Air show boasts large attendance

Posted by Cody Holyoke - bio | email

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - From death defying stunts, to the wartime explosions, to the games on the ground,  the 'Thunder over Alabama' air show had it all--including the crowds.

"We're estimating between 80,000 and 100,000 people over the two days, and I think that's going to be fairly conservative," explained Lieutenant Colonel Bud Mahan, the air show's director.

Visitors from across the Southeast came to Maxwell Air Force Base for a chance to witness aviation history--and its future.

"Any chance we get to come to an air show, and show the taxpayers what they're spending their money on--and do some recruiting, we're going to take that chance," said Major John Echols, an F22 Raptor pilot.

Pilots acknowledged the importance of flight in Montgomery--especially on the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Wright brother's flight school.

They say showing people--especially kids--the beginnings of manned flight is an important tool.

"The whole idea of [the Wright flyer] is to motivate kids to get interested in aviation and other things.  It's to motivate them to be interested and try to innovate the kids of things the Wright Brothers did over 100 years ago," explained Alan Wolfson, president of USU Wright Flyers of Ohio.

The interest pays off.  Plus, having nearly 100,000 guests certainly doesn't hurt business in the Capital City.

"It's great for Montgomery, the City of Montgomery. It's good for businesses, the economy," said Irby Jackson of Montgomery.

Even the people flying the planes were impressed.

"This is just a great air show.  I'm excited to be here. I've been on the road for 15 shows, doing 20-something shows a year, and this is one of the premiere air shows," said Tim Weber, pilot of the Geico Extra 300 S stunt plane.

"We've just had such a wonderful group of people around here that support us so well. It's just a pleasure to be able to put on an event like this," Mahan said.

Despite a few problems with traffic congestion, organizers say they hope to reach new heights next time around.

The next air show, they say, could take place in 2 to 3 years.

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