Big air shows zoom into Waterloo, Omaha this weekend


August 26th, 2011 by Ric Hanson

Modern warplanes and historic aircraft will fill the skies during two major air shows on opposite corners of Iowa this weekend. The Thunder in the Valley Air Show in Waterloo is expected to draw 50-thousand spectators, while Omaha/Council Bluffs hosts its Defenders of Freedom Open House and Air Show at Offutt (OFF-it) Air Force Base. Lieutenant Colonel Donovan Routsis is the 55th Wing Group Commander at Offutt and says they have an entertaining lineup, starting with parachutists.

“The Army Golden Knights kick off our air show and then we’ll have an F-15-E Strike Eagle demonstration team,” Routsis says. “We’ll also have a Russian attack helicopter performing for the first time ever at a U-S air show. This will also be the first time we will have a B-2 (stealth bomber) on display here at Offutt.” In addition, the base has scheduled more than 20 aerial performers and more than 30 static displays. Flying can be a hazardous business and he notes, just last weekend, there were three deadly crashes at air shows nationwide.

“We’re very saddened by the tragic accidents that happened last weekend and we express our condolences to those families and friends of those involved,” Routsis says. “We’ve heard nothing from the FAA and our operations group stays in very close contact with the FAA in regards to accidents and our open house and air show are going to take place as scheduled.”

Routis was referring to the crash at a Kansas City, Missouri air expo, which took the life of 50-year old Atlantic native Bryan Jensen on August 20th. That same day a 33-year old Royal Air Force pilot died at an air show in the U.K. The next day, wing Walker Todd Green fell 200 feet, after an attempting an aircraft transfer from a Stearman to a Helicopter at an air show in Michigan.

Both airshows in Waterloo and Omaha are planned for Saturday and Sunday. Jensen had been scheduled to perform this weekend, at the air show in Waterloo.