For those who crave to defy gravity and feel the g-forces pulling, the Florida International Air Show in Punta Gorda is an indulgent thrill. Artistic pilots show off their creativity in the sky, from a comedy act by the Alabama Boys, to high flying jets zipping by, synchronized flying, and stunts that make you hold your breath. There’s race cars, motorcycles, and boats on display with even more ways to tempt.
The 36th Annual Show, which is run entirely by volunteers, features so many demonstrations of skill, booths of local businesses giving away promotions that are worth snagging, different types of vehicles to gawk at, bouncing attractions for kids, different craft beers to try, and so many different types of planes to see, that it can almost be overwhelming. The layout changed from last year, as they had to change the flight pattern in hopes of securing more acts in the future; acts like the Thunderbirds and Blue Angels will not take off or land over residential areas, so things like that need to be considered. With the change in layout, there’s more area to fill – which means more area to walk as well.
There were school bus shuttles provided to help get people from parking to the gate (which was a longer walk this year, compared to last year), and there were also golf cart shuttles to get people from the viewing areas back to the main gate. It will be interesting to see what things might be added in the future now that there is more space, and even though there was a little wait for the shuttle, they had the lines moving steadily. More area just means more room for more attractions next year.
This year was the first year they held the FIAS 5K – Run on the Runway Saturday Morning. People could take a helicopter ride and get up close with vintage planes, warbirds, utility and light aircraft. Friday night had twilight performances, as well as fireworks.
The star of the 2012 reality show “Air Boss,” Wayne Boggs has more than 20 years as an Air Boss, working the Chicago O’Hare as a traffic controller, and averaging 18-25 air shows a year: www.airbossconsulting.com . Show Announcer Rob Reider announced his first air show in 1978, and he has been a pilot since 1982.
Military Men and Veterans are heros. This year, the air show recognized WWII veterans Peter Taylor, John Arens, Richard Cembalisty, Robert Haff, James Hicks, Matthew Kostowski, Alfred Parker, and Irvin Yoas. Don “Grumpy” Stamp’s Warbird Review features pilots, veterans and NATA members that honored veterans with the demonstration of the “Missing Man” formation, flying a variety of WWII Aircraft.
Greg Koontz Airshows presented County Comes to Town with the Alabama Boys, a comedy flying act. Clem interrupts the announcer with a flying lesson voucher, insisting it be honored, only to wind up taking off without the instructor, which left grandpa trying to shoot him down. There’s a series of stunt flying that makes you question, followed by a landing at the World’s Smallest Airport.
Scott Yoak, who graduated from Emby Riddle Aeronautical University, has a Surface Level Aerobatic waiver in the P-51 and performs in dozens of shows a year. The Deputy Team Chief for the Black Diamond Jet Team, he flew the “Quicksilver” P-51 Mustang. For the “Class of ’45,” Yoak joined forces with Jim Tobul - who flies a plane that was a ten-year restoration project with his father, a F4U-4 Corsair “Korean War Hero” that was found abandoned in a lime and avocado orchard near Homestead, FL.
Falling from the sky was the United States Army Parachute Team the Golden Knights ( www.goarmy.com/events/golden-knights.html ). Soaring down in black and gold parachutes, the team does formations, such as the diamond formation. The Fokker C-31A Troopship is their primary mode of transportation, as well as a Viking UV-18C Twin Otter Series 400.
From Luke Air Force Base, the F-35 Heritage Flight Team flying the fifth-generation fighter, the F-35A, which produces 43,000 lbs of thrust and consists of a 3-stage fan, a 6-stage compressor, an annular combustor, a single stage high-pressure turbine, and a 2-stage low-pressure turbine.. With more stealth, aerodynamic performance and advanced avionics, the agile, versatile, high performance 9g capable multirole fighter will replace the Air Force’s older fleet of F-16 Fighting Falcons and A-10 Thunderbolt II’s. Electronic sensors of the Electro-Optical Distributed Aperture System (DAS) provide situational awareness for enhanced warnings and day/night pilot vision; additionally, the Electro-Opitcal Targeting System (EOTS) provides precision targeting with extended range detection, as well as long range detection from air-to-air threats, which pilots can see on their helmet’s visor display.
The “Homewrecker” Ford F650 Jet Truck ( www.facebook.com/McCart-Jet-Motorsports )has thrust from three GE J85 turbine engines with afterburners, which is about 18,000 pounds of thrust, which means about 36,000 horsepower in afterburner mode. Going a quarter mile in just over six seconds, McCart Jet Motorsports takes on Redline Airshows in truck versus plane race that clocks well over 200 miles an hour. Redline ( www.RedlineAirShows.com ) is a 2-ship formation aerobatic performance team consisting of Ken Rieder, an aerobatic and multi-engine flight instructor, and Jon Thocker, a pilot retired after 25 years of flying heavy jets to pursue building and flying experimental aircraft.
Each year changes at the Florida International Air Show, as new acts are brought in, and with the new event layout being of a bigger design than before, it will be interesting to see how the event grows next year. Though the annual event changed from March to October, it is still worth seeing. Hop aboard planes, a train car from the holocaust, the Immokalee Seminole Casino and Hotel hot air balloon, brand new Harley Davidson motorcycles, brand new boats, or into any of the other attractions at the Florida airshow, and feel the rush of excitement that fills you, as those little kid dreams turn into reality.
For more information on the International Florida Air Show, visit www.floridairshow.com, www.twitter.com/Florida_Airshow, and www.facebook.com/floridaairshow. For more by Marisa, visit www.lulu.com/spotlight/thorisaz.