Aerobatic antics abound at Wild West Air Fest in Steamboat |

Aerobatic antics abound at Wild West Air Fest in Steamboat

Tom Larkin, a former U.S. Air Force pilot and instructor, is one of the new pilots flying at the Wild West Air Fest on Saturday in Steamboat Springs. He flies a Subsonex, the world’s smallest jet. (courtesy photo)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Planes — flying hundreds of miles per hour, thousands of feet in the air, twirling, tumbling and twisting  — will make any onlooker stare up at the sky in disbelief.

“Up there, it’s total freedom,” said Tom Larkin, former Air Force pilot and instructor and one of the new pilots who will be flying at the 14th annual Wild West Air Fest, which will be from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at Bob Adams Airport in Steamboat Springs.

Larkin flies the world’s smallest jet, the Subsonex.

If you go

Friday, Aug. 31:
• 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Aerobatic box for air show practice

Saturday, Sept. 1:
• 8:30 to 9:15 a.m. Rocky Mountain Renegades depart and fly over town
• 9 a.m. Gates open and aircraft starts giving public rides
• 11 a.m. Opening ceremonies
• 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Air show performances
• 3 p.m. Event ends

Where: Steamboat Springs Airport, 3499 Airport Circle

“There’s no road to follow, no speed limit,” Larking said. “For the most part, you can express whatever you might be feeling that day. It’s liberating.”

Larkin and his Subsonex, the 16-foot-long, 18-feet-wide plane that weighs just 500 pounds, will perform with a variety of other pilots, including the Rocky Mountain Renegades during the 11:30 a.m. aerobatic show.

Larkin will demonstrate maneuvers such as the Half Cuban 8, a loop with a roll on the top, and the Humpty Bump, which involves him flying the plane straight up and, once near the top, coming out of the climb and going straight down again to resemble a big hump. He also pulls off a “homemade” maneuver he calls “The Blender,” a combination of humpties and rolls.

Air Fest Aviation Director Debby Standefer explained that these fully aerobatic aircrafts have the ability to takeoff using less than 800 feet of runway, climb to 10,000 feet in less than 90 seconds, travel at more than 335 miles per hour and dive faster than 380 miles per hour.

At a glance

New this year:
• The world’s smallest jet, the Subsonex, with pilot Tom Larkin from Denver
• Local pilot John Williams performing an aerial ballet with his Stemme glider
• Lt. Col. Scott “Cheetah” Petz, former member of the Thunderbirds jet demonstration team, announcing the air show
• RE/MAX Skydiving Team opening the air show
• Wings over the Rockies offering kids activities all day

Planes in the sky:
• The Rocky Mountain Renegades will bring their nine “ship” formation aerobatic team.
• Barry Hancock, in his historic T-6 warbird, will perform daring aerial aerobatics.
• Mile High Wing Commemorative Air Force will bring its Beech 18.
• Rocky Mountain Commemorative Air Force will bring its historic World War II Torpedo Bomber, the 1945 TBM-Avenger, which the public can see fly a bombing mission. It also will bring its 1942 Piper J-3 Cub for rides and a Kit Fox for static display.
• Richard VanGrunsven will fly the mono-plane, the RV Van’s Aircraft.
• Steve Bergevin will fly the aerobatic Giles G-202 plane.

“It’s second nature now, but when I was a kid, I wouldn’t even go on a roller coaster,” said Larkin, who has more than 30 years worth of aviation experience. “It took me awhile to get used to it.”

The airshow is a highlight of Steamboat’s Labor Day weekend festivities. The event also offers a wide variety of activities such as the “Wings over the Rockies,” a kids zone for all ages.

The Wild West Air Fest also gives attendees a chance to learn the stories of these renowned pilots and the history of their aircrafts, which are coming to Steamboat from all across the world.

“They get to see these planes up close,” Larkin said. “Especially with the mini jet, it makes it more relatable to kids. They can see themselves in it. It’s a day for them to see something like this, and that carries through with them as they grow up.”

Spectators will also have the chance to fly in a few of the planes on a first-come, first-serve basis. Reservations and payments are made directly through the pilots, and prices vary for each aircraft.

“This will be our best and most exciting air show that we’ve had,” Standefer said. “We hope the magic of this air show inspires kids to learn about and get involved with aviation.”

There is no public parking at the air show. Spectators are encouraged to walk, ride their bikes or drive to the shuttle pickup locations. Parking along Elk River Road near the airport is strictly prohibited.

There will be free public parking, and shuttle transportation is available at Stockbridge Transit Center, 1515 Lincoln Ave., and the Routt County Justice Center, 1955 Shield Drive. Shuttles will run every 10 minutes between these locations and the airport.

Dogs are not allowed at the event, and there is no smoking at the airfield. In addition, coolers and alcohol are not permitted. Small backpacks, water hydration packs and water bottles are allowed.

The Wild West Air Fest is a no-drone event, and drone operations within five miles of the airport on Saturday are not permitted.

To reach Audrey Dwyer, call 970-871-4229, email or follow her on Twitter @Audrey_Dwyer1.

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