Air Expo takes flight
July 26, 2012
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- The roar of the F-16 Fighting Falcon's engine hit the crowd just moments after the jet passed over their heads. The crackling thunder of the aircraft temporarily deafened thousands of spectators and drowned out all other noise at the 2012 Joint Base Lewis McChord Air Expo.
"I love that!" a visitor yelled to the crowd after the noise passed.
Reactions like that are the reasons JBLM holds the expo every two years. Colonel Wyn Elder, commander of the 62nd Airlift Wing, said McChord Field hosts the event to show civilians just what the American aerial arsenal is capable of.
"We're trying to show them all the different types of aircraft in the inventory so that the public can see all the different types of airpower there are," Elder said.
Headliners of the expo demonstrated different facets of U.S. airpower: the Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, the Thunderbirds; the Army Parachute Team, the Golden Knights; and the civilian operated Patriots Jet Team.
"The American tax payers ... they pay for the space, they pay for all these aircraft, so air shows are a way of saying thank you to the public, but also we open up the base and let them see what we do for a living," Elder said.
What they got to see was a show that included modern and historical military aircraft. Planes and helicopters engaged in a mock Vietnam-style battle, and spectators watched fly-bys of a B-1 and B-2 bomber. A C-17 Globemaster demonstration team showed the capabilities of one of the most common military transport planes -- familiar aircraft on McChord Field.
"These demonstrations are important because it allows us to let the U.S. public see the capabilities of the aircraft we use in the (Department of Defense) on a day-to-day basis," Martin said, "and show off the abilities that the U.S. taxpayers basically provide for us to defend the nation, as well as provide any kind of domestic support."
Planning and running the event required joint Army and Air Force support. Colonel Bruce Bowers Jr., commander of the 446th Airlift Wing, said this was the first airshow since the two installations merged to become a joint base. It was the first in which the Army was the lead service, and as such, was the largest air show the Army ever sponsored.
The event represented a joint-service cooperative effort, with the Air Force providing the airshow expertise, while the Army provided security and coordinated use of infrastructure, Elder said.
That cooperation and its resulting display of military strength, is what made the show great for Tony Sales, executive director of the Lacey Chamber of Commerce.
"Whether they're just in a slow fly-by like the B-52 or in actual demonstrations, their skills and excellence makes me very proud to be an American," Sales said.