the ground), the C-17 Globemaster III Demonstration Team and much more.

As one of the show’s announcers put it early in the afternoon: “An airshow without pyrotechnics is just another fly-in.”

Tera Nelson and Dale Spencer from Glouster, Ohio, were ready to have fun.

“We try to come every year because we love it,” Nelson said.

“It’s because her father loves airplanes,” interjected Spencer, Nelson’s father.

Andrew and Makayla Van Auken, from Winamac, Ind., made the nearly four-hour drive to Dayton in part for their four-year-old son, already an aviation enthusiast, although too small for the helicopter rides, which started well before the flag drop.

Andrew was impressed with the Navy Blue Angels flight demonstration team at last year’s show, so he returned to see the Air Force Thunderbirds this year.

And not just the Thunderbirds. “The Red Bull stunt planes are pretty cool,” Andrew said.

When gates to the show grounds at Dayton International Airport opened shortly after 9 a.m., visitors immediately were greeted with a pair of F-35As, one of the Air Force’s fifth-generation fighters, noted for their stealth, advanced electronics, sensor capabilities and overall lethality.

It’s the Air Force’s premier stealth platform on a fighter, said Capt. Ross Kohler, from Luke Air Force Base in Arizona.

“Really, where the capabilities come in is the fusion,” Kohler said. “It has a lot of different sensors on the airplane. It takes all of that information into a bunch of computers and it fuses that into very easy-to-understand information for the pilot. And then on top of that, the stealth capabilities, our abilities to just go in to places and basically no one knows we’re there.”

America’s other fifth-generation fighter, the F-22 Raptor, was also on Saturday’s agenda for a demo.

A C-17 from the 445th Airlift Wing at Wright-Patterson Air Force was another popular “static,” or ground-based, display, with hundreds of people swarming about and through it, and more than a few waiting in line to climb the ladder into the plane’s cockpit.

What makes the C-17 awesome? Just ask Staff Sgt. Jacob Peterson, of the 445th.

“I would say its ability to take cargo anywhere and everywhere,” he said. “I mean, it can land on dirt strips. It can land on normal paved runways. You can take a load of paratroopers and everything they need.”

“This thing can take everything you need to conduct operations on a small island, off-load it, get the job done, reload everyone and all their equipment back up, take off and go back home,” he added. “It’s agility — rapid mobility and agility.”

Early birds

More than two hours before gates opened Saturday, the entrance was thronged by photo tour participants and even the first general admission ticket holders.

John Hilt, of St. Louis, was the first person waiting in line Saturday, sitting in a folding chair on the airport’s east end just outside the gates at 6:36 a.m.

“I’m an early bird, always an early bird,” Hilt said. “I want to make sure I’m in the right place.”

This is his fourth air show this year. But he expects the Thunderbirds’ headline performance to make the Dayton show special.

Air show officials have asked visitors to arrive early to avoid the traffic problems that froze traffic on Interstate 75 around the Northwoods Boulevard exit last year. Andrew Anderson, also an early general admission guest, took that admonition seriously.

“We’ve been wanting to be, not necessarily first, but we’ve been wanting to get in early for a while now,” said Anderson, 37, of Vandalia. “We heard it’s a sold-out show. We’re excited for today.”

However, the show is not sold out, a show spokeswoman emphasized early Saturday. Anyone can still get tickets at DaytonAirShow.com or at Dayton- and Cincinnati-area Kroger stores.

Anderson was on hand with his uncle, Gerry, a Harrison Twp. resident.

“We like the people. And the planes,” said Gerry, who said he will attend both days of the show, Saturday and Sunday.

“I’ve been coming here, oh, since the early 70s. I’ve been coming here since I was a kid,” he added. “I’ll keep coming.”

Large crowds

Crowds appeared strong, but a show spokeswoman declined to offer preliminary figures. Show producers typically do not offer attendance figures until the Monday following the weekend show.

The show continues Sunday, with gates opening at about 9 a.m.

The Air Force Thunderbirds’ F-16 Fighting Falcons are the headline act, slated to fly at about 3:30 p.m. (weather permitting), and they will be preceded by the Red Bull Air Force, offering their brand of highly-coordinated aerial jumps, Red Bull aerobatic flier Kevin Coleman in his Extra 400 LX aircraft and the Air Force F-22 Raptor Demo Team.

Fans can look forward to the U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute team, the Navy Rhino Demo Team and dozens of ground-based static displays.

Tips for attending the Air Show: General admission parking passes should be purchased in advance. Parking passes per car are priced at $15, and RV and bus parking is priced at $25.

The general admission parking lot is accessible from I-75 exit 64 at Northwoods Boulevard. Stay in the right lane and look for signs directing you to the general admission lot.

Hoping to stave off last year’s traffic headaches, air show producers are asking patrons to arrive early.

For Chalet, Flight Line Hangar and Pavilion ticket holders, parking in a lot off West National Road is included in ticket purchase, and a free shuttle to the show is provided. This lot is accessible from I-70 exit 32 at Airport Access Road. A handicap-accessible lot will be available for attendees with handicap plates or hang tags off of Wright Drive accessible from I-75 exit 64 at Northwoods.

Directions and more information on the show can be found at https://daytonairshow.com/.

About the Author