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Lynchburg Regional Airshow preps for Blue Angels, other performances

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The Blue Angels perform during the Lynchburg Regional Air Show at the Lynchburg Regional Airport in Campbell County, Va. on May 21, 2011.
The Blue Angels perform during the Lynchburg Regional Air Show at the Lynchburg Regional Airport in Campbell County, Va. on May 21, 2011.
In this May 21, 2011 file photo, the Blue Angels perform during the Lynchburg Regional Air Show at the Lynchburg Regional Airport.
In this May 21, 2011 file photo, the Blue Angels perform during the Lynchburg Regional Air Show at the Lynchburg Regional Airport.

For a weekend this spring, the Lynchburg Regional Airport will become an aviation theme park of sorts, entertaining tens of thousands with elite air squad demonstrations, flight simulations and even an air drop of candy.

It’s been five years since the last Lynchburg Regional Airshow, when the Blue Angels’ barrel break-out maneuver came in too low to the ground and resulted in a temporary stay of performances by the U.S. Navy’s elite flight demonstration squadron and the resignation of its commander.

In addition to the Sunday demonstration being cut short that year, crowds were so hot that an airport fire truck hosed them down. Attendees were reported to have waited up to three hours for a shuttle to the airport.

This year, the May 21-22 air show will be a step ahead, said Dave Young, president of Freedom Aviation, who has a hand in organizing the air show.

“The challenges that we had in 2011, as far as transportation and parking, will not exist in 2016. Here’s why: the majority of the parking for the attendees is going to be on the airport,” Young said.

Young formerly was the dean of the Liberty University School of Aeronautics. He also served 29 years in the Air Force, where he lived everywhere.

“I tell my wife – I think it was 31 kitchens,” he said. “We were all over the country and all overseas.”

Of the roughly 35 air shows the Blue Angels are performing in this year, Young said he believes “this is going to be one of the best air shows in the country with the performer lineup with that we have and the other offerings.”

The Blue Angels’ F/A-18 Hornets, reaching speeds just below breaking the sound barrier, will perform.

Fat Albert, a $30 million military transportation vehicle with four engines, also will display its feats.

In a recreation of history, a C-54 that helped with the round-the-clock airlift to provide supplies to Berlin after World War II will make a pass over the airport.

Just as it did more than half a century ago, it will drop candy from the skies for children.

“It became known as the candy bomber,” Young said.

Events also will lead up to the weekend air show.

F/A-18 simulators will be available at the airport, for a price.

A 40-foot trailer will feature historical displays about the Tuskegee Airmen, the informal name of a division of African-American military pilots who fought in World War II.

With the theme of “Salute to Service” this year, a portion of the proceeds will go to a veterans group.

“In 2011, out of our show proceeds, we donated $25,000 to Children’s Miracle Network to outfit a room in the pediatric ward in Lynchburg General Hospital,” Young said.

Five years ago, 32,000 people bought tickets to the Lynchburg Regional Air Show. This year, officials estimate 40,000 could attend.

“There was probably a smattering of people from all over the country” at the last air show, said Mike Davidson, a member of the Lynchburg Regional Airport Commission.

“(The air show) appears to be shaping up pretty good,” he said.

For the air show to work, it takes close to 600 to 700 volunteers, Young said, and he encourages others to join.

More Information: Lynchburg Regional Airshow website: http://www.lynchburgairshow.com

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