by Riley Hicks
F-18’s, military helicopters, Navy rescues, and landings on RVs were just some of the events highlighting the Atlanta Air Show over the weekend. This was the first time that an air show has taken place inside a stadium venue like Atlanta Motor Speedway, and a lot of the pilots had to adjust to the new atmosphere since most are used to flying over airports and beaches.
This year, pilots took off from Henry County Airport and flew their way into the speedway, where fans waited in the grandstands. Performers did tricks over the infield, maneuvering through light poles and flying over condos.
“No one has ever done this before and set up an aerobatic box inside a motor speedway,” Atlanta Air Show director of public relations Chris Dirato said. “To see it come to fruition and successfully run the event gave us a lot of optimism that this thing was going to grow into a big event over time.”
On Saturday, the air show was hit with a cloudy forecast that called for some acts to change their performance. The pilots were restricted on what they could do since the planes had to stay at a certain height. Even with the schedule change, the air show was still able to put on a great show for the fans. With the skies clear on Sunday, all performers part took in the show as they flew through the air doing all kinds of tricks. The tricks included backflips, flying upside down, and barrel rolls, along with many more acrobatic moves.
On both days, the stands began to roar as the jets soared through the stadium at over 600 mph. The F-16 Viper and F-18 Super Hornet broke the sound barrier and demonstrated to fans how pilots maneuver such powerful aircraft.
While the jets put on quite a show, they were not the only acts that amazed the crowd. The lineup included Kent Pietsch “Jelly Belly,” P-51 Mustang, Screamin’ Sasquatch, and Army Black Daggers, among others. Every act brought something new to the table and put on quite a show for the fans in attendance and for those streaming live on Facebook.
“They enjoyed the experience, and many of them said they can’t wait until next year,” Dirato said. “They really got a kick out of it. We heard nothing but positive feedback and excitement from all the pilots.”
Outside of the speedway, fans enjoyed a variety of booths and took home bags full of free items, like the popular Jack Links jerky people lined up for. Four military helicopters were there for viewing, pictures, and rides.
“The plan is we are going to be back in 2018, and we will keep going forward, and the lineup of performers were stout but hopefully we will have more to offer next year.” Dirato said.