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Published December 17 2010

Fargo AirSho gets ready for big year

Fargo AirSho organizers are predicting a “big year” for the show as the Blue Angels return and the Navy celebrates the centennial of naval aviation.

The AirSho landed the Blue Angels on prime dates next summer, Aug. 13 and 14, thanks in large part to the success of past shows, said Dick Walstad, co-chairman of the AirSho Committee.

The biennial AirSho has hosted the Blue Angels at least seven times in the past 21 years, he said. The pilots do only about 35 shows a year but receive 400 applications from air shows, said Darrol Schroeder, committee co-chairman.

“We’re very fortunate. We’re kind of one of their primary sites,” Walstad said during a news conference Thursday at the Fargo Air Museum.

The Blue Angels’ primary function is as a recruiting tool for the Navy, and the Navy likes to recruit people from this area because of their character and work ethic, Walstad said. The committee also runs an exceptional show, and pilots like the flat landscape, he said.

The Navy selected only 32 air shows in the nation as “Tier 1” sites to mark the centennial of naval aviation. As one of the sites, the Fargo AirSho will receive additional support from the Navy next year.

“This is a big year,” Schroeder said.

Unique to the lineup will be the Horsemen Aerobatic Team, which according to Wikipedia is the world’s only P-51 Mustang aerobatic team. However, at the Fargo show, the California-based team will fly F8F Bearcat fighters led by an F4U Corsair, vintage World War II planes flown by the Navy and Marines Corps.

The Horsemen perform at only six to eight shows a year, said Schroeder, who is friends with the pilots.

“Everybody’s after ’em, and we’re very fortunate,” he said.

Other featured acts will include:

E Greg Poe, who flies the only ethanol-powered plane on the air show circuit, a 400-horsepower MX2.

E Casselton, N.D., native Jim “Fang” Maroney, whose “Super Chipmunk” is known for its end-over-end tumble.

E Minnesota Air National Guard F-16 pilot John Klatt in a Guard-sponsored aerobatic plane.

E Strongman Mark Kirsh, known for his ability to pull a Boeing 767 airliner. (He’ll pull a tractor in Fargo, Walstad said).

Organizers said they’re trying to persuade the Air Force and Navy to bring the F-22 Raptor and F-18 Super Hornet demonstration planes. They also hope that the C-27J Spartan, which will become the Fargo-based 119th Wing’s new mission in 2013, will make a return after a preview visit in October.

AirShow ticket prices haven’t been set, but Walstad said they will be “a bit higher” than in 2009, when tickets cost $20 at the gate or $15 in advance. Rising fuel and insurance costs are behind the price increases, he said.

Walstad projected the AirSho will sell 30,000 to 40,000 tickets. About 400 volunteers will join the 70 member committee to work the show dates, he said.

The AirSho has about a $500,000 budget and has donated about $500,000 back to the community since 1989, Walstad said.

“So, we’re proud of what we’ve accomplished,” he said.

The AirSho has a new website at www.fargoairsho.com.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528