|Thunder In The Valley Air Show, March 21-22, 2015
|Location: Columbus Regional Airport, Columbus, GA
|Admission: $15 at gate, $10 in advance, children under 6 free
|Parking: Free off-site with free shuttle; $15 on-site
|Rating out of 10: 8
CAF Gulf Coast Wing’s B-17 Texas Raiders
The 2015 edition of the Thunder In The Valley Air Show was the eighteenth annual show put on to benefit local charities in the Chattahoochee Valley area. This show has had a hard time of it the past few years. It was hard hit by sequestration and attendance was down over 50% that year. Last year they were rained out on Saturday and attendance was off again. This year the weather forced the cancellation of the Sunday show. Most locals knew the bad weather forecast for Sunday, so they showed up on Saturday and attendance was estimated to be 18,000-21,000 for that single day. Thunder In The Valley Air Show is held at an active commercial airport and the aerobatic box for the show is relatively small. The FAA and TSA have been getting stricter with air shows lately and that may have been the reason that there were no aerobatic performances by jet aircraft at this year's show.
The show opened with Fort Benning's Maneuver Center of Excellence Band performing some patriotic songs and the National Anthem. Fort Benning, which is located just south of Columbus, Georgia, also provided the US Army Silver Wings Parachute Demonstration Team to do the opening exhibition, which included one soldier carrying an extra large American Flag during the National Anthem. The Army Aviation Heritage Foundation's Sky Soldiers flew a short demo with one of their Vietnam-era Huey helicopters and also a Cobra helicopter. Both helicopters were available throughout the show offering paid spectator rides. Jacqueline Warda provided the only civilian full aerobatic performance in her Extra 300 aircraft. She was followed by Kent Pietsch in his Jelly Belly sponsored Interstate Cadet doing his comedy routine. Kent performed a total of three times with the other two performances being his landing on top of a moving RV and his unique dead stick landing.
Jim Tobul's Korean War Hero F-4U Corsair was next up on the schedule for his individual performance. Jim would return later to perform with Scott Yoak's Quicksilver P-51 in an act they called the Class of '45.
The air show's website had Paul Stender and the Indy Boys listed as the jet vehicle performer. Paul had been scheduled the prior year but had a mishap at his home and was hospitalized causing him to miss the show. This year Jerry McCart was present with the Wicked Willy jet car to perform. There was no public reason given for the substitution of performers for this year. Jerry McCart performed twice during the day with Wicked Willy. Missing from the performance was the now expected jet car versus plane race.
A local favorite, Chris Campos, flew his large scale Extra 300 radio controlled aircraft in an aerobatic display that looked as if it was a full sized aircraft with on-board pilot. Chris has won some national championships for R/C flying and he showed off those skills to a very appreciative hometown crowd.
The Stearman Flight is a group of local Stearman Model 75 airplane owners who flew their six restored aircraft in several different formations for the spectators. They were followed by the CAF Gulf Coast Wing's B-17 Texas Raiders. The B-17 made several passes down the flight line and on one pass even simulated the effects of an engine being hit by a smoke trial coming from that engine.
The Georgia State Patrol's aviation division had two of the helicopters demonstrate fire suppression through the use of water drops from a 'Bambi' bucket. The rest of the show belonged to warbirds. As mentioned earlier, Scott Yoak flew his Quicksilver P-51 Mustang in a solo performance. The DAV's B-25 Bomber, Panchito, did their routine including simulated bombing runs opening and closing the bomb bay doors on the B-25. At the end of Panchito's performance it was joined in formation by the Quicksilver P-51 on left wing, F-4U Corsair on right wing, and T-28 Trojan in the slot position to form a diamond formation. The warbird diamond made several passes in front of a very appreciative crowd. The T-28 Trojan was being flown by Jerry 'Jive' Kerby, who also flew that T-28 in the number six position for the headliner act, The T-28 Trojan Horsemen. The show concluded with the T-28 Trojan Horseman flying a perfect performance.
Thunder In The Valley was light on static display aircraft. When they weren't in the air performing, the bulk of the static displays were the performer's aircraft. That included the CAF B-17, DAV B-25, Quicksilver P-51 Mustang, F-4U Corsair, seven T-28 Trojans, six Model 75 Stearmans and an L-39 jet. They were joined by Berlin Airlift Foundation's C-54 Spirit of Freedom and a Lockheed 12A Electra. For a short time, Gary Ward's MX2 aircraft was on static display as he was there to visit and enjoy the show and not perform.
US Army Silver Wings Parachute Demonstration Team
Heritage Foundation’s Sky Soldiers Huey and Cobra
|Jim Tobul’s Korean War Hero F-4U Corsair
|Scott Yoak’s Quicksilver P-51
|Jerry McCart with the Wicked Willy jet car
|CAF Gulf Coast Wing’s B-17 Texas Raiders
|The Stearman Flight Group
|Georgia State Patrol’s aviation with 2 helicopters
|DAV’s B-25 Bomber, Panchito
|T-28 Trojan Horseman
|Report and photography by Clifford Martin for