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AirFest 2004 Roars into Bay City

Huge crowds visit Clements Airport for three day event.

July 25, 2004       Leave a Comment
By: Stephen Kent

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Fighter jets, stunt flyers, wing walkers, an aerobatic helicopter, food, pony rides. . . and a jet powered outhouse. Bay City's AirFest 2004 had something for everyone. Even if you didn't get a chance to visit the show, you probably heard the F-16 fighter demonstration flight. The roar of the afterburner powered manuvers were audible even in downtown Bay City.

The roar of the F-16 over Bay City harks back to the glory days of "Barn Storming" airshows in the 30's. Airplanes were novel and exotic machines in those days following World War I. Pilots would fly into town, find a convenient farmer's field, then buzz the town to attract crowds. Everyone would come out to see the amazing flying machine. From the size of the crowd, one would think that everyone in Bay City came out for AirFest 2004.

1941 Ryan PT22 owned by Jim and Lauri McDaniel
In the 30's and 40's the Ryan company built 1,026 of these two seat military trainers. Less than a 100 remain flying today.

Powered by two Pratt & Whitney 450 hp R-985 "Wasp Jr" engines, the 1960's era Twin Beech remains remains a popular cargo plane.

Kids and adults alike loved the show put on by "Otto" the Airshow Helicopter. One of the top family attractions on the airshow circuit, Otto performed manuvers that seemed to defy logic, much of the time flying backwards. For those with a strong stomach, Otto was available for rides which included some thrilling manuvers.

Jim Maroney was on hand with his deHaviland powered Super Chipmunk stunt plane. Jim, who has a degree in Aeronautical / Mechanical Engineering, an impressive military flying career, and who is a current F-16 pilot, thrilled the crowd with his aerobatic demonstration flight.

They can't fly (yet), but these kids do their own aerobatics on bungee cords!

Other favorites were the Stearman bi-planes such as Susan Dacy's "Big Red" Super Strearman with its 450 hp radial engine. Also on hand was Gene Soucy and his "Showcat", the first Grumman biplane to be used in airshows since the 1930's. After his solo flight, Gene was joined by parther Teresa Stokes, the top stuntwoman-wingwalker in the World as well as an internationally acclaimedaviation and space artist.

Future Blackhawk helicopter pilot

Interior of Twin Beech outfitted for passengers

The F-16 wasn't the only jet powered vehicle at the show. Paul "Hot Rod" Stendes brought his Dodge "RamJet" Jet Truck, a red Dodge pickup with a little ole' JET ENGINE in the back. In an amazing feat of speed, the truck had a drag race with Jim Maroney's deHaviland powered Super Chipmunk. The Chipmonk came in at full speed while the truck waited patiently. As the airplane passed at 180 MPH, Stendes fired his jet and acellerated to 300 MPH in a blink. Halfway down the runway he deployed his drag chutes to slow and stop so the Chipmonk could catch up.

(Perhaps just to show his versatility, Stendes also "drove" his "Port-O-Jet", a standard size and model port-o-john with a build in, 1,000 horsepower jet engine capable of traveling at speeds of over 40 mph!)

For many, the opportunity to see a rare, flying P-51 Mustang was the high point of the show . The Mustang is, perhaps, the most legendary fighter aircraft of World War II; the "Top Gun" of its era. As a long range fighter, the Mustangs broke the back of German Luftwaffe when, in 1944, they began escorting bombers on runs over Berlin. The Mustang continued in service through the Korean conflict and later became a popular racing aircraft. Built by North American Avaition, the Mustang prototype was rolled out in 117 days and made it's first flight in October 1940. The British RAF received the first production P-51s a year later and by war's end over 9,000 Mustangs had been built. Today only a handful remain flying.

Despite the thrill of seeing a real P-51 Mustang, the most adrenaline pumping demonstration was the flight of the F-16 Fighting Falcon. Known as the Viper among fighter pilots, the F-16 is a compact, highly maneuverable, multi-role fighter aircraft.

The F-16 demonstration team worked from Tri-Cities airport and flew in for the demonstration. The crowd spotted the plane coming in very high in the northwest sky. After circling far overhead, the pilot came down over the city and approached the airport from the northeast at tremendous speed, passing over the crowd with a ground shaking roar and afterburner blazing. The crowd was thrilled by numerous passes and dizzying climbs almost out of sight.

In fitting tribute to America's service men and women, from the past through today, the show finalle was a "Heritage Flight". Begun in 1997 to comemorate it's 50th Aniversary, the Air Force "Heritage Flight" program brings together the famous fighting planes from the past with the modern fighters of today. In an emotional display, the F-16 escorted the Mustang in several passes of the field. On the last pass the planes banked toward each other in a crossing pattern as they left the area, today's generation leading the way to a future secured by the sacrifices and service of their grandparent's generation.

AirFest was organized and presented by DoreAble Entertainment, Inc. of Bay City.
Proceeds from the show benefit
"The Valley Areo Club"
"Wings of Mercy"
"The Boys and Girls Club of Bay City".

For more information visit

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Stephen Kent

Steve Kent and his family have lived in Bay City for 40 years. He is VP of Technical Services at MMCC which produces MyBayCity.Com. Kent is active in many Bay City civic organizations.

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