Acts on ground, in air lining up for air show

Lt. Col. Chris "Bones" Harris talks to the West Point Rotary Club Thursday as Steve Swetz, Billy Buck Staggers, Lisa Klutts and Sonic Johnson listen in the background.
Staff Writer

Of all the moving parts that go into hosting as many as 50,000 people for an air show and open house, one of the biggest headaches organizers at Columbus Air Force Base have struggled with are clear bags and security.

Before the April 21-22 Wings Over Columbus show, that'll be one of dozens of things the base will be telling air show visitors; except for a few exceptions, anyone bringing anything into the show grounds will have to have clear bag, much the way clear bags now are required at many Mississippi State and Ole Miss sporting events, concerts and a growing number of other functions.

"Struggling, that's a good way of putting it," Lt. Col. Chris "Bones" Harris, the coordinator of the show, said of the clear bag issue when asked about it during a presentation to the West Point Rotary Club Thursday.

That and dozens of other facts and information will be updated regularly on the air show's Web site -- . That includes traffic patterns, security and other questions.

And food and beverages will be available so attendees don't have to worry about bringing it, Harris said of the free show. Reserved seating can be purchased for $15.

The two-day, $250,000 event will feature the world-famous Air Force Thunderbirds both days as well as the Army's Golden Knights Parachute team doing four performances during the two days.

A number of other military, vintage and stunt aeronautic groups also are on the schedule with the list growing each day.

The ground also will be the place to be with dozens of airplanes and demonstrations on display, including planes as diverse as the F-22 Raptor, the C-5 transport, and a variety of helicopters, including the UH-72 made in Lowndes County.

Even the world-famous Budweiser Clydesdales will be on hand Sunday.

Visitors will be able to sign up for the Rapid Strike simulator which offers four different realistic mission scenarios. The Army and Marines will have equipment and demonstrations and Billy McDonald, known as the Flying Tiger, will be on hand.

NASA is bringing rocket engines. The Mississippi State University drone research department and the university's championship rocket team will be on hand.

A car show will feature dozens of vintage cars and Precision Exotics will have Lamborghinis and other high-end sports cars on end with a chance to take them for a high-speed spin on CAFB's two-mile long runway for a fee, Harris said.

"This is a chance to show off that there is a lot more that goes on at the base besides just flying," Harris said of the event, which is returning for the first time in four years.

As for the security, it's a chance for base personnel to do what they do every day, CAFB Public Affairs Director Sonic Johnson noted.

"Unfortunately, it's the nature of the world we live in," he said. "But the whole idea is to get people in as quickly as possible with as little inconvenience as possible. We want to how everyone why we are so proud."