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NEWS | April 11, 2011

Air Expo 2011 draws nearly 80,000

By Airman 1st Class Jared Trimarchi Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

Nearly 80,000 people attended the Charleston Air Expo 2011   April 9, at Joint Base Charleston - Air Base to see performances by the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, the GEICO Skytypers and Tora! Tora! Tora!

"The 2011 Air Expo was a resounding success," said Maj. Scott Suazo, Charleston Air Expo 2011 director.

"It was amazing to see how many people from our community came out to support the air show," he said. "Everybody was smiling, the children were amazed and everyone looked like they were having a good time. We had some future Airmen do their enlistment into the Air Force Delayed Entry Program alongside the Thunderbirds. The crowd was clapping, cheering and proud to support those new Airmen who were making a commitment to defend this nation."

The show began at 10 a.m. when members of the U.S. Army Black Daggers jumped out of a plane while holding a full size American Flag as the National Anthem played. Then the GEICO Skytypers took flight and filled the Charleston sky with a message reading, "Welcome to the 2011 Air Expo at Charleston."

In the afternoon with the sun high in the sky, the Commemorative Air Force's TORA! TORA! TORA! heated things up even more by performing a re-enactment of the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor and set the runway ablaze with pyrotechnics.

At approximately 3:30 p.m. the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds took to the sky and performed precision stunts and loops for approximately 45 minutes, ending the show.

The Air Expo also had static displays of planes, from a C-17 Globemaster III to an A-10 Thunderbolt II, where massive lines formed  to see inside the cockpit.

Mike Diamond, an electronics technician for the Scientific Research Cooperation, and his son Jackson, enjoyed being able to see the inside of an A-10.

"I mainly came to show my son the airplanes because we have started to notice that he has an interest in playing with toy planes," Mr. Diamond said. "But I'm having a wonderful time as well. I remember when I was little I used to build model planes. It's an incredible feeling to see them this big and this close."

Jackson said when he grows up he wants to be a pilot, but for now ...

"I love watching the planes fly," he said.

Major Suazo would like to thank all of the workers that participated from JB CHS, local law enforcement, all of the volunteers, the performers and all of those who attended and supported the event.

"The weather was a major concern due to potential thunderstorms that were scattered north of the air base," said Major Suazo. "Though it was extremely hot, the weather was on our side. We had some wind, but never felt any rain."

"The key to the success of the air show was the team work performed by all agencies," he said. "The traffic was a major improvement from the last air show in 2008. We all came together and though we faced some challenges, we stuck together and made it through."

Clarence Gist, once a corporal and communications specialist for the U.S. Army Air Corps, said the air show was simply amazing.

"I remember flying on those to go overseas," he said pointing at a C-47 in flight.

A C-17 took off shortly after the C-47 as part of a Heritage flight.

Mr. Gist said the growth of the Air Force and the advancements of today's technology show that we have the greatest air power in the world.

"I'm proud to be an American," he said.