After 13 years without holding an air show, the 122nd Fort Wayne Air National Guard Base decided to bring it back and to go big in the process by inviting the Golden Knights Gold Demonstration Team. An estimated 50,000 people were said to be in attendance for the new and improved air show with acts like Otto the Helicopter, Indy Boys – Jet Powered School Bus, Mohr Barnstorming, Oliver’s SkyDancer and the F-22 Raptor Demo Team just to name a few. With 16 performers and 20 static displays this air show had something for everyone with no expense spared to accommodate an overwhelming crowd on a small base. The Gold Team was brought in to be one of the main headliners for the show and they did just that. On Friday the team was scheduled to perform just a few hours after landing so immediately after the in brief the clock was ticking. Since the demonstration teams are always in the public view it is critical to not only be ready to in a timely manner but to look good while doing it and since the team was the main event the heat was on. The team took off with eight press riders all wanting to talk to the jumpers during the flight but half way up the Ground Coordinator SGT George Perez called up to the plane with winds over 20 miles an hour. With this new knowledge the team leader J.D. Berentis made the call to switch to smaller parachutes so the team could still put on a performance. The planned jump still went according to plan giving the media on the ground and the ones still on the plane a great show. Within a couple of hours of jumping the Gold Team made the local radio and news as well as impressing the locals outside the gates.
The rest of the weekend was a success as well but not without some familiar weather challenges. On Saturday the team had two jumps to perform with the first one being a mass formation. The plane was once again filled with press riders wanting to get a glimpse of the jumpers leaping from 12,500 feet and without fail the team did just that. Shortly after the jump the clouds rolled in and spoiled the second jump for the day and once the rain started the show director made the decision to end the show early so the patrons could get home and not miss anything. On Sunday the team was scheduled for two jumps but the clouds were closed after just a few thousand feet. The mass formation the team planned on turned in to an equally impressive low CRW show. Three pairs of CRW landed across the show line allowing everyone to see the Golden Knight skills at work. The second show in the afternoon was also cut short because the rain was about to start so to not disappoint the people of Fort Wayne a low altitude stack out was put out just minutes before the jump. As the black and gold canopies soared above the crowd the people cheered with everything they had and watched the Knights hit the target one by one ending the airshow with a bang.
“Thunder Over The Boardwalk,” is one of the most popular events in Atlantic City, and one of the very best air shows in the country, with its heart-stopping feats, aerobatics maneuvers, formation flying and solo routines by military and civilian pilots. An estimated 800,000 people were said to be in attendance and every one of them with a front row seat to watch the Gold Demonstration Team perform some precision skydiving over the Atlantic City Beach. This was the tenth year for the amazing air show so all the stops were pulled out with performances by Geico Skytypers, Black Diamond Jet Team, Red Eagle Aerobatic and the USAF Thunderbirds just to mention a few ensuring that this year would be the most memorable. This is also one of the few air shows that the Golden Knights have attended every year since it began. Over 30 acts entertained the Atlantic City patrons during the six hour airshow leaving no gaps between demonstrations and with nothing but blue skies and light winds no one was disappointed. The team jumped the day before the air show on the media day and to the disappointment of the team no press wanted to ride up with them during the jump but all their reasons were the same that they wanted to be right there at the target area to see the team’s precision landings.
On Friday the day of the air show the Gold Team opened the event with SSG Brian Karst as the narrator and accompanying him was SFC Dustin Peregrin who piloted their two stack into the target area. The Gold Team was also accompanied by SFC Matt Davidson, SFC Sean Sweeney, SFC Justin Blewitt and SFC Drew Starr from the Men’s Eight Way Competition Team allowing for impressive mass formations that could be seen down the entire beach line. The performance was filled with almost everything in the Team’s arsenal showing the people swooping, accuracy, several different CRW formation and CRW landings. After the show while the Team packed their parachutes they were greeted with many faithful air show followers that said they had been to the air show every year and had never missed the Golden Knights perform. After packing the team lined up for some autographs at the Army Recruiting booth where many enthusiastic fans were already waiting to meet the jumpers they just saw.
The Oregon International Air Show held in Hillsboro was the last stop on a three week trip the Gold Team took to the northwest. This location offered the team an opportunity to jump into three different locations. First was a jump in to the Yamhill County Fair and Rodeo where the Team jumped in to celebrate the opening of the Fair. The jump was a great success and the team was welcomed with open arms and loud cheers as each of the jumpers landed. Just after the jump the team cleared the arena to make way for the bull riding competition. Only a few thousand were in attendance for the performance but all received a wonderful show and also had a chance to meet the Knights afterwards at the Army Recruiting Booth. The second location was at the home of Bob Terry who is the Washington County Commissioner and a major supporter of the Air Show. The jump was to open the social for the performers and volunteers of the Air Show. There was a special guest in attendance at the social, Carl Deiz one of the original Tuskegee gave the team a few moments to show their appreciation for his service and take a few photos. The show the team put on for the small crowd was just a preview of what was to come over the weekend.
On Friday the Gold Team put on two performances, an evening and a night jump. The two jumps were for VIPs and special invites and all of whom received a front row seat to a world class performance. Before and after the jumps the other acts performed to include the Thunderbirds, John Klatt’s stunt plane, and ending the night with 20 minute firework display. The show was not just scene by the VIPs it was also viewed by hundreds of onlookers outside the airport gates. Traffic was redirected away from the airport during the Air Show to prevent any serious accidents due to people stopping to see the acts. On Saturday and Sunday the team got to really show off by putting on two full shows for over 150,000 said to be in attendance. The weather was perfect for the show and to also fulfill a promise for a tandem ride the Gold Team gave to SFC Leroy Petry back in Washington. Medal of Honor recipient SFC Leroy Petry was given a chance to jump with the Knights while in Washington and also back at Laurinburg, NC where the Golden Knights train but bad weather put a hold on the
plans. Luckily the clouds stayed away and SFC Noah Watts made the jump with SFC Petry and it all went off without a
hitch. SFC Petry was very grateful for the opportunity and said it was one of the best things he had ever done. All together the three week trip was a great success.