Heritage to Horizon: Legacy of the Great War –A Century of Airpower
Charlie Dunn Maxwell Air Force base has been gearing up to celebrate two historic marks in history, anniversaries that bring to light the importance of not only aviation, but the United States’ efforts in making this country the land of the free and the home of the brave.
To commemorate the 70th anniversary of the U.S. Air Force, founded in 1947, along with the 100thanniversary of the United States’ entry into WWI, Maxwell AFB is hosting a free event on April 8-9, 2017 that is open to all ages of the public. It is sure to be one of the most spectacular air shows the state, or the nation, has ever seen. Traveling to Montgomery all the way from Europe, the French aerial demonstration team, the Patrouille de France, along with the Air Force Thunderbirds, will traverse the sky above Maxwell AFB, captivating and alluring crowds as aircraft replicated from WWI zip, twirl, buzz and leave behind streams of white clouds as they fly through the air, inspiring and aweing the crowd below them. For Air Show Director Colonel Douglas DeMaio, this monumental demonstration serves a passion project, one he hopes will ignite the imaginations of not only adults, but children as well.
"Through this show, we hope to capture the imagination of youth and recapture the fascination of aerospace power in general, DeMaio said. We started this project ten months ago, and I’m learning what this role means. It’s a labor of love, and it’s all we can think about. No one gets any extra pay. It’s simply to bring the U.S. Air Force to the public, and we are really proud to show what we do. There will be a lot of adrenaline and pulse-pounding excitement where not only do the crowds roar, but so do the aircrafts’ engines – loudly. It’s generating nationwide interest, and it should be pretty thrilling.
The event is expected to draw in over 30,000 people, and those in attendance are in for a wild ride. As people look on in wonder, two jet teams will soar through the sky, darting in and out of clouds, making circles while flying upside down and backwards as they whiz beneath the stratosphere. As the Patrouille de France, who have not been to the United States since 1986, travel to Montgomery, DeMaio notes their presence serves as a poignant way to remember this 100th anniversary, while at the same time, allows for relishing in the air show’s breathtaking demonstrations.
"Having two jet teams is almost unheard of, DeMaio said. We want the public to feel the excitement of the U.S. Air Force, feel the optimism and pride, and it’s a show of constant movement, from start to finish. The French have not been here in 31 years, and it’s extremely rare to get a European jet team at your air show. Our primary objective is to recognize the United States’ entry into WWI, and because of this anniversary, the show becomes an international event. The French were our allies at that time, and because of that, we were able to lobby to be able to bring the French here which generates more interest as the excitement builds.
As spectators keep their eyes glued above them, the Patrouille de France, made up of nine Alpha Jet airplanes, will leave crowds curious as to how the pilots magically seem to rocket the through the sky as if being pulled by invisible strings. It’s a unique demonstration altogether, especially given that the Air Force Thunderbirds’ aircraft is part of existing inventory that can be ready within days for actual combat. The event is not only one that will captivate audiences, but it will tug on the heartstrings of people who long for days gone by when aviation and flying were new to us. Michael Ritz, chief of media operations for Air University, encourages people to attend not only to witness something they might never have the chance to see again, but because it also celebrates both military and civilian aviation.
"I believe there is an innate love of aviation for most of the public, Ritz said. It goes back to the 1920’s when people would come out and go absolutely bonkers when they witnessed planes flying. In this show, you’re going to see something you normally don’t see. For the public, it’s an opportunity to meet aircrew and see the demonstration teams from past and present, offering a chance to reflect on the advent of airpower and aircraft development. All types of aircraft which cover 70 years and into the future will be at the event. It’s airpower at its best, and not many people get a chance to see that.
When the Air Force Thunderbirds or the Patrouille de France are not looping overhead, a static show of aircraft will be on display to entice visitors to learn more about past and present achievements in aviation.
"We anticipate having on display several early fighter aircraft representing WWI aviation, including the British Sopwith Camel and French Nieuport. Visitors to the show will also have a chance to see examples of our latest U.S. Air Force combat, such as the F-35 Lightning II, as well as transport aircraft like the C-130 Hercules and C-5 Galaxy, Ritz said.
Both Ritz and DeMaio have high hopes for what the air show will bring to the city. Not only will it be a heart-pounding adventure to witness, but it serves as a nod to celebrate Montgomery –a hub whose links to aviation and military leadership during WWI are never forgotten.
"Montgomery has a very close memory of WWI. Hundreds of men went to fight and die, and this community is inextricably linked to the war. Many men from here fought and died, and Montgomery is the perfect place to celebrate this anniversary. We hope the show and open house becomes one the biggest and most well-attended shows ever. DeMaio said.
Maxwell AFB will secure thousands of parking spots and over 200 shuttles for those who wish to attend.
For more information, please visit www.maxwell.af.mil/AirShow.aspx.