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Westmoreland County Airshow to feature world's first single-engine jet fighter

Jeff Himler
| Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, 7:06 p.m.
Jerry Conley's vintage British Vampire jet fighter, at left, flies in formation with a modern Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18 Hornet fighter during a summer 2017 airshow in Ontario, Canada. The Vampire jet is slated to appear at the 2018 Westmoreland County Airshow, set for July 28 and 29.
Courtesy of Jerry Conley
Jerry Conley's vintage British Vampire jet fighter, at left, flies in formation with a modern Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18 Hornet fighter during a summer 2017 airshow in Ontario, Canada. The Vampire jet is slated to appear at the 2018 Westmoreland County Airshow, set for July 28 and 29.

A pioneering British jet will be among aircraft featured at next year's Westmoreland County Airshow, set for July 28 and 29 at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Unity.

It will be the first appearance of a de Havilland Vampire at the annual show, according to Gabe Monzo, executive director of the authority that operates the airport.

In an email to Monzo, pilot Jerry Conley, an Air Force veteran with 35 years of flying experience, noted the Vampire was the world's first single-engine jet fighter.

First developed in 1943, the plane didn't go into mass production until after World War II. It saw regular service with the Royal Air Force beginning in 1946 and continuing during the Cold War.

“It's something most people have never seen,” Conley wrote of the plane.

Conley has presented his aerobatic routine, with smoke effects, at air shows across the United States and Canada — including 15 shows last year and 18 this year.

He flew the Vampire in formation with a Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18 Hornet jet fighter this past summer to help celebrate the 150th anniversary of Canada's confederation.

Monzo said the authority hopes to land a Marine Corps Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft for its 2018 air show lineup. The unusual craft flies like an airplane but has the ability to land and take off like a helicopter.

Monzo expressed his interest when a Pittsburgh-area pilot recently landed an Osprey at the Unity airport.

As plans for next year's show begin to take shape, the authority is, for the second year, offering tickets in advance for VIP seating under a tent.

The tickets can be ordered at palmerairport.com and cost $150 each.

General admission tickets will be available at a later date.

As chance would have it, Monzo said, the 2018 air show coincides with the first weekend of Steelers training camp at Saint Vincent College, just across Route 30.

Though details of the camp have yet to be determined, Monzo said Steelers officials have expressed interest in working with the authority to try to alleviate congestion on Route 30 during that late July weekend.

Monzo said past shows may have occurred during the Steelers camp.

“But not during the first week,” he said.

Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6622, jhimler@tribweb.com or via Twitter @jhimler_news.

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