Star Spangled Salute Air and Space Show a success at Tinker

  • Published
  • By Lauren Gleason
  • 507th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

The sounds of jet engines filled the air as the U.S. Navy Blue Angels headlined the 2019 Tinker Air Force Base Star Spangled Salute Air and Space Show June 1-2 in Midwest City, Oklahoma. 

This year’s Air Show theme, “Saluting our United States Armed Forces, Past, Present and Future,” honored the men and women who served our country and commemorated the 75th Anniversary of D-Day.

Col. Kenyon Bell, 72nd Air Base Wing commander, welcomed visitors on the first day of the air show by skydiving down to show center after tandem jumping with Master Sgt. George Wild of the U.S. Air Force’s precision parachute team, Wings of Blue.

“We get so much great support from the local community,” said Bell. “It’s just our opportunity to be able to give back in some small way over one weekend.”

Hosted by the 72nd Air Base Wing and sponsors, the event treated a record number of visitors to an exciting weekend of aerial acts, vendor booths, activities for families and static displays.

The air show was broadcast live via Tinker’s Facebook page, reaching an audience of more than 100,000 during the two-day simulcast, according to 72nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs.

Hearkening to the Air Force’s past, several heritage aircraft flew over the air show crowds including the the P-51 Mustang, the A-1 Skyraider, the B-29 Stratofortress and the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-17, a high-subsonic fighter aircraft produced in the USSR.

In addition, a Vietnam Combat Search and Rescue demo also showcased the capabilities of the Bell Huey, two Douglas Skyraiders, the De Havilland Caribou and O-2, complete with pyrotechnics.

Maj. Garret Schmitz, commander of the F-16 Viper Demo Team from the 20th Fighter Wing at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, flew his F-16 alongside the P-51 and the A-1 for a 10 minute heritage flight over the skies of Tinker, a tradition that began in 1997 during the Air Force’s 50th Anniversary.

“Essentially, we are combining the old warbirds with modern aircraft to commemorate the past and the present,” said Schmitz, whose call sign is “Toro.” He is one of two pilots in the Air Force who are qualified to fly heritage flights.

To watch the Tinker Talks podcast interview with the F-16 Viper Demo Team pilot and crew chief, visit here.

A special treat at this year’s show was the addition of the B-29 Superfortress “Doc,” according to Air and Space Show Director Lt. Col. Casey “KC” Hayes. Doc is one of only two remaining B-29s that are still flying today.

“The B-29 Superfortress is deeply rooted in our nation’s airpower history by being the largest and most advanced operational aircraft during World War II and the Korean War era.”

In order to showcase the combat capability of today’s Air Force, Team Tinker’s KC-135 Stratotanker from the 507th Air Refueling Wing, the 552nd Air Control Wing’s AWACS E-3 Sentry, and a Navy Strategic Communications Wing ONE E-6 Mercury flew over the air show, as well as the B-2 Spirit on Saturday only.

The base took the opportunity during the air show to celebrate the longtime partnership with both the 552nd ACW as well as the 40-year anniversary of the arrival of the Canadian Detachment. Forty-two members of the Royal Canadian Air Force are embedded with seven squadrons of the 552nd ACW and take on various responsibilities with their American partners.

“The 552nd ACW is very grateful for the partnership we have enjoyed over the last 40 years with our Canadian friends and fellow warriors,” said Col. Geoffrey Weiss, commander of the 552nd ACW.

And to highlight the future, the air show featured a new free exhibit, the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math City exhibit, with hands-on activities involving robotics and drones for families and children to enjoy, hosted by community groups, schools, aeronautic and aviation organizations.

Melanne Greenwood, STEM coordinator for Gordon Cooper Technology Center in Shawnee, Oklahoma, highlighted how important it is for educators to get children interested in technology, the earlier the better.

“This year alone there were 81,000 STEM-related jobs in Oklahoma,” Greenwood said. “Students are three times more likely to land jobs right here if they go into a STEM-related field and to also double their wage. So, it’s not just an education issue, it’s an economic issue.”

Also in attendance: Kent Pietsch, flying the “Jelly Belly” Piper Cub, Adam “Shakenbake” Baker, flying the Playful Air Shows’ “Extra 330”, Lt. Col. Justin “Schmed” Lewis flying the FLS Microjet, and Dell Coller, flying the Jack Link’s “Screaming Sasquatch” bi-plane Jet Waco aircraft, capable of flying straight up at maximum speed.

Lewis is a local pilot who also serves in the Air National Guard, and on Saturday he surprised his girlfriend, Michelle, upon landing from his aerial act with a marriage proposal. His friend, Adam Baker, used his Extra 330 aircraft to draw a large heart in the sky during the proposal on the runway at Tinker.

It took all of the Airmen at Tinker to stage the two-day celebration, along with more than 500 volunteers to help the show run smoothly.

Although it’s an Air Force event, the Navy Recruiters joined the Air Force Recruiters at the Air show. The Air Force recruiting booth featured a tactical experience, and the Navy recruiting booth featured a Blue Angels Experience.

New this year, a scavenger hunt, where 12 participating visitors who posted hashtagged photos with their favorite exhibit on social media were selected at random to go on an exclusive tour of Tinker.

While the Air Show was free to attend, the Afterburner Chalet offered guests a paid unique experience, complete with an exclusive lounge and private seating with front-row access of the aerial demonstrations.

Base leadership and aerial performers were on hand to sign autographs at the autograph tent located near the Afterburner Chalet.

Static displays rounded out the air show, including the C-17, F-35, E-3, B-1, B-52, KC-135, Navy E-6, MC-12, F-16, B-25, P-51 Miss America, T-6, T-28, PA-28, and the C-182.