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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

‘It’s a very fulfilling mission’: Pilots show off stunts, acrobatics at Fairchild’s Skyfest

It wouldn’t be a Fairchild Air Force Base airshow without a massive Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker cutting through the sky.

The base, known for its aerial refueling tanker aircraft, hosted its annual free-entry airshow, Skyfest, on Saturday.

Besides a KC-135, an array of small and large military and civilian aircraft glided, rolled and twirled across the partly cloudy sky as thousands of spectators peered upward, marveling at the impressive aircraft and the talented pilots who operate them. Many pulled out their phones and cameras to document the aerial demonstrations.

“We are eager to show you what your United States Air Force can do,” Col. Chesley Dycus told the crowd at the start of the air demonstrations.

Maj. Chad Smith, KC-135 demonstration pilot, was part of the crew that flew over the airfield Saturday with a Boeing C-17 Globemaster III, from Joint-Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, flying close to it.

“Fairchild’s mission is rapid global mobility, and so to be able to come out here and perform that and demonstrate what we’re capable of anytime the demand is there, it’s a very fulfilling mission,” Smith said.

Smith performed in his first airshow a couple of months ago in central Florida.

“That was a great experience for me because that was my hometown,” he said.

Smith said he gets an adrenaline rush performing at airshows.

“For me, I grew up going to airshows, so I love this environment and it gets me excited,” he said.

Other aircraft, like a Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star jet, gracefully glided through the airspace while Brad Wursten took his aerobatic aircraft through a black smoke ring created by a planned explosion on the airfield.

Combat search and rescue parachuters jumped from a helicopter and floated down to the airfield during its demonstration. Members of the U.S. Air Force Wings of Blue parachute team jumped later in the day.

Families and friends who attended toured several aircraft, such as the KC-135.

Many people took advantage of the airshow souvenirs and various foods. Cold drinks and frozen lemonade were popular items on the hottest day of the year.

National Weather Service Spokane meteorologist Daniel Butler said the Spokane International Airport reached 88 degrees Saturday.

Hubert Devine said he hadn’t visited Skyfest in about 25 years when he took his young children.

He said the airshow had more attendees, events and was much more educational than the event a quarter century ago.

“They’ve been putting on quite the show, and it’s grown tremendously over the years compared to back in ’99 when I brought my kids,” Devine said.

Steve Berndt, Devine’s friend, said Saturday was his first time at Skyfest.

He said he looked forward to the pyrotechnics and was impressed by the aircraft.

“It gets you the chance to see what we got,” Berndt said.

Smith said the public doesn’t generally access the base, but people can see Fairchild’s planes flying all the time in the area. Some people can identify the planes, and others have no idea what they are, he said.

“For them to be able to come out and see the performance and be able to go through the static display and kind of see the inside and what the jet does, I think it brings the community full circle,” Smith said.