Beaufort News

Base getting ready for air show crowds

Though the number of visitors through the gates of Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort may spike dramatically during this week's air show, the plan for protecting the base and its multi-million dollar fighter jets will remain basically the same, an air station spokeswoman said.

As Fightertown prepares to welcome more than 100,000 people for the 2011 Beaufort Air Show, base officials are finishing security plans for the event, said air station spokeswoman Lt. Sharon Hyland.

Those plans include storing the air station's F-18 Hornets, worth about $29 million each, in hangars or in other areas closed to the public, Hyland said.

"The air show is anticipated to be the largest show in our station's history, so our Marines and sailors ... are focused on providing the safest possible environment for the amount of visitors expected," Hyland said.

"On any normal working day, the air station may welcome several dozen visitors, but this is one of the few times that we open our gates to the public, so our security priorities shift from an operational focus on the Marines and sailors to the special needs of the public.

"The level of security will not change but (will) reflect the increased activity on base," Hyland added.

The air show, hosted by the air station every other year, is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday. Admission is free.

The event will again be headlined by the Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, better known as the Blue Angels.

The Blue Angels are expected to arrive at the air station Thursday to begin practicing for the air show, according to organizers.

In 2009, the event, which also featured the Blue Angels, drew more than 170,000 people to the base over two days, according to air station officials.

Hyland declined to comment on specific security procedures for the air show but said spectators should expect delays at security checkpoints.

"Visitors should anticipate that our security measures may cause some traffic and lines while at the show, but be assured that the security measures we take are to ensure their safety at the event," Hyland said.