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Blue Angels, Top Aerobatic Aircraft to highlight Wings Over North Georgia

Photo by: Charles A. Atkeison

ROME, Ga. — The U.S. Navy Blue Angels will join top military and civilian performers this weekend as they headline the Wings Over North Georgia Airshow at the Richard Russell Regional Airport.

Great weather is forecast over Rome for this sixth annual airshow which is expected to become the largest airshow in the middle south this year. With the strong sale of ticket packages combined with the publicity of the Blue Angels, airshow management expects nearly 40,000 guests to attend on Saturday and over 30,000 on Sunday.

The family fun weekend will have great food, live music, and will assist the comunity as they support the Toys for Tots drive. The hallmark of the weekend will include a Parade of Veterans as the airshow pauses the flying performances to focus on those who served in America’s military — both past and present.

A Homecoming for three Blue Angels Pilots 

The Navy’s premiere Flight Demonstration Squadron will turn up the thrust as the pilots of the six blue and gold jets display the handling characteristics and precision flight of the F/A-18 Hornet. The Blues are scheduled to perform at 3:05 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

At one point during the Blue Angels 40-minute performance, the Diamond Team of four jets will soar in front of the crowd at nearly 400 m.p.h., each flying only inches apart. They will then move behind the crowd to set up for their next maneuver while the two solo jets line up for a high speed maneuver in which they make a close fly by of one another from opposite sides of the airfield.

Photo by: Charles A. Atkeison

The Rome airshow will be a special one for three of its pilots, and a few of the team’s maintenance personnel, as they prepare to close out the 2017 season in three weeks.

Blue Angel 5 pilot and lead solo Commander Frank Weisser, and Angel 6 pilot and opposing solo LT Tyler Davies hail from Atlanta and Kennesaw, respectively. The Blues C-130 transport aircraft pilot Major Mark Montgomery is a native of nearby Cartersville.

This special homecoming will also include two metro Atlanta natives who maintain the airframes and hydraulics of the Blue’s Hornets, Chief Petty Officers Daniel Yater and Demaude Prescott, and AD1 Shane Miller, of nearby Woodbine, who works of the jets power plants will be in Rome.
The Rome show will be flight demonstrations no. 55 and 56 of the Blue Angels 62 airshow season.

Civilian Aircraft to Highlight the Airshow

The sounds of World War II will echo across the Rome airfield as four historic AT-6 Texans perform not just aerobatic flight, but the actual maneuvers flown by the pilots of the Greatest Generation.

The aircraft of the AeroShell Aerobatic Team will demonstrate many of the flight profiles flown by the pilots as they trained during the war.

Photo by Charles A. Atkeison

“People don’t understand that these airplanes are all veterans of the military — they served their country and trained our pilots to fly,” AeroShell pilot Steve Gustafson explained on Monday. “The instructor sat in the back seat and the student in the front. They had machine guns and rocketry and you taught them. They left their training in these aircraft and graduated up to the fighters, and then went straight into battle.”

Gustafson’s admiration for these advance trainers continue as he passes 31 years with AeroShell, and having passed over 5,050 hours of flight time in his AeroShell aircraft.

The USSOCOM Para-Commandos parachute demonstration team will skydive from 12,000-feet above the crowd in a heart-felt patriotic moment to deliver the American flag. Civilian performers will take to the sky to pump up the aviation fans as Jim Tobul’s F4U Corsair and Scott Yoak’s P-51D Mustang “Quicksilver” fly back-to-back performances.

Rob Holland, a champion aerobatic pilot who performed at EAA Oshkosh 2017, will perform aboard his MXS-RH aircraft. Buck Roetman will entertain the crowds as he pilots his yellow Christen Eagle bi-plane.

Also, arriving into Rome will be the New York Air National Guard’s massive C-17 Globemaster III, which will perform one flight demonstration each afternoon. The C-17 is a heavy lift air refueling aircraft, and can ferrying 170,500 pounds of cargo or up to 100 service personnel over long distances.

North Georgia’s Top Family Event

A massive Kids Zone play area will allow children of all ages to play and jump on aviation-themed bounce houses, educational activities, swings, and a climbing wall. Located inside the main gate, wristbands will be available for purchase for unlimited fun all day.

In the spirit of the upcoming holidays, Wings Over North Georgia will support the Toys For Tots program. Guests arriving on both show dates are asked to bring one unwrapped toy to support the local Rome area.

“Toys collected will be provided to children within Chattooga, Floyd, and Polk Counties that would otherwise have a bleak Christmas,” Greater Rome Area Toys for Tots Coordinator Hal Gosnell said on Monday. “Ninty-seven percent of all donations to Toys for Tots goes towards providing toys for the program as no salaries or personnel costs are paid from donations.”

Airport and remote parking lots will open each day at 7:30 a.m., with buses taking guests from the satellite lots to the airshow gates. Gates will open at 9:00 a.m., and the opening ceremonies will kick-off each day at 11:15 a.m. followed by the first flying performances at noon.

Tickets for the Wings Over North Georgia remain available on-line at WingsOverNorthGeorgia.com. Several of the VIP ticket packages have sold out, with only general admission, family four-packs, and airport reserved parking available as of Tuesday.

(Charles A. Atkeison reports on aerospace and technology. Follow his updates via social media @Military_Flight.)

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Charles A Atkeison is a long time aerospace journalist having covered both military and civilian aviation, plus 30 space shuttle launches from Cape Canaveral. He has produced multimedia aerospace content for CNN, London's Sky News, radio, print, and the web for twenty years. From flying with his father at age 5 to soaring as a VIP recently with the Navy's Blue Angels and USAF Thunderbirds, Charles continues to enjoy all aspects of flight.

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