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Robins air show, open house shaping up as ‘best ever’

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE — Middle Georgians seeking an aerial demonstration fix need to mark their calendars for the first weekend in May.

Robins Air Force Base will open to the general public May 2-3 for daylong agendas featuring the nation’s finest demonstration teams.

Top billing for the free show — likely to draw close to 200,000 people that weekend — will go to the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds. The world’s premier precision aerobatic team flies red, white and blue F-16s often inches apart at 400 miles per hour. Sharing top billing will be the U.S. Army parachute team, The Golden Knights, celebrating its 50th year of national and international skydiving excellence.

Maj. Dan Badia said this year’s show could be the best in Robins’ history.

“It will certainly set the bar for future air shows,” said Badia, the aerial events coordinator and an F-15 pilot in the 339th Flight Test Squadron on base.

Flight operations will begin at 10:45 a.m. both days with Lt. Col. Ed Hamill — sponsored by the Air Force Reserve Recruiting service — flying his Pitt Special biplane. Hamill is an F-16 instructor pilot in the Air Force Reserve.

Sprinkled throughout both days will be the Red Eagle Air Sports team of Talon Eagle biplanes, the GEICO Skytypers and a number of fly-bys and demonstrations featuring an Air Force F-15E, a Navy F-18 and aircraft based or maintained at Robins: C-5, C-130, F-15, a Joint STARS aerial reconnaissance aircraft and an Army Sherpa.

“We’re also trying to get an F-22, a least as a static display, and a B-2,” Badia said. “It doesn’t look like we’ll get an F-22 fly-by, and we’re second on the list for the B-2 bomber. We’re also trying to get a C-17.”

The F-22 is the nation’s newest and best air superiority fighter. The B-2 is a stealthy bombing mainstay capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear munitions. The C-17 is the Air Force’s newest strategic airlifter.

History buffs will have their fill as well. The Dixie Wing of the Commemorative Air Force will re-enact the famous World War II Battle of Midway, a decisive turning point against the Japanese in the Pacific. The Peachtree City-based unit’s show will include a Japanese Zero, an SBD Dauntless and a B-25 twin-engined bomber.

The Sky Soldiers, sponsored by the Army Aviation Heritage Foundation, also will offer a Vietnam War-vintage, four-ship, AH-1 Cobra helicopter demonstration.

“Our flying schedule is already full,” Badia said. “We have a full slate of performers. In fact, we have people asking to be part of the air show and we’re having to turn them away.”

A host of aircraft will be parked on the base’s expansive maintenance ramp for visitors to touch, look into and in some cases walk through.

“We’ll have numerous Air Force and civilian aircraft,” the Robins pilot said, “although we’re still looking for more static displays.”

Agencies seeking display or exhibit space should contact Leslie Fortney at (478) 222-3535. Vendor and concession information is available through Betty Varnadoe at (478) 926-5717. The Robins Web site at www.robins.af.mil offers a complete schedule of open house and air show events.

To contact Gene Rector, call 923-3109, extension 239.

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