Showers donâ�?�?t dampen
Sesquicentennial Air Show Cool and rainy conditions meant altering the original plans for the Sesquicentennial Air Show, held Sunday morning, Aug. 9, at Harold Davidson Field in Vermillion. The weather didn't stop a large turnout of Vermillion citizens from visiting the airfield to feast at the local Lions Club's pancake breakfast, served in one of the airport's hangars. And while plans to have a flyover of F-16 fighter jets from the South Dakota National Guard 114th Fighter Wing had to be scrapped because of low clouds, the weather wasn't enough to ground the scheduled air show. The VanGuard Squadron arrived at Vermillion in a five-aircraft formation to a cheering crowd. The VanGuard Squadron was established in 1993 and is based in Sioux Falls. The RV-3A aircraft have flown over 3,000 hours on 100 percent ethanol and have done air shows all across the United States. The aircraft have 160 horsepower engines, an empty weight of 690 pounds, fly at 207 miles per hour, and only seat one person – the pilot. The lead pilot is Gary Kuhns, left wing is Steve Thompson, right wing Todd Eslick, and the slot is Todd Schaufenbuel. At Sunday's Sesquicentennial Air Show, the fifth VanGuard plane was flown in by Dave Meyer in the group's only two-seat aircraft. Vermillion folks who couldn't make it to Sunday's show may watch the VanGuard Squadron perform during Riverboat Days at Yankton on Aug. 22 at 1:30 p.m. and on Aug. 23 at 2:30 p.m. They will also perform at the grand reopening of the Luverne (MN) Airport on Sept. 12. The Vermillion Lions Club started the day's festivities by serving pancakes, ham, sausage, orange drink, and coffee to a hungry crowd. The breakfast was a service project of the Lions, with the proceeds going to the Senior Citizens Center. Parking services were provided by the 370th Area Support Medical Company based in Vermillion. Safety support was provided by the Vermillion Fire Department. Due to a break in the weather, one plane flew in for the airport breakfast. It was a Citabria from Lincoln County Airport at Tea. Typically, 30 to 40 planes would have flown in for the event if the weather was more suitable for flying. At about 9:30 a.m., Mayor Dan Christopherson welcomed everyone to the airport breakfast and air show. He briefly reviewed the recent improvements at the airport, primarily the new concrete overlay on the runway. Christopherson read a proclamation dedicating the new runway to Airport Manager Denny Martens. Martens has been at the Vermillion Airport since 1959 and received the Federal Aviation Administration's Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award in September 2007. The award is presented to aviators who have safely been a licensed pilot for over 50 years. Evie Johnson, who works for the city of Vermillion in the administration department, sang the national anthem. Afterward, Martens ceremoniously cut the red ribbon to officially "open" the airport and dedicate the new runway named in his honor. The clouds lifted at about 10:20 a.m. and the VanGuard Squadron took to the sky to perform their aerobatic routine. Their maneuvers included barrel rolls, hammerheads, diamond formation, echelon formation – all with "smoke on." The skilled pilots even made a smoke-drawn Heart, and closed with a photo pass for the crowd before flying back to Sioux Falls. Next, Steve Falon of Sioux Falls flew his Pitts S1S aerobatic aircraft, doing a wide variety of maneuvers including point rolls, inverted flight, outside loop, inside loop, Cuban 8, barrel rolls, tumbles, aileron rolls, and more – all with "smoke on." Falon's Pitts was built in 2000 and designed to withstand six positive and three negative Gs of force, which he endures during performances. He closed with a photo pass and landed to the cheers of the crowd. Afterward he autographed photos of his plane for the appreciative audience. In spite of the early rainy and low ceiling weather, the airport breakfast was great success. The Lions Club estimated they service about 630 people. However, there seemed to be many more who came to see the free air show.