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Air show delights crowds with tricks, vintage aircraft

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By Melanie Knight

The 2008 Palmetto Thunder Air Show at McWhirter Airfield at the Lancaster County Airport on Saturday and Sunday featured gravity-defying feats of aviation.

It was one trick after another and the pilots made these thrilling displays look like a cakewalk.

The aerobatics of the Red Eagle team was a coordinated series of timed "near misses" and other crazy upside-down stunts.

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Tim Weber put on a dizzying display of free falls, waterfalls and loop-to loops. He even raced a Dodge Ram down the airstrip. But it was no ordinary Dodge Ram – the truck was equipped with a jet engine.

Flames shot out when it was fired up and a heat wave hit the crowd.

Flights Unlimited performed a sampling of their skilled maneuvers and "hovers" with their radio-controlled model planes and a flying yellow lawn mower. The day was filled with endless Kodak moments.

The Flying Farmer offered comic relief.

These "hillbillies" played the part, complete with shotguns and overalls.

They drove on the airstrip in a truck, interrupted the ceremonies and talked their way into flying a plane and appeared to almost crash it several times.

Then grandpa shot a tire off the plane's landing gear and the plane landed – on a pickup truck. The whole time, there was banter between the master of ceremonies and the "farmers," while the crowd reeled with laughter.

The Sky Soldiers AH-1 Cobra 4 helicopter demonstration was a choreographed drill that commanded respect for the precision of its pilots and the power of their machines.

More than a few people dropped their jaws in awe as the U.S. Navy's F/A-18C Hornet demonstration sliced through the sky.

Some retired and active service personnel could be seen tearing up, as the demonstration apparently brought back memories of times gone by.

It may have also inspired a new generation of future pilots, such as Dylan Williamson, 10, of Fort Lawn.

His three favorites from the show were: "the helicopters, the helicopters and the helicopters."

He picked up some info from the exhibits about being a cadet.

Cameron Benton, 5, of Camp Creek said he enjoyed the "helicopters when they spin around and fly around in the sky." Both agreed they would come to another air show.

Terra Firma hosted the interactive element of the show with exhibits and mouth-watering food.

The tarmac was covered in helicopters and airplanes from the Carolinas Aviation Museum.

Children got to climb in and sit in the cockpit of several of these displays.

For the more adventurous, there were real Huey helicopter rides.

Performers were easily accessible for autographs and photos. After their coordinated spiraling jump, the Canadian Skyhawks came out and packed up their parachutes in the middle of the crowd.

This impressed Brea Hudson, 9, of Lancaster, who listed "getting the parachuter's autograph," along with funnel cakes and the truck race, as her favorite activities from the day's events.