Marines prepare for upcoming Beaufort Air Show

Spectators watch performers during the 2007 Beaufort Air Show at Marine Corps Air Station
Spectators watch performers during the 2007 Beaufort Air Show at Marine Corps Air Station

For the next two weeks, officials at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort will spend nearly every waking moment preparing for the arrival of more than 150,000 spectators expected to pour onto the base for the 2009 Beaufort Air Show.

The Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron -- better known as the Blue Angels -- will be the main attraction at the show, slated for May 16 and 17.

"Personnel have been drawn from nearly every squadron to help make this a great show for our friends and neighbors in the community," said Sgt. Lukas Atwell, air station spokesman.

The air show will be the first at MCAS Beaufort since April 2007, when a Blue Angel pilot, Lt. Comm. Kevin Davis, was killed when his F-18 Hornet crashed during one of the team's final maneuvers. The plane crashed in a wooded neighborhood near the intersection of Shanklin and Pine Grove roads, injuring at least eight people on the ground and damaging dozens of homes.

An investigation released nine months later determined Davis became disoriented during a sharp turn, which created gravitational forces almost seven times greater than normal. The Navy has instituted new training rules as a result.

Col. John Snider, commanding officer of MCAS Beaufort, said the air station is proud to once again have the Blue Angels on the bill.

"We are honored to welcome back the Blue Angels flight demonstration teams this year," Snider said. "We hope everyone gets the chance to come out and spend some time getting a firsthand view of the best the military has to offer."

Master Sgt. James Freundschuh said the two-day air show will be staffed by more than 200 military police officers, who will handle everything from traffic flow to checking bags brought into the event.

"One of the main things we're working on right now is parking," said Freundschuh, operations chief at the Provost Marshal's Office. "Our data shows that, across the country, attendance at air shows is up because of the economy. It's free entertainment. We're expecting probably 10,000 more cars this year than we had for the 2007 air show."

Freundschuh said the base will get a hand from the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office, as well as Beaufort's 131st Military Police Company from the Beaufort Readiness Center, which will help the air station's MPs and civilian police check bags.

Of particular concern to MPs is securing the base's flight line, home to the air station's six F-18 squadrons, each of which employs a dozen of the fighter jets, the average price of which is about $21 million.

"The flight line has a natural fence around it, and we'll put up a snow fence, and every bag that comes through that checkpoint will be inspected," he said.

The flight line will be only accessible by foot, according to the show's Web site.

The air station is the host for the air show every other year. The show, formally titled "Blues Over Beaufort," also will feature performances by Patty Wagstaff, a three-time U.S. aerobatics champion, and Jurgis Kairys, winner of the European Championship and World Grand Prix of Aerobatics.