Fort Worth — Craig Jensen saw his first airplane up close at age three, an American Airlines 747 zipped past him while he sat with his father in the observation deck at DFW Airport.
“He’s been insufferable ever since,” his mother, Eugenia, said. “Not coming to the airshow would have been, I don’t want to say devastating, but that’s about what it would have been.”
Now 10, Craig attended the Bell Fort Worth Alliance Air Show at Alliance Airport over the weekend, and did not seem to notice the restriction of being asked to stay within the parking lot “pod.”
“I don’t care about that,” said Craig, binoculars in hand, smiling widely, sitting on the hood of his dad’s Chrysler Ram truck. “I can see everything really good right here.”
This was the 30th time the Fort Worth Alliance Airport hosted this event, now considered the largest and longest running air show in the nation. This year’s show ran from Friday, Oct. 16, through Sunday, Oct. 18. The show was sold out due to the limited number of parking tickets available for purchase. COVID-19 restrictions made the air show a drive-in experience where everyone had to adhere to social distancing rules, hanging out only with those they came with.
“It’s the first drive-in air show for North Texas,” Capt. Remoshay Nelson, an Air Force public affairs officer, said. “We know how popular the show is, and with us wanting to keep everybody safe, this was the best way to do it and still have a show everyone can enjoy.”
Parking was spread out so everyone could have a lot of area around their vehicles. The space next to each vehicle was left open for guests to sit.
Alliance Air and Aviation Services president Tom Harris said in a statement an estimated 6,000 cars were expected over the two-day weekend round of shows.
Thousands more lined I35, parking on any green space they could find, sitting in pick ups, on top of cars, in chairs and on blankets. Some parked as far as mile away.
While most people come to see the showcase event the Thunderbirds, the U.S. Air Force’s aerial demonstration team, the air show also showcased the high performance capabilities of all sorts of aircraft, from the F-35A Lightning II, the crazy-fast F-22 Raptor, and the A-10 Thunderbolt II, which wowed the crowd with its ability to loiter in the air as if it was not even moving.
Civilian pilot Michael Goulian was one of those who garnered wildly enthusiastic applause for his unworldly aerobatic stunts in a bright Yellow Extra 330SC.
His aircraft tumbled end over end, flew backwards, and did dizzying rolls. At one point, he flew straight up into the sky, and as though losing power, began to tumble back down, only to zip around and fly straight.
“This is crazy, just crazy,” Kevin Carrey, a private pilot who attended the event with his wife and two kids, said. “My kids are freaking out about what some of these planes can do, but as a pilot, I’m just in awe. That’s not something simple they are doing up there.”
The featured attraction, the Thunderbirds, did not disappoint with their astonishing execution of high-speed passes, slow passes, fast rolls, slow rolls, and turns so tight they often left the audience in gasps.
At one point a pair of planes zipping toward one another at incredible speeds looked as if they might hit head on. Another crowd favorite is having one plane upside down, soaring along as if on top of another jet fighter.
“When you see these planes you wonder what they can do in real combat,” Carrey said. “I wouldn’t want to go up against them, that’s for sure.”
Capt. Nelson said while the air shows are a great way to demonstrate advances in military technology, they also promote tourism and a sense of community in the places where they are held.
“Wherever we go, we get a chance to meet with the people who make up that community, and that’s really the fuel of what we do,” Lt. Col Kevin DiFalco, an operations officer from Fort Collins, CO, said. “Especially now, we just want everyone to have a good time. Stay safe, but have a good time outdoors watching some amazing aircrafts.”
You can view photos from the show below:
Photos by Staff and Rodney Moore