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Mon, Sept. 23

Look to the sky

PRESCOTT ­ Skydivers, World War II military planes and ground displays ranging from a NASA training aircraft to an F-15-C Eagle flown during Desert Storm will be among the performances and displays at Prescott Air Fair Association's Arizona Skyfest Air Show on Saturday at the Prescott Airport.

Two of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen will moderate a question-and-answer forum and sign autographs at 10 a.m.

The WWII pilots claimed their mark in history as the first black soldiers "who participated in air crew, ground crew and operations support training in the Army Air Corps during WWII" according to the Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. National Web site.

Show openers include a F-18-D Hornet flown by Marine pilots. Dozens of pilots from around the country and as near as Prescott will be performing aerobatics at the show.

The Hornet is a premier military fighter, according to Jim Bender, a former Air Force pilot who retired from the service in 1984. Bender served during the Vietnam War when he flew an AD-6 Skyraider which also will be among the ground displays at the air show.

Bender will be available to answer questions at the Skyraider ground display about what he described as an airplane "noted for its incredible accuracy for dropping bombs."

Tim Weber will be among the dozens of pilots flying at the show. Weber, who said he is one of only a handful of approximately 350 licensed air show pilots in the country who earns a living at his craft, will be flying a GEICO Extra 300S, an all composite, unlimited-class aerobatic monoplane built in Germany.

"If you've ever been on a rollercoaster and felt your face getting squeezed, that's about 2Gs," said Weber, referring to two times the force of gravity. "Then imagine 10Gs. That's what we're going through when we fly hardcore aerobatics."

Warren Parkes, executive director of the air show, anticipates a crowd of as many as 25,000 for an event he said likely will draw men and women from every age group, because air shows rate among the most popular around the globe.

"(Air shows) are right behind baseball," Parkes said. "It's a big boy motor sports event even though people think they are not."

Parking lots open at 7:30 a.m. Spectators can enjoy a $5 pancake breakfast that the Experimental Aircraft Association is sponsoring at 8 a.m. More than 50 exhibitors plan to participate at the event that includes a raffle of local artist Dave Newman's original mixed media artwork on wood. The 48-inch by 36-inch piece is worth roughly $4,000. Proceeds from the raffle will benefit area educational programs in math, science and engineering.

History buffs will enjoy aerial demonstrations of many military aircraft, including a Mitsubishi A6M3 Zero, which Japanese pilots used in WWII. The airplane was one of the most famous Japanese fighters in the war, because it provided fighter cover for Japanese bombers who attacked Pearl Harbor, Bender said.

A Russian MIG 21, known for its speed, also will fly at the air show.

"There are many stories about MIG 21s and F-4 Phantom jets going at it with each other (during the Vietnam War)," Bender said. "It was the prime contender against the U.S. Forces."

People can buy discounted air show tickets and flightline parking tickets online at or in person at the Antelope Hills Inn at North Highway 89 at Willow Creek Road, Prescott.

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