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John Lamb, Published August 23 2009

AirSho soars once again

After a mostly cold and dreary summer, the sun shone of the Fargo AirSho on Saturday.

Under partially cloudy skies and with temperatures in the mid-70s, the aviation event took flight its first day at Hector International Airport.

The Fargo AirSho continues today.

The event allowed pilots to show off what they and their planes were capable of. It also gave flight enthusiasts and the mere curious a chance to see some planes up close, inside and out.

The mammoth C-5 Galaxy, a cargo plane that raises its nose and drops open in the back to allow more than 200,000 pounds of freight to be carried in its 140-foot-long cargo bay, dropped many a jaw as visitors walked through the plane’s belly.

But for the most part, the wow factor was up in the air.

Featured flyer Jim “Fang” Maroney delivered cheers as he showed off aerial acrobatics like his signature end-over-end tumble in his Dehavill and Super Chipmunk. A Casselton, N.D., native, Maroney went on to lead the Happy Hooligans before retiring in 2002.

Not to be outdone, John Mohr showed off his moves in a restored 1943 Stearman bi-plane, which would swoop so low to the ground, audience members lost sight of it behind standing fans up front.

“Good thing they mowed the lawn,” the narrator said after one drastic dip.

If Maroney and Mohr were the daredevils, Patty Wagstaff was the sole she-daredevil.

Wagstaff cut a ribbon suspended between two poles 20 feet off the ground with her propeller. An impressive feat made all the more remarkable by the fact that she did it flying upside down.

While Wagstaff was the only female pilot in the air, one of the all-female crew from an A-10 Thunderbolt was on hand to talk about the jet designed for ground support.

Fighter planes from different decades drew cheers from a crowd that was even more varied in age.

“It’s a P-51 Mustang,” shouted Vander Dean as he pointed to the plane zipping across the sky. The 9-year-old was born more than 50 years after the single-seat fighter plane made its mark in World War II.

Though they could see and hear much of the commotion from their north Fargo home, Dean and his father, Peter, came to see the action up close.

“I was nervous when I came,” the younger Dean said, adding that he wasn’t sure the Blue Angels would live up to his expectations. “But I’m having a great time.”

In one hand, the 9-year-old held a toy Chinook helicopter and in the other a pair of noise-reducing earphones.

And no part of the show delivered bang for the buck like the six F/A-18 Hornets flown by the Blue Angels.

The Pensacola, Fla.,-based United States Navy and Marine Corps ambassadors closed the show just before 4 p.m. with the Delta formation as U2’s hit “Beautiful Day,” blasted out of the public address system.

Streaking across the sky at up to 300 miles per hour, the group flew different patterns, like diamonds, rolls and turns in dramatic, and loud, fashion.

For those seeking shelter from the air-powered thunder, MeritCare’s Quiet Zone Mobile Hearing Conservation Unit was on site to offer sound-retardant rooms and 200 free earplugs, which disappeared fast, said MeritCare’s Chuck Ulrich.

AirSho officials hoped crowds would reach 20,000 each day, but staffers didn’t know attendance numbers after Saturday’s performance. One staffer said the first day was the “biggest one yet.”

In 2007, the last time the show was held, bad weather limited the show to 25,000 people over two days.


If you go


Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533