Friday, Jun 22, 2018
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Flights of fancy can't even lift off


With a C-5 Galaxy Air Mobility Command Plane as a backdrop, Edward and Corey Manuslak of Tecumseh and sons Lucas and Noah weather the rain at the Meijer Toledo Air Show.

Simmons / Blade Enlarge

Even a half-dozen state-of-the-art warplanes can't take on Mother Nature in an aerial showdown.

Low clouds and rain kept attendance low and activity limited on the final day of the Toledo Air Show - and prevented the show everyone was waiting for: The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds.

"It's a bummer," said Jacob Keween, 15, of Toledo, who arrived at the Toledo airport early yesterday morning for his first-ever air show.

"Too bad can't change the weather," said Jim Barta, 64, of Deerfield. Beside him, his grandson, Daniel, 8, loudly lamented the Thunderbirds' cancellation. "We came here for nothing!" he yelled - before looking around at the two-dozen or so warplanes that squatted in the show's spectator area. "But at least we got to see all this cool stuff."

The Thunderbirds' cancellation, which came just after 2 p.m., happened after low clouds hung just 600 feet off the ground - 400 feet below the minimum needed for most shows, and much less than the 2,000 feet needed for the Thunderbirds' aerial acrobatics.

"The men were very disappointed, but it's got to be safety first," said Thunderbird Command Leader Lt. Col. Mike Chandler. "For us, with 75 shows this year, it's just like a baseball season. You have to expect days like this."

Mud Hens general manager Joe Napoli, who came to look at the airplanes in the spectator area, said he was familiar with rainouts, and was sympathetic to the show organizers' plight. Joining him were his wife, Annette, and children, Narisa, Danny, and Michael.

"We've enjoyed the show. The planes are fun to see," he said while lining up the up to board the B-17 Flying Fortress bomber from the Yankee Air Force museum in Ypsilanti, Mich. "Of course, we'd love to see the acrobatic acts, too, but if it's not going to work out, that's OK."

Event co-chair Jan Aguilar estimated only 12,000 people attended the show yesterday, compared with 22,000 Saturday. "If the weather had been great, it would have been double that, maybe triple," she said.

Some show organizers saw a positive side to the weather- no one complained about the heat yesterday, as many did last year.

"This is the first air show I've been to that I didn't get sunburned," said Leslie Boudouris of Sylvania as he took refuge from the rain under the wing of a KC-135 tanker.

"At least let us see something - some Thunderbirds, something," said David Yoder of Blissfield, just after organizers announced the Thunderbirds' cancellation at 2 p.m. Mr. Yoder arrived at the show at 8:30 a.m. with his wife, son and daughter.

His son, Nickolas, 5, seemed a bit more accepting of the day's events. "It was cool," he said, glancing at the show's biggest display: the C-5 Galaxy transport plane, which loomed over the show's east end like an open-mouthed whale.

With a length of 250 feet and a maximum carrying weight of 840,000 pounds, lines of people stretching into the mighty maw of the C-5 were steady throughout the day, Master Sgt. Rick Ross said.

"Actually today was heavier than yesterday," Sergeant Ross added. "Probably because of the rain."

With few planes in the air to watch, many attendees chose to check out some of the ground displays.

Trans Meridian Airlines had one of its modern MD-80 passenger jets open for tours, and flight attendant Lisa Methner said it was just as popular yesterday as it had been on Saturday.

There were a few performers, including one never intended to get off the ground. A "Super Shockwave" jet-powered 1957 Chevrolet truck barrelled down the runway, spitting 20-foot orange and yellow flames behind it.

But it, too, was constrained by the weather: Instead of its usual high-speed drag run, the wet conditions limited the truck to a slow pass by the crowd, firing its afterburners only sporadically.

It was enough for some.

"My favorite part was when that truck went by and all the fire came out and you could feel the heat and it was cool," said Tommy Riffle, 10, of Toledo.

A low-flying Mig fighter jet also performed after the Thunderbirds' cancellation but shortly afterward, at 2:30, event organizers no longer charged for admission. However, Ms. Aguilar said no refunds would be given for those who had already paid.

"It's a shame the weather didn't cooperate," Ms. Aguilar said.

"But we have so many static [ground] displays that there was plenty for people to enjoy."

She said officials would not know if the show met financial expectations until final attendance figures were available.

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