By John F. Russell

Seated in the back seat of Barry Hancock’s North American T-6, it’s hard not to feel the excitement of the Wild West Air Fest.

There’s the roar of the vintage engine as the plane heads to the end of the tarmac to prepare for take-off, the feel of the rushing air pouring into the plane’s open canopy as it lifts off the ground toward the heavens, and the raw power as the World War II trainer climbs high into the Rocky Mountain Sky.

What: 11th annual Wild West Air Fest and 2nd annual Airshow

When: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday and Sunday

Where: Steamboat Springs Airport (no parking at event site — park at the Stockbridge Transit Center, 1463 13th St., for the free shuttle)

Tickets: $10 per day for adults (or $15 for the weekend), $5 for youth ages 6 to 7 for the weekend, and free for children 5 and younger. For an additional $5, new VIP flight-line seating is available.

“This is a World War II trainer,” Hancock said. ”Everybody who flew fighters in World War II, this was the last airplane they flew and the last time they flew with someone in the back seat to help them. They learned advance maneuvers — formation, gunnery, bombing tactics. They learned everything in this airplane before they went off to fight for our country.”

Hancock, who lives in Utah, now travels around the region with his plane to regional airshows hoping to take this generation back to a time when Americans fought and died for their country not only on the battle field but in the air over Europe and the Pacific.

“We are really excited to be in town this week for the airshow and to show off this airplane,” Hancock said. “It’s loud, it puts out a lot of smoke and it’s a big yellow airplane that’s really great for the spectators. We are all about honoring the past and inspiring the future. That’s what we do.”

The T-6 will be just one of several attractions at the 11th annual Wild West Air Fest. Hancock will share the sky with a number of show regulars, including the Rocky Mountain Renegades Flight Formation Team, which will anchor the airshow on both Saturday and Sunday.

“Years ago, we started doing a little formation,” Jim “Mad Dog” Sherry said. “Four years ago, we had a core group of guys doing it, and we asked the guys at the JeffCo Show if they would mind doing some fly-bys, and they said go ahead. So we’ve been incorporating a little more and more.”

The team is a combination of United States Air Force, Navy and civilian pilots most of whom work for or have retired from major airlines. They have experience flying military fighters, large military transports, attack helicopters and competitive aerobatic aircraft.

The group flies a 16-minute show using up to seven airplanes to create a mixture of precise formation flying interspersed with high energy aerobatic routines.

“We were looking for something to do, and this was the best alternative,” Sherry said. “We built them, and it was much more fun flying formation.”

As the group of pilots started working together, they realized their hobby could make a pretty good show. They decided to give it a try, and the show took flight.

The majority of the group flies in formation, but a couple of the pilots are soloists who also perform acrobatics in the middle of their shows.

“I’ve been flying my whole life, and then I got a job as an airline pilot, and I did 15 years of straight and level,” Steve “G-Man” Bergevin said. “I took my first lesson in aerobatics and just got hooked, and a whole new world was opened to me.”

He’s been flying aerobatics for nearly 25 years and fell in love with learning the skill.

These days when he isn’t flipping, rolling and stalling for the cheers from the crowd on the ground below, Bergevin is still a commercial pilot with United Airlines — a position he has held for more than 30 years.

“I fly over the Pacific in wide bodies,” Bergvin said. “This is my hobby now.”

No matter who’s in the air this weekend, or if the planes are modern or vintage, the Wild West Air Fest has plenty of talented pilots to entertain the crowds who come out for shows on both Saturday and Sunday at the Steamboat Springs Airport.

“We just want to Invite everybody to come out this weekend for the Wild West Air Fest at the airport,” Hancock said “This is my first year here, but it seems to be well organized. There is great good lineup, and it looks like the weather should cooperate. It should be a really good show.”

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966

Via:: Steamboat Today



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