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Skyfest draws a crowd

100,000 take in first day of annual show at Fairchild

Noah and Drew Schmick have never ridden in an airplane, but they’re flying to San Diego soon for a family vacation and their dad thought they might want to see some planes Saturday – just to get a feel for them.

So Jeff Schmick took Noah, 10, and Drew, 5, to the first day of Fairchild Air Force Base’s Skyfest, where they saw lots of planes. Big planes like the C-17 Globemaster and old planes like a flight of four Stearman biplanes. But most of all, really fast planes, like the F-15 Eagle, the F-22 Raptor and the Blue Angels’ F/A-18 Hornet.

Planes flying solo, or in pairs, or, in the case of the smoke-streaming Blue Angels, in formations of up to six.

The boys really liked the simulated dogfight between an FJ Fury and a pair of MiGs. And while the jetliner they’ll be taking to San Diego won’t be as cool as the planes doing loops and spins overhead, the boys said they’re ready to go.

“I want a window seat,” Noah said.

A crowd estimated by base officials at more than 100,000 had a chance to wander up and down the flight line, viewing and touching a wide array of military planes, both current and past. They were able to walk through some of the bigger ones, including a KC-135 tanker, the kind of plane most frequently seen in the skies over Spokane because several dozen are based at Fairchild.

On the breezy, partly cloudy day, some used the shade of wings to set up folding chairs and watch the show. Others crowded the security lines to get the closest look possible as planes fired up their engines, taxied, took off, went through their maneuvers and returned.

Virginia Tegtmeyer came from Tucson, visiting her son, Lt. Col. Joe Tegtmeyer, who flies tankers at Fairchild. Joe’s father was in the Army Air Corps in World War II, so she’s seen military planes evolve over the decades. Her favorite? The KC-135 that her son flies, of course.

But she was looking forward to seeing the F-22, the nation’s newest fighter, she added.

Doug Cavanaugh, of Spokane, comes to the air show almost every year, but this one had two big draws. One was the Blue Angels, the Navy’s aerial demonstration team that hasn’t appeared in Spokane in decades. The other was the F-22, which only started doing demonstration flights last year.

Cavanaugh, who works in inventory control for URM, said he’s a big airplane fan – a fact that was clear from the smile on his face as the Raptor went through a routine that included high-volume passes, rolls, loops and a maneuver in which the plane seemed to slide backward at the top of a climb.

“Awesome,” he said. “It does stuff an airplane shouldn’t do.”

The show did have one weather glitch. The Army’s Golden Knights parachute team had to cancel its skydiving demonstration at the opening of the show because of dust devils in the area set up for the landing zone.

“Just too dangerous,” said Staff Sgt. Drew Starr, one of the Golden Knights. “Safety’s the first priority.”

The swirling mini-tornadoes wouldn’t cause problems for the airplanes but are too unpredictable for jumpers who could get their parachutes flipped in the wind, said Chief Warrant Officer Arthur Johanson, pilot of the Knights’ C-31.

“They can’t power out of it,” Johanson said.

But with a calmer forecast for today, the Knights expect to be able to open the last day of the show.

Staff writer Jim Camden can be reached at (509) 459-5461 or


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