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Top Military and Civilian Aircraft Will Highlight Inaugural Atlanta Airshow

Photo: Charles Atkeison

ATLANTA — The first airshow to be staged above a motor speedway will take place this weekend as today’s top aircraft of the U.S. Navy and the Air Force take part in the inaugural Atlanta Airshow.

Atlanta Motor Speedway will become center stage as civilian aerobatic aircraft join with military jets for one of the top aviation events near Atlanta on October 14 and 15. Aircraft on static display will fill the front of the stadium and open at 9:00 a.m. The gates into the stadium seating and concessions will open at 10:00 a.m.

Photo: Charles Atkeison

“We’ve got an all-star lineup for our inaugural year,” Atlanta Air Show president Bryan Lilley said on Tuesday. “There has been significant interest by some of the nation’s best civilian performers and from the military in being part of this historic event, which is the first air show in history to be held inside an aerial stadium.”

The Navy’s F/A-18F Super Hornet — nicknamed the Rhino — will conduct a brief flight over the aerial stadium at noon to kick-off the airshow. The Rhino will scream over the stadium a few hours later to perform a thirty minute flight demonstration.

The Air Force F-16 Viper Demo team will perform each afternoon above the aerial stadium. The team’s pilot, Major John “Rain” Waters, is a native of Atlanta, born and raised in nearby Peachtree City.

“When I fly the demonstration, it’s not just the combat maneuvers we do, but it shows the agility and the maneuverability of the F-16,” Maj. Waters explained from the flight line. “We go out their and showcase the capabilities of a 4th generation modern fighter and what it’s able to do. But, showing that to get that one aircraft airborne and myself, to fly the demonstration, it really takes a whole team.”

The F-16 is the same aircraft flown by the Thunderbirds, except this Viper is in full military gray and outfitted for combat service if the need arises. Maj. Waters will also perform the crowd favorite Heritage Flight as he guides his F-16 in formation with the historic P-51 Mustang in a moving tribute to our armed forces.

“I am the commander and demonstration pilot for 22 airshows annually,” Maj. Waters continued. “The mission of the F-16 Viper Demo Team is to inspire the next generation of pilots and maintainers and airman, and really anyone to serve their country through the military or some other government service.”

As the Air Force’s Viper climbs and maneuvers overhead on Saturday, many at the airshow will pause to mark the 70th anniversary of Capt. Chuck Yeager’s mach-transcending flight. On Oct. 14, 1947, Yeager broke the sound barrier aboard a Bell X-1 aircraft 40,000 feet above the Mojave Desert. That flight set the stage to allow today’s aircraft to go supersonic.

The Air Force will also fly-in two A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft, nicknamed the Warthog, to perform on Saturday only. It’s two pilots are Georgia natives, and each are proud to perform in the Peach State.

The straight wing Warthog can perform short take-off and landing on nearly any airfield. It’s twin engines can produce nearly 18,000 pounds of thrust during flight.

Photo: Charles Atkeison

Civilian aircraft will include the only WACO bi-plane with a jet engine as the Jack Link’s Screamin Sasquatch takes to the air to ‘feed your wild side’. Pilot Buck Roetman will perform aerobatics aboard his Pitts Special; while Kent Pietsch performs three times through out the afternoon mixing comedic fun with dead stick landings a top moving vehicles.

“If you can’t entertain, you have no business being out there,” Kent exclaimed with a smile. “The gratification is in knowing that people are enjoying themselves.”

Atlanta Motor Speedway 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 be sold at the gate each day.

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

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Charles Atkeison

Written by 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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