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Thunder, lightning and Black Diamonds combine to ground AirFest

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STANLEY B. MILAM
May 26, 2012
— The ABC Supply Co. Southern Wisconsin AirFest’s Friday Night Take-Off Party barely got off the ground.

A thunderstorm and lightning forced organizers to cancel the show after about half the performances. The main act, the Black Diamond Jet Team, which was scheduled near the end of the show, did not perform its twilight act.


AirFest Executive Director Tom Morgan said he regretted the inconvenience to spectators and performers. Those in attendance Friday were given two adult tickets redeemable for general admission either today or tomorrow.


The National Weather Service forecast calls for a 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms today with mostly sunny and hot conditions Sunday.


Even if weather cooperates today and tomorrow, AirFest will be without a complete lead jet team. The Black Diamonds announced Friday that it will not fly its two MiG-17 subsonic jets, a key component of the team’s performance. The MiGs perform aggressive opposing solo maneuvers while the team’s L-39 Albatros jets have a more graceful, smoother routine.


Jerry Kirby, a spokesman for the Black Diamond team, said at least two of the team’s six L-39s will not be at the show Saturday or Sunday in addition to the absence of the two MiGs.


“We are planning a four-jet performance with L-39s,” Kirby said. “But we are prepared to go with three. The MiGs will not be appearing.”


Only three L-39s were on the flight line Friday evening before they were pushed off into hangers prior to the thunderstorm.


Kirby said the team does not fly in rain.


“It’s like taking sandpaper to the aircraft,” he said. “It just peels off the paint. We don’t fly in rain.”


The star of Friday’s show was Art Nalls in his Sea Harrier hover jet. Nalls, a former Harrier test pilot, thrilled the sparse crowd before the rain and lightning came with high-speed flyovers, a moon walk flying 30 knots backwards and a bow to the crowd while hovering.


Gates at the Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport open today and tomorrow at 9 a.m. with shows both days beginning at 11:30 a.m.


All performers are scheduled both days, weather permitting.


Kealy opens up for AirFest


What do you do when your restaurant is surrounded by a full-blown air show?


If you’re Matt Kealy, you offer the everyday menu and operate during normal hours.


“We want to be a part of this great event,” Kealy said Friday during a break. “Just come on out for breakfast or lunch. We’re open from 6 a.m. until 3 p.m. both days.


One problem for Kealy is getting the word out regarding parking at Kealy’s Kafe.


“You don’t have to have an AirFest ticket to eat with us, and you can drive right up to the terminal like you always do,” he said. “We hope you are here to enjoy AirFest, but if not, come on out for breakfast or lunch.”


First in first aid


If you need first aid, volunteer nurses from Beloit Memorial Hospital are on call and on the scene all the time at AirFest.


“We are here for the minor things such as low or high blood pressure, bee stings, too much sun, minor cuts and things like that,” said Beloit Memorial Hospital’s Dr. Pierre Charles.


“For trauma situations, there are paramedics here for treatment and a trip to the hospital.”


Canadians at AirFest


“Did you know that Manitoba has the second highest concentration of French-speaker Canadians province-wise?” asked Master Capt. Graham Solomon of the Canadian Air Force.


“Really,” replied Capt. Max Chevalier, the only member of the Canadian group with a French name.


Solomon, Chevalier, Capt. Steve Brake and Capt. Jackie Book were at AirFest (at the end of the static flight line next to the KC-135 Stratotanker) to introduce spectators to the Grob 120A, a German basic trainer used by the Canadian Air Force.


The two Grob 120As are dwarfed by the KC-135, so look closely or you’ll miss them. The Canadians are all instructors at the fight training school in Southport, Manitoba.


And the province with the highest concentration of French-speaking Canadians?


“It’s Quebec, of course,” Solomon said.



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