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by Richard Harris
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Aerial views of the sprawling airshow grounds, where over 40 aicraft were on display. (Decades earlier, my job was running this field at night, from its original buildings in the far background).

2008 Wichita Flight Festival !

August 29-31, Jabara Airport, Wichita, KS

Photography by R.Harris,
K. Corteville, and S.&S. Alexander.

This was one of the most spectacular civilian airshows in Wichita memory. For the Festival, I was privileged to serve as an advisor to the operations committee, assisted with promotions, displays and setup, and served as part-time announcer -- emphasizing historic and Kansas aviation topics.


Performers' pre-show briefing. At left, famous faces in the airshow biz: Patty Wagstaff in the foreground, Aeroshell T-6 team, Julie Clark, John Mohr, Corky Fornof, Greg Shelton & Ashley Battles, Red Eagles, and more. What a room to be in!
    Since I was doing some of the announcing, I interviewed each of them on their acts, professional background, and personal story. Fascinating, charming folks!
    At right, famed airshow boss Wayne Boggs, examines the airfield map, while pondering a performer's question. Wichita Festivals boss Janet Wright, and operations chief Dave Carter, wait their turns to brief the performers.
    The briefing is critical. The airshow, at its peak, is a three-ring circus, with planes simultaneously landing, departing, and performing -- every 12 minutes. Chaos can be deadly, so here the safe solutions are hammered out.

A giant 4-engined Douglas DC-4 (miltary C-54/R5D) transport, housing a "flying museum," towers over the airport ramp, which accommodated over a dozen display aircraft (dozens more off-ramp) -- including these luxurious Wichita-built Beech "business" planes (below) -- and an estimated audience of over 10,000 people.

Air Capital 200 Air Race, opens the show, led by legendary Unlimited Class racer, "Miss America,"
a P-51 Mustang. For more on the Race, click here.
Looking straight up into the cockpit at John Mohr, the king of Stearman biplane acrobatics. Over 8,000 of these rugged Wichita-built aircraft trained WWII pilots. Today, 60+ years old, they star in every big airshow. A rare, flying WWII Curtiss
P-40 Warhawk, in the markings of the daring Flying Tigers, flys formation with today's equivalent -- a supersonic Air Force
F-15 Eagle.
Airshow pioneer Julie Clark, in her gleaming Wichita-built Beech T-34 Mentor, shows off why this was America's primary military trainer for a generation of Air Force pilots, and three generations of Naval aviators.
Bill Stein in his unlimited-class acrobatic Zivko Edge, tears up the sky in every dimension.

As he tumbles, his iridescent-painted plane changes color as it twists about in the sunlight.

Stunning, charming, graceful -- Ashley Battles dances a daring aerial ballet atop Greg Shelton's hulking 450-hp Stearman, as he expertly twists it through the sky, with her on top. One plane & pilot short, due to a recent crash, a 3-plane Aeroshell T-6 team, roars into the sky in tight formation -- perfoming one of the most hazardous formation flights in airshow business -- whirling prop blades inches from each others' wingtips. From having stunted one of these 600-hp beasts, myself, I can't help but be amazed at how they manage to do it in perfect unison, so dangerously close together.

As two helpers hold poles suspending a ribbon across the runway, three-time World Champion acrobatic pilot Patty Wagstaff roars through it, inverted, her canopy less than a wingspan above the concrete!
Barnstormer / airline captain Clay Adams (above) shuttles another pair of passengers aloft in his pristine 1920s Travel Air 4000 biplane (below) -- selling great rides in one of the most historic of all Wichita-made aircraft. Photographers S.&S. Alexander went aloft to celebrate their anniversary, and take great shots for me. A few years earlier, I'd had the pleasure, myself (see 2003 National Air Tour, below).
Chief announcer Danny Clisham and air-boss Wayne Boggs -- leaders from the world's biggest airshow (EAA AirVenture in Oskhsoh) -- flank Red Eagles' radio gal, as her team performs. Before and after Danny's gig, I handled the announcing -- emphasizing the Kansas connections & history of the show planes. A LifeWatch Bell LongRanger ambulance helicopter settles into its display place on the tarmac, while -- in the distance, above and beyond it -- SchreibAir's Robinson R22 helicopter returns from a sightseeing ride, to pick up new passengers. The Kansas Aviation Gallery fills a huge hangar with exhibits from six Kansas aircraft manufacturers -- Cessna, Beech, Bombardier/Learjet, Boeing, Spirit, Airbus -- along with Kansas aviation suppliers, schools and museums, amid huge displays outlining Kansas' spectacular aviation history. This year, one of the displays was mine...

Aviatrix Melinda Hopper polishes her pride-and-joy, a 1946 vintage Aeronca Champ, among the Festival's dozens of display aircraft.

Wichita-bred fighter pilot James Jabara (for whom the Festival's home airport is named), was America's "First Jet Ace." For this year's Gallery -- with generous help from his sister, Norma Jabara Ellis -- I was tasked to develop this display on his remarkable and historic career.

NASCAR auto-racing legend, Bobby Unser, poses with a rare "Offy" racer (which raced a plane at the show ). In the 1960s, Unser drove this exact car in a rare side-trip into formula racing -- in the Indy 500. We talked airplanes, though. Unser flys the world's fastest production piston-engined vehicle, the Aerostar twin (below).

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