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Free air show at Guard base set for 2016

Stoner

The commander of the Air National Guard’s 122nd Fighter Wing says people often ask when the Fort Wayne base will put on another free air show.

He now has an answer: September 2016.

Col. David Augustine announced Monday that the Ferguson Road complex has begun laying the groundwork for its first air show since 2012, which was the first since 1999.

“It takes two years of great, painstaking labor and planning in order to execute a proper air show,” Augustine said at a news conference at the south-side base.

“We want to be America’s premier air show right here in Fort Wayne,” he said.

Michael Gouloff, a member of the air show board, said the three-day show will have a budget of $400,000, about $100,000 more than for 2012. Except for some government funds for aircraft fuel, the money will come from private sources and donations, Augustine said.

Gouloff, president of the Fort Wayne-Allen County Airport Authority board, estimated the next show will attract at least 100,000 spectators, compared with 83,000 for the 2012 Fort Wayne Air Show.

“We are looking forward to putting on the best air show the Midwest has ever seen,” he said.

In addition to civilian and military aircraft performances, the show will feature ground displays, an open-air concert, 5-kilometer and 10-kilometer runs and a VIP dinner.

“Really, it’s an open house. It’s a way for the community to see what we do here at the base,” said Lt. Col. Brian Frazier, the project officer for the 2012 show, which he said was organized in seven months.

Augustine said the shows also are considered an Air Guard recruiting tool.

Maj. Jeremy Stoner, the project officer for the 2016 show, predicted that a longer lead time for planning the event than in 2012 “means we should be able to bring home the best” performers, perhaps including the Air Force’s Thunderbirds, the Navy’s Blue Angels or the Air Combat Command’s F-22 Demonstration Team.

Performers will be sought at the International Council of Air Shows convention in Las Vegas in December. The council’s online calendar lists more than 100 North American air shows scheduled this summer and about 20 in the summer of 2015, but only three so far in the summer of 2016.

The 2012 Fort Wayne Air Show was on Labor Day weekend. Augustine said the 2016 edition likely will be scheduled the following weekend.

“I want the community to know that this is their air show,” Stoner said. “ … We will improve on the things that need improved on. But we’ll build on the awesome experience we had in 2012 to make 2016 the air show that everybody wants to be at.”

Augustine said improvements will include running twice as many buses as the 50 used to shuttle spectators in 2012.

bfrancisco@jg.net

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