News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Airshow of the Cascades reaches altitude

Madras Airport was the setting Friday and Saturday for the 20th Airshow of the Cascades. If the parking lots and full RV grounds were any indication, it was a success. The weather was a cooperative partner, especially Saturday when nonexistent winds were considered perfect for the myriad airborne performers.

While it is a fully accredited “air show,” it could just as easily be called a “nostalgia fair” given that the 100+ vintage, experimental, military, and stunt planes were matched by an equal number of classic cars, trucks, farm, and military vehicles. Even the live and recorded music was more reminiscent of the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s.

The hundreds and hundreds of attendees came for the obvious — those daring young men and their flying machines — but also lapped up the full array of delights: live music, a Friday fireworks extravaganza, a fish fry, the Erickson Air Museum (a permanent airport exhibition), the car show, and the world-famous U.S. Army Golden Knights precision parachute demonstration team.

Lines for all the activities and food trucks were equal suggesting something for every taste. “Sentimental Journey” was definitely a crowd favorite. The completely intact US Army Air Force B-17 bomber was built in 1944 and flew missions in the Pacific. She looked like she just came out of the assembly plant.

You could not only walk right up and pat her, but one could in fact book a ride on her albeit it at a price that was not for everybody: $425 for one of the six waist compartment seats and $850 for the bombardier or navigator seat. That was the one line for which there was no wait.

More affordable and with many takers was the $60 helicopter ride. For the even more adventurous, you could belt yourself into a sailplane (glider), ascend to about 3,000 ft. pulled by a tow plane and released with no engine, only the skills of the pilot, the one accompanying you on the 20-25 minute ride back to terra firma.

Those preferring solid ground could spend hours literally car gawking. You name it and it was there – custom, import, muscle, rat rod, street machine, pickup and sports with several more than 75 years old.

Bi-planes alongside Studebakers gave the whole thing a feeling and aura of stepping back in time. Yet all the beauty wasn’t metal. Miss Oregon 2021 and Miss Oregon Teen 2021 greeted fans with style and grace. There were even Pin Up Girls with their WWII uniforms.

Being an airshow however, all eyes turned skyward at the appointed hour when the Knights jumped from 10,500 feet in a dazzling display of precision descent. First out of the plane was the paratrooper honored with carrying the American flag against the background of the national anthem, sung by the crowd.

Just prior saw the induction of Army and Navy recruits who took the oath of enlistment. Prominent throughout the day were the 20 or so young, mostly teen, members of the Civil Air Patrol, the auxiliary of the United States Air Force. They handled a host of volunteer duties alongside the 350 other volunteers needed to pull off such a large-scale event.

Given the tragic events in Kabul, patriotism was clearly the unspoken theme of the Airshow. Many an eye was wiped as the Knight carrying the U.S. flag touched down on a two-foot target marker, three miles from his starting point.

The Nugget caught up with the Goodman family from Sisters. Grandpa Buck, who was a close air support pilot in the Gulf War, was joined by son Brad, a Coast Guardsman at CG Station Brookings, Oregon. Brad had in tow his three boys — Bruce, Willy, and Charlie.

“We can’t believe how awesome this show is,” Buck said. “I was expecting something much smaller and had to coax the grand kiddos into coming.”

The boys — 5, 7, and 10, admitted to being reluctant in coming before going on nonstop about which was the coolest part of the day. Bruce was sure when he said, “The G force of the aerobatic planes. These guys are pulling like 4, maybe 5.” Brother Willy was a bit more graphic in his description. “I know my brothers would throw up. Not me.” Not content to be left out, Charlie jumped in. “That’s disgusting,” he said. “My grandpa could handle that easy.”

Indeed, the aerial acrobats left the crowd breathless with some unable to watch as planes twisted, dove, looped, and synchronously missed each other by mere feet at closing speeds of over 300 mph.

Stephen Christopher and Todd Ruddberg dazzled the onlookers in their special built RV-7 and RV-8 single-engine, propeller aircraft. Todd recently set the world record for the fastest RV type plane.

Renny Price, a larger-than-life aerobatic pilot, demonstrated his fearless aviator skills in the legendary, Russian-built Sukhoi-29, the same aircraft used in the internationally known Red Bull commercials. Dive speeds, spiraling downward toward ground, exceeded 200 mph. You could feel heart rates going up.

Jerod Flohr made a thunderous entry in his Douglas TA-4 Skyhawk jet used by the Top Gun and Blue Angel crews. Necks whipped to keep up with the speed.

Spectators lined a one-mile-long viewing fence so there was plenty of social distancing and plenty of satisfaction. The recent return to outdoor masking did not factor into the show’s ability to deliver adrenalin-filled fun.


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