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Inaugural Atlanta Airshow Weekend To Display America’s Top Military Jets

Photo by: Charles A. Atkeison

ATLANTA — The thrust of America’s military jets and the dizzying aerobatics of civilian aircraft are poised to perform this weekend during an airshow first as it will be staged above the Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Nearly 80,000 guests are likely to attend the two-day inaugural Atlanta Airshow which will feature the top jets from both the Navy and Air Force, and include several of the nation’s top aerobatic performers.

And, this will be the first true airshow to ever take place over a stadium.

“This is the first time an airshow has been held in a stadium setting,” said Atlanta Airshow president Bryan Lilley on Thursday. “There’s gonna be nothing like it in the industry. From comfort and convenience, the one thing we all want in an airshow is shade, non-portable restrooms, and there will hundred’s of video screens installed in the stadium.”

The aerial stadium will host one civilian aerobatic pilot who spent Thursday rehearsing and modifying his performance. Comedic stunt pilot Kent Pietsch is practicing to make airshow history as he performs a rare landing inside a stadium during an airshow.

Each second will count as Kent uses precision skill to perform a touch-and-go maneuver a top a speeding RV inside the stadium. He will then hold his position for a few seconds, and then take-off with only feet to spare.

“I think in that particular setting it’s a first,” Lilley remarked. “Kent’s been planning it and rehearsing it.”

Photo by: Charles A. Atkeison

The Navy’s F/A-18F Super Hornet will perform over the stadium twice on Saturday and Sunday as the Tactical Demonstration Team’s jet opens and closes the family friendly event. Based in Oceana, Virginia, these Super Hornets are multi-role fighters capable of air-to-air and air-to-ground combat of enemy targets.

Two of the team’s pilots are from Georgia, and one of their prime maintenance professionals is from nearby Griffin.

“I am very happy I got to come to my hometown, and we are super excited to be here at the Atlanta Airshow,” said AM2 Douglas Scheer, an aviation structural mechanic on the F/A-18 Super Hornet, who serves with the Tac Demo Team. “This is unique as I’ve never seen an airshow fly over a stadium. This is gonna be very unique and special to us this weekend.”

The Air Force’s fourth generation fighter will take to the skies each afternoon as the F-16 Viper Demo Team demonstrates the jet’s handling characteristics. Based at nearby Shaw, AFB, S.C., this Demo Team will also wow the guests on hand with incredible maneuvers.

Major John “Rain” Waters, a native of Peachtree City, will pilot the F-16 as he demonstrates the capabilities of the Viper, and will perform a joint flight with a P-51D Mustang as the duo executes the crowd favorite Air Force Heritage flight.

The Atlanta Motor Speedway, prime site of the Atlanta Airshow, is located 28 miles south of Downtown Atlanta, by following I-75 south to the Tara Blvd. exit and south to Speedway Blvd. Tickets remain available online and will also be sold at the gate each day.

As Bryan Lilley stood inside the stadium watching the aerial practice overhead, a grin of accomplishment and pride moved across his face and said, “I think this an achievement for the industry, and for all of us to be here, and be able to put this airshow together. This will be new and next-generation in the airshow industry.”

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

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Written by Charles Atkeison

Charles Atkeison

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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