Lackland Air Force Base, Texas –
Roaring jets, thunderous pyrotechnics and throngs of people weren't the only tell-tell signs Lackland's AirFest 2006 was under way Saturday and Sunday. There were military working dog demonstrations, displays showcasing some of the top weapons systems and vehicles from all of the services, virtual reality games, the smell of midway foods and heavy recruiting from all the branches.
"It's fantastic," said self-proclaimed Navy brat and air show fanatic Butch Ruby from San Antonio. "It's never a letdown."
An estimated 250,000 people filled the flightline during the two-day event. They were treated to air and ground displays ranging from the historic B-25B Mitchell, one of the America's most famous airplanes of World War II, to the F-22A Raptor, the Air Force's newest fighter aircraft.
But it wasn't all a display of military might. Otto, the performing helicopter, played with a 75-pound yo-yo while in flight and made smiley faces with his smoke trail.
John Klatt rolled his Staudacher-300D, seemingly just hundreds of feet off the ground.
The Air Force Reserve Jet Car, sometimes exceeding speeds of 400 mph, raced against in-flight aircraft.
"It's been really enjoyable," said first-time attendee to a Lackland air show Angie Hernandez of San Antonio. "The kids were a little scared by (the explosions of the) Tora! Tora! Tora! (demonstration), but it's been great." Tora! Tora! Tora! is a Peal Harbor attack re-enactment.
Ms. Hernandez said she was especially happy with the way Lackland treated its guests, citing the free shuttle service as a definite crowd pleaser. While the air show concluded each day with the precision aerobatics of the Air Force Thunderbirds, the event had a distinct joint partnership flavor.
"We wanted to show San Antonio that we are one military family," said Brig. Gen. Darrell Jones, commander of the 37th Training Wing. "So not only did our guests witness the awesome skills of the top Air Force precision demonstration team, they got to see the top jump teams from the Army and the Navy.
They were able to see and touch equipment from the Marines and the Coast Guard. I hope we gave the local community a better understanding of who we are, both as an individual service and as part of the whole Defense Department, and how we are going about protecting their freedoms."
Although low cloud cover required modifying some acts and cancelling others during the weekend, the rain held off until after the gates had closed on AirFest 2006.
Lackland conducts an air show every two years.