Annual aerobatic airshow takes off | SteamboatToday.com
YOUR AD HERE »

Annual aerobatic airshow takes off

Julia Ben-Asher/For Steamboat Today
Barry Hancock rolls his North American T-6 , a World War II-era trainer, Friday while preparing for the Wild West Air Fest, which is scheduled to take place at the Steamboat Springs Airport this weekend. Hancock is just one of many pilots in town for the fly-in and airshow scheduled for 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
John F. Russell

If you go:

What: Wild West Air Fest

When: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 3 and Sunday, Sept. 4

Where: Steamboat Springs Airport — Bob Adams Field

Cost: $10 for adults per day or $15 for the weekend; $5 for children ages 6 to 12 for the weekend; free for age 5 and younger.

More information: No parking will be available at the event site. Parking will be available at the Stockbridge Transit Center and the Yampa Valley Electric Association lot with buses running to the airport.

Pilot Barry Hancock’s tips to watching your first airshow:

• Bring sunscreen, water and your own shade

• Plan extra time for parking

• Don’t be afraid to go talk to performers. We’re all happy to answer questions about what we do and our planes. We love doing that stuff and interacting with everyone.

— “It only takes one time,” Dagmar Kress recalled fondly.

When Kress was 18, she tagged along on an airplane ride with a friend. Today, she’s an award-winning aerobatic pilot, college aviation team coach and professional trainer who will be flying her Pitts S2C biplane in this weekend’s Wild West Air Fest airshow in Steamboat Springs.

In its 12th year, the event, which is sponsored by Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, features plane rides, a bombing simulation, a team of formation flyers, local vendors and a Butcherknife beer garden.

This year, the nonprofit Jump for Joy and the Go Pro Bomb Squad partnered to give local students a sneak preview of the aerobatics show and time to chat with performers on Friday.

If you go:

What: Wild West Air Fest

When: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 3 and Sunday, Sept. 4

Where: Steamboat Springs Airport — Bob Adams Field

Cost: $10 for adults per day or $15 for the weekend; $5 for children ages 6 to 12 for the weekend; free for age 5 and younger.

More information: No parking will be available at the event site. Parking will be available at the Stockbridge Transit Center and the Yampa Valley Electric Association lot with buses running to the airport.

“This is our big, family-friendly Labor Day weekend event,” said Chamber public relations manager Maren McCutchan. “This year’s airshow will be longer than ever.”

The aerobatic airshow, now in its third year after changing from static to aerobatic, spotlights pilots from across the country performing maneuvers across the Steamboat sky, which will cause most spectators’ eyes to pop.

“Looping, flying upside down, spins …” Kress said. “It’s like a ballet in the air.”

Pilot Barry Hancock’s tips to watching your first airshow:

• Bring sunscreen, water and your own shade

• Plan extra time for parking

• Don’t be afraid to go talk to performers. We’re all happy to answer questions about what we do and our planes. We love doing that stuff and interacting with everyone.

Based in Denver, Kress is accustomed to taking off from higher altitudes, but at the Bob Adams Field’s elevation of 6,889 feet, this airshow is unique. The pilots’ energy management and attention to decreased air pressure throughout their shows will be key to staying safe.

“The higher I go, the less well the plane performs,” Kress said. “I expect to lose altitude all the way through my routine, so I design my maneuvers with that in mind.”

A favorite part of Kress’s routine is the hammerhead maneuver, in which she flies straight up until the plane won’t continue, then pivots straight back down. There’s also the opening move — a spectacular spin that starts at 13,000 feet, where the altitude will inhibit the functionality of the small plane, and drops to 10,000, all while trailing spectacular plumes of smoke.

In her Pitts S2C model, which she describes as charming and friendly, Kress can manipulate the machine in ways some airshow participants might call creative and unorthodox, while other pilots and planes have different intentions.

Barry Hancock, a professional airshow performer and plane ride business owner out of Utah, will be piloting a T6.

“In a T6, maneuvers are big and graceful; the plane is fast and impressive,” he said. “It’s also fairly limited in terms of how creative you can get.”

Hancock’s mission for the airshow — and a major piece of why he flies at all — is to “honor the past and inspire the future” as a tribute to military veterans. He grew up watching jet fighters zoom across the sky from his backyard, dreaming of becoming one himself.

His T6 is a military-style plane. The model was designed to teach World War II pilots-in-training life-saving techniques — the final trainer plane before they were allowed to fly fighters.

“When this plane was being flown, all your basic pilot skills should have already been squared away, so you could concentrate on things like combat and bombing,” Hancock said. “So in some ways, it’s a little unforgiving.”

During the airshow, these looping, diving, spinning planes will present a kind of thematic storyline complemented by music broadcast by a PA system. The compilation of their efforts will be noted by judges.

“It’s definitely an art,” Hancock said.

Both planes will be among the fleet available to explore, and once back on the ground, both pilots will be available to talk to those attending the airshow.

Hancock and Kress agree a highlight of the Wild West Air Fest is an atmosphere that is smaller and more intimate than most, and they encourage attendees to come ask questions and hear stories.

“We do this out of love for aviation, and to hopefully inspire other people to get involved in aviation,” Hancock said.

Tickets to the event are available at wildwestairfest.com.


Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.

For tax deductible donations, click here.
 

Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User