By Alex Bridges -- firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- Plane engines growled and wings split the sky over the Front Royal-Warren County Airport Saturday.
Aircraft of all kinds took flight for the Warren County Balloon & Airstravaganza, and this time the weather let organizers pull it off. The threat of rain grounded last year's inaugural event and though dark, low-lying clouds loomed, only a constant breeze blew through the airport.
People came to see everything from one-person gyrocopters and gliders to biplanes and single-engine Cessnas soar and dive, loop and corkscrew throughout the day. Food vendors and other exhibitors were set up by the runway near the aircraft parking area.
Organizers also used the event as an observance of Patriot Day, held to honor the victims of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and local hero Bunky Woods also appeared at the air show.
Pilots and wing walkers with the Flying Circus Airshow based in Bealeton performed stunts for the crowd. A Flying Circus parachutist carrying an American flag jumped from a plane to kick off the opening ceremonies. Four biplanes swooped and soared over the airport. A wing walker sat, stood and hung from the spans of a 450hp Stearman. An Extra 300 single-engine plane spewed smoke as it did loops and corkscrews and other tricks for the crowds.
The event had gone well by noon, according to Warren County Board of Supervisors Vice Chairman Glenn L. White, also chairman of the Warren County Airport Commission and the airshow committee.
"Well this is actually the first year we've been able to get it off the ground," White said. "We tried to do it last year and it got rained out, so we're having a few first-year glitches, but we're making note of them for next year and it'll be a lot smoother than this year."
A U.S. Army Blackhawk helicopter flew in and many children took the opportunity to sit inside.
"We're very pleased with the turnout so far and the day is really young," White said. "We don't know what the final total will be but we're hoping for several thousand and so far it looks like we might make it."
A successful and ongoing airshow could help the commission achieve its goals of drawing people and businesses who may want such a facility nearby to move to the area.
"First of all many of us [commissioners] are airplane lovers, and the best way to get a lot of airplanes in here is to have an airshow," White said.
White, who grew up next to a U.S. Army Air Corps base during World War II, said he has stopped flying but still enjoys planes.
Flying Circus members own and maintain their aircraft, said Jana Leigh McWhorter, one of the "wing walkers" in the organization. She said she was thankful for the decent weather and the chance for the Flying Circus to perform.
"Thank God it didn't rain," McWhorter said. "It held off and we had a great show."
The event drew people of all ages and from all over.
"We came out because we have three boys who love planes," said Marina Bise, of Front Royal. "We got here right in time for the Flying Circus and that was great fun. They all looked like they were having a great time."
Julie Litterio, of Bentonville, brought her five children to the airshow.
"My three boys definitely wanted to see it," Litterio said.
She said her oldest, 15-year-old Amanda, has shown an interest in the Civil Air Patrol, members of which appeared in force to help out at the event.
"We saw some biplanes doing some barrel rolls with smoke trails and everything," Litterio said. "As we were coming up from Bentonville we could see them as we were coming up [U.S.] 340."
Rex and Kim Byrns, Texans currently working in the Washington area, are gyrocopter aficionados and fliers and also volunteers with the Popular Rotorcraft Association. The Byrns staked a place out close to the runway.
"It's great to get to see the Flying Circus guys," Rex Byrns said. "We saw there were gonna be a couple of gyros here."
The couple's love of aircraft runs deep.
"We got married at a fly-in," Rex Byrns said.
"We got married in a hangar," his wife added.