The Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point’s biennial air show roars onto the spring calendar Friday-Sunday, April 29-May 1, celebrating some of the world’s most talented pilots and showcasing some of the military’s tactical prowess.
Regularly playing host to more than 150,000 guests over its three-day schedule, the air show is one of those great opportunities to entertain the entire family at one venue. Add to that the fact that entry and parking is free – and folks really can’t go wrong.
This year’s air show theme, “Celebrating 75 Years,” was inspired by Chuck Hartung of Havelock and chosen from 157 entrees in the annual contest and recognizes Cherry Point’s 75th anniversary in Eastern North Carolina.
“Initial planning for our biennial air show begins two years in advance — as soon as one show ends, we start discussions with the Blue Angels about their calendar for the next show,” said James Riemer, air show director. “Once we get about six months out, it builds like an avalanche, picking up momentum as we work to fill the schedule with the best available performances, displays and all of the other moving parts that make up a great air show.”
While area residents are all too aware of the air station, the show gives the public the opportunity for a behind the scenes peek into regular operations at the base through static displays, ride simulators and more. Guests can also expect plenty of vendors, entertainments, a fun zone for kids, lots of food and a full program of activities.
It’s the acrobatics in the sky, however, that steal the spotlight. This year’s air show will feature US Navy Blue Angels. Other highlights in a long lineup of performances will be the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter; a spectacular demonstration by the F-22 Raptor; the Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18 demo team; Geico Skytypers; the tightly choreographed aerobatics of local favorite Hubie Tolson; and a Marine Air-Ground Task Force demonstration.
The gates will open for the Friday, April 29 night show at 5pm, and on April 30 and May 1, gates will open at 8am for two full days of entertainment. Detailed schedules for flying performances will be available to the public as soon as all performers are signed on for the show, but this year already looks to have the most packed performance schedule ever.
For those who haven’t experienced it, the night show is a must do. This year’s show will include aerial pyrotechnic displays, afterburner flybys, the roaring afterburner display of the jet-powered school bus, skydivers, a wall of fire ordnance demonstration, live music and a large fireworks display set to patriotic music. If you go, be sure to take a jacket. The days in late April can be quite warm, however, the evenings cool quickly and on the open flight line, with limited barriers to block the wind, it can become surprisingly chilly. It’s important to note that because of safety concerns, the Blue Angels do not perform during the night show.
Saturday and Sunday feature full day shows with a large variety of military and civilian aerobatic demonstrations and dozens of historic and modern military displays. The base gates open at 8am and flying runs from approximately 10:30am to 4:30pm. The Blue Angels, as always, will be the grand finale each day.
While all events are free, including parking, there are a limited number of special premium seats and packages available, from $10 for a bleacher seat to $80 for a full Flightline Club package, which includes breakfast and lunch, beverages, preferred parking and access to the air conditioned chalet tent and semi-private restrooms. box seats and chalet tickets available. For pricing and availability, call 866-WINGS-NC or visit cherrypointairshow.com.
Organizers recommend that guests bring along comfort items to help make their visit, well, more comfortable. Lawn chairs, blankets, sun screen, umbrellas, hats, jackets, cameras and, of course, those earplugs, are suggested. ATM’s are available on-site, but organizers note that the lines are often quite long.
Shuttle buses will operate throughout the festivities to help people get from parking areas to the tarmac. Keep in mind that pets, glass, coolers, alcohol, pocket knives, weapons and any wheeled vehicle other than strollers and wheelchairs are prohibited. It’s also important to be mindful of the fact that guests are entering a government facility and are subject to searches at any time.
To learn more, visit www.cherrypointairshow.com.