Air Show cleared to land in Fort Wayne
Organizers expecting 80,000 to make way to 2-day event
The upcoming Fort Wayne Air Show is a colossal, two-day gift of gratitude requiring hundreds of volunteers, hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations, and months of planning by the Indiana Air National Guard’s 122nd Fighter Wing and the show’s parent organization, Fort Wayne Air Show Incorporated.
Lt. Col. Scott Boatwright, the air show’s executive director, said the event is a mix of aerial artistry, military might, history, and a celebration for the community to enjoy.
“It’s kind of our way to say thank you to Fort Wayne and northeast Indiana for all the support that you’ve given the 122nd Fighter Wing over the years,” he said. “This is an opportunity for the public to come out, take a look, and see what we do.”
not your average show
Weather permitting, organizers are planning for 80,000 visitors or more to visit the base June 4-5.
The base reintroduced the show in 2012 and has held it every three or four years since.
“You see the (A-10s) fly overhead a few days during the week,” Boatwright said. “Now, you can come out and see them, and more, up close.”
It’s a nice way to spark interest in a military employment with recruiters for the Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force on hand.
“They’ll have a display set up if you’re interested,” Boatwright said. “It’s a great place to come. And you can see different airplanes, different, I think, howitzers, possibly army trucks. The Navy F-18 will be here. Marine Corps Ospreys will be here.”
There will be a lot to see, but the Air Force’s precision acrobat Thunderbirds will be the headliners, while the F-16 fighter jet flight team and Navy’s F/A-18 Super Hornet “Rhino” demo team will also be popular.
“The performers we have are top notch,” Boatwright said. “We spend for it. It costs us, but it’s totally worth it, because when you’re out here, you’ll see they’re just above and beyond your average performer that shows up in any air show. So, I think we take pride in who we select out here as a performer.”
The show, running from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day, will highlight parachute teams, pyrotechnic exhibitions, skywriting, demonstrations from the Indiana Air National Guard, historic planes in flight, and other static displays. Some of the displays will feature virtual reality units and photo ops.
touring massive aircraft
On the ground, hands-on experiences will include promotion for the movie Top Gun: Maverick, as well a historical look at the Tuskeegee Airmen, the Black fighter unit that escorted bomber missions over Germany in World War II with legendary success.
Younger visitors can take in the Kids Zone with the inflatable Mobile Mountain slide, with plenty of plans also available to be checked out.
The magnitude of the show hits home with Boatwright.
“It always gets me when I walk into on the ramp here in Fort Wayne, when we have an air show set up, and you see F-16s, our A-10s on static display, and you see a huge C-5 cargo jet with its nose open and you can walk all the way through the cargo bay of that airplane,” he said. “Just the variety of aircraft that the military, the Air Force, Navy, Marine, Army, have, you get to see a little bit of everything here.”
But it’s more than just machinery. Boatwright says the show will also provide a showcase of the capabilities and military air power.
“Equipment, personnel, and training are the three things that we put a lot of effort into. And hands down, the personnel is the number one thing that makes it all happen. You can have all the airplanes in the world, but if you don’t have the right people training day in, day out, that’s why we find ourselves in this position where we do have the ability to help out.”
Before the air show officially gets under way, a meet and greet with the Thunderbirds will take place during Downtown Fort Wayne’s First Fridays at The Landing from 6-8 p.m. on Friday, June 3.
A commando parachute team will land nearby, a skywriter will decorate the night sky, and there’s a chance to snap a few photos with a Top Gun: Maverick movie prop. It’s a free event with food and drinks available.
Getting more people included has also been a mission of the air show’s organizers. A Sensory Hour will take place Sunday from 7-8:30 a.m. The event is a user-friendly experience for those with mobility concerns and/or sensory processing disorders. Registration is required.
“They show up before the gates open for the general public,” Boatwright said. “The ramp is completely silent, so kids that normally wouldn’t feel confident and/or comfortable going out to an air show now get to do so and walk around the airplanes.”
To make the show as user-friendly as possible, visitors can navigate from exhibit to exhibit through their smartphones.
“We have QR codes throughout the ramp,” Boatwright said. “That QR code will be able to tell you where everything is at.
shuttle will bring you to show
There will be two free parking lots with shuttles bring spectators to and from the base: the north lot, adjacent to Airport Expressway, and the south lot off Bluffton Road.
“There will be a lot of signs telling you exactly where to go once you find yourself on Airport Expressway,” Boatwright said. “The big thing is don’t park at the terminal.”
That’s an important reminder.
“Unless you’re going to jump on a civilian airplane, United, American, Delta, to fly somewhere, do not park at the terminal because you’ll have to pay there,” Boatwright said.
ADA, VIP, and rideshare is located near the base.
For detailed instructions, including a parking map, go to fwairshow.com.