Westmoreland County Airshow set to take flight
It’s not easy for Gabe Monzo to choose which one of the featured aircraft at the Shop ‘n Save Westmoreland County Airshow May 25-26 is the main attraction.
“The main attraction is aviation,” says Monzo, executive director of the Westmoreland County Airport Authority, which operates the Unity airport and stages the annual air show.
In his 21st year involved with the popular event and his 36th year working at the airport located across the road from where he grew up, Monzo says the Westmoreland County Airshow “gives the public that is not associated with an airport or airlines a chance to get up close and personal and understand what aviation is, from all aspects. From ‘Tora! Tora! Tora!’ to the F-16s, it gives a great overview of the history of aviation. That’s the main reason for the show.”
He says an estimated 100,000 people typically visit the air show during its two-day run, which takes place this year over the Memorial Day weekend.
Among the featured performances will be:
Pearl Harbor reenactment
“Tora! Tora! Tora!” is an aerial act presented by the Commemorative Air Force, a nonprofit organization based in Dallas, Texas, that is dedicated to flying and restoring World War II aircraft. Its show, which recreates the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, on Dec. 7, 1941, that propelled the U.S. into World War II, features explosive ground effects and replica aircraft.
“This year in particular, it will be advantageous to come and watch the show from the main apron, rather than a yard or hillside outside the field,” Monzo says. “‘Tora! Tora! Tora!’ promises to be visually stunning for those who are front and center.”
To accompanying narration, “aircraft will be flying overhead in multiple patterns,” according to program spokesman Bill Mount. “You have fighter aircraft, torpedo bombers and dive bombers all criss-crossing and occupying the same space.”
The finale is a 1,000-foot wall of fire that Monzo says is “truly a spectacle.”
Canadian Forces Snowbirds
Another featured attraction will be an aerial performance of formations and maneuvers by the Canadian Forces Snowbirds, whose mission is to demonstrate the skill, professionalism and teamwork of the Canadian Armed Forces. Based near Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, the Snowbirds are the first Canadian air demonstration team to be designated as a squadron.
The Snowbirds have participated in shows and flyovers across North America for 48 years. The team features members of the Canadian Armed Forces and National Defence Public Service employees.
P-51 Mustang Fighter
Featured at the Westmoreland County Airshow in place of the previously announced P-40 Warhawk will be the P-51 Mustang Fighter, a veteran of World War II and the Korean War.
The P-51 Mustang originally was designed as a medium-altitude fighter airplane for the British Royal Air Force, but it became a long-range escort fighter for the U.S. armed forces. An estimated 14,000 P-51s were built during WWII.
One of the highest honors given to the Mustang Fighter was its 1944 rating by the Truman Senate War Investigating Committee as “the most aerodynamically perfect pursuit plane in existence.”
The F-16 Fighting Falcon is a single-engine supersonic multi-role fighter aircraft originally developed by General Dynamics (now Lockheed Martin ) for the U.S. Air Force. Designed as an air superiority day fighter, it evolved into a successful all-weather multi-role aircraft. The F-16’s official name is “Fighting Falcon,” but “Viper” is commonly used by its pilots and crews.
Bell UH-1 series “Huey” military helicopters (1967-1986) were used to transport personnel and material during conflicts, including in Vietnam.
Monzo says in addition to other restored vintage planes that will participate in aerial routines or will be displayed on the airport grounds, the air show will feature vendors, other attractions and a special memorial service on Sunday to honor veterans and first responders.
When asked what keeps people coming back to the Westmoreland County Airshow year after year, he says, “I think it’s the variety of aircraft and friendly people. It’s a nice relaxing day with the kids.”
Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.