McConnell air show draws thousands despite cloudy skies

By CHANCE SWAIM | The Wichita Eagle | Published: September 9, 2018

McCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kansas (Tribune News Service) -- The weather may not have been ideal for an air show Saturday, but that didn't keep people off the ramp.
From 9 a.m. to after 3 p.m., bus after bus rolled into McConnell Air Force Base, carting thousands of people to the "Frontiers in Flight" air show.

But the show's closing act never got off the ground.

Several flight performances had to be canceled because of the low cloud ceiling, including the most popular routine by the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds.

The Thunderbirds were scheduled to take flight around 3 p.m. Saturday, but they need a 1,500-foot cloud ceiling to perform. Scheduled performances were pushed back when the clouds were at 700 feet at around 11 a.m. By 1 p.m., the ceiling had risen to 1,000 feet and officials were optimistic the Thunderbirds might be able to take flight on schedule.

But by 2:30 p.m. the cloud cover had dropped another 200 feet, all but assuring there would be no Thunderbirds performance.

"Today went really really well for the airshow, despite the weather," said 2nd Lt. Daniel de La Fe, chief of media relations with the 22nd Air Refueling Wing. "We had high expectations, and we had to maneuver and go with the flow, as far as the weather's concerned.

"Weather dictates what we do, as far as safety, and we really appreciate everyone from the community who came out to celebrate," de La Fe said.

He said there's a new app available to download by searching for "22ARW" or "Frontiers in Flight" on Google Play or the Apple App Store that should help people navigate the show Sunday, when clearer skies are expected.

"The weather's looking like it's going to cooperate. . . . We're going to be good to go for all 15 performers," he said.

Most show goers seemed unfazed by the lack of Thunderbirds on Saturday.

"It's too bad, but at least it didn't rain," said Lance Stiles of Missouri, who is visiting family in Wichita this week and brought his three children to the show. "Usually when I come to Wichita, there's not a lot going on, you know? But this was real fun."

Classic rock blasted through the speakers. The smell of grilled chicken wafted through the fall air. A light rain came and went. Pilots talked shop with curious civilians, explaining their planes and sharing stories. The planes that did fly "were awesome," Stiles said.

"You can't beat the weather, the cool planes, good food. I think the kids learned something," Stiles said. "I might come back tomorrow with more people."

(c) 2018 The Wichita Eagle. Visit The Wichita Eagle at www.kansas.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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