Friday, July 27, 2012

TOP STORY >> How to beat the heat at air show

19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

This year’s Little Rock Air Force Base open house and air show is set for Sept. 8 and 9.

Though the summer season will be officially over, summer temperatures will not. With hundreds of thousands of people expected to attend from all areas of Arkansas and surrounding states, hydration, shade and traffic are the main safety concerns.

Lt. Col. Mike Kirby, air show director, says four acres of shade will be available during the event.

“Located inside the four acres of shade will be the Air Expo Center,” said Kirby. “In the center, there will be a continuous concert going on with various bands playing such as the Ladies for Liberty.

Reserved assigned seating, which will be directly in front of the Navy’s Blue Angels demonstration team, offers access to a shaded area with tables and chairs where one can eat.

Tickets are $20 until the day of the show when they will be $30. There are 1,200 seats available for sale. To order tickets or for more information on the 2012 Air Show, visit

The gates open at 8:30 a.m. and the show starts at 10 a.m.

Kirby said 500 seats will be available inside, and there will be a breeze flowing because the doors will remain open.

There will be commercial vendors attending and informational booths.

The Wildlife Parks and Refuge will have a 50,000-gallon fish tank set up. There will be military working dog demonstrations going on, and the Army will also have displays set up.

Blue Bell ice cream will be giving away ice cream samples.

“So, you’ll be able to walk around, see the displays, and hear the bands play. This gives the audience a chance to get away from the heat for a little bit but still be involved in the show. The Air Expo Center is adjacent to the main show, and there will be an announcer constantly informing the audience of the schedule of performances and events,” Kirby said.

The center will be open from the opening of the air show to an hour after the show ends. There will be a band scheduled to play after the Blue Angels’ performance, so if there are people who want to stay behind and let some of the traffic congestion lighten up, that is an option.

Kirby said he is very excited about this year’s Air Show. He said he is looking forward to the Blue Angels’ performance.

“I am very excited about the Blue Angels,” he said. “They’re one of the best jet-demo teams in the world. We are very fortunate to have a huge crowd from Arkansas and the surrounding states. We expect somewhere between 225,000 to 250,000 people over the two days. We’re also excited because we’ve been selected for several high-profile demo teams.

“The Canadian F-18 demo team is coming down. The Navy is also bringing their F-18 down. We were selected by the Air National Guard to have their jet truck to perform as well. They don’t appear at every show. They only come to the big ones,” Kirby said.

As big as the names of the performances are, the concern for keeping the audience hydrated is even bigger. At previous air shows, mist tents and water fountains were available at numerous locations.

Kirby said plans are still being developed to ensure there are plenty options to locate water.

“We are still working out the details on the mist tents. There will be some available, however. We have tripled the number of water fountains available along the flight line. Every one of our main fire hydrants will have six water fountains associated with it.”

Along with a safety message for staying hydrated, Kirby also advises those attending the show to take care of their skin and to also leave any suspicious personal items they don’t want confiscated at home.

“We are encouraging every-one to bring a disposable, refillable plastic water bottle,” he said. “Also bring sunscreen, lawn chairs and comfortable walking shoes. Everyone will be screened by magnetrons, and there will be random vehicle searches. Absolutely no weapons will be allowed, even in the vehicles. Not even a pocket knife.”

Having an expectation of 225,000 to 250,000 people, there will definitely be some traffic. Kirby suggests carpooling and arriving early to relieve some of the congestion at the gates.

“If you can carpool, that will be a great idea,” Kirby said. “Even if you have to park outside the gate and then group up, that will be better. It helps on the way in and especially on the way out because everyone arrives over three hours and wants to leave over thirty minutes. Get there and get in line early.

“We are flying away a majority of our airplanes to allow space for parking. Most people will be parked right on the flight line. The others will park in our overflow parking areas on base, and will be shuttled to the flight line. It’s about a five minute bus ride.”

Kirby said to make sure children stay close by their parents. “Develop a plan with them just in case they get lost,” he said.

Tell them to “find someone in uniform if they do. We have a system in place for anyone who gets lost. We will have persons with radios, and there will be a rally point where lost individuals will be told to go.

“There will be public-service announcements made to inform everyone that a lost person is located at that point,” Kirby said.