Though temperatures approaching the mid-90s turned the tarmac into a griddle Saturday, thousands of aerobatics fans turned out for the annual Heart of Texas Air Show at the Texas State Technical College Waco Airport.
Several spectators said they had hoped to see the Air Force’s Thunderbirds or the Navy’s Blue Angels flight teams, but show director Debby Standefer, president of D&D Marketing Concepts, pointed to several new attractions she said should make up the difference. She said the Thunderbirds are expected at next year’s show March 18-19.
The new attractions include the Air Force’s F-16 Viper demonstration team, pairing the state-of-the-art jet fighters with a “heritage flight” by the P-47 Thunderbolt vintage propeller fighter; a performance of F-18 Super Hornets by a Navy tactical team; a search-and-rescue demonstration by a Coast Guard team from Corpus Christi; a demonstration of the Marines’ MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft; and appearances by the Shock Wave jet-powered semi built by Darnell Racing Enterprises. The truck raced airplanes down the runway at 375 miles per hour.
Another attraction is the A-26 Invader dubbed “The Spirit of Waco,” a World War II and Vietnam era aircraft that offers flights to spectators for $650 or $450. The Commemorative Air Force is offering flights for $150 per passenger, and helicopter rides are available for $25 per passenger.
Gates are open again from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. Aerobatic shows start at 1 p.m.
Kate Kyer, a 20-year veteran of air shows who was flying a Pitts S-2B biplane, said one of the best things about the shows at TSTC is that spectators are facing away from the sun in the afternoon. She and her husband Pat keep several aircraft at their farm at Honey Grove. He is a pilot with Southwest Airlines.
Air shows involving the military typically draw many veterans among the crowds. Waco certified public accountant John W. McAnally, who was in charge of howitzers and nuclear-tipped shells in Europe in the mid-20th century, said he was disappointed not to see the Blue Angels, “but I really like coming here to see all the facility’s capabilities. I’m amazed all the aircraft they can land here. My son is an operations officer at the Addison airport, and they have shows there but they can’t do nearly as much.”
L3 Communications, one of the show’s sponsors, made the show a picnic celebration for about 2,500 employees and family members, Standefer said.
As in previous years, the Texas Air National Guard conducted tours in a four-engine C-130 transport plane from the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, formerly Carswell Air Force Base. Like a giant mother hen, it sheltered dozens of spectators from the sun under each wing. Every few minutes, announcers exhorted spectators to stay hydrated with water from the many food stands behind the viewing area.
A grass fire broke out in the vicinity of the show about 4 p.m. Saturday, but Lacy Lakeview Police Chief John Truehitt said it was easily contained. The TSTC airport is in the jurisdiction of the Waco Fire Department, but information from Waco officials was not available late Saturday afternoon.