New airshow takes off in Bremerton

The first air show to grace the skies above Bremerton National Airport in over 30 years got off to a flying start with ancient and aerobatic aircraft combining with Canada’s finest over the weekend.

Weather conditions cooled down before the commencement of the first Wings Over Washington airshow Aug. 19-20, and even with wildfire smoke in the area, thousands still made the trip to the airport.

Throughout each of the two days, attendees were invited to check out the show’s lineup of planes on the ground along with a number of booths and activities. They then watched, binoculars and cameras in hand, as pilots demonstrated each plane’s unique features and style, along with some daredevilish moves.

The planes included a high-energy duo of aircraft from Undaunted Air Shows, plenty of smoke trails from planes like Renny Price’s SU-29 and a plethora of wartime aircraft highlighted by the monstrous PBY-5A-Catalina. Entertainment also came on the runways as Bill Braak brought out a powerful Smoke-n-Thunder Jet Car to not only race, but to beat an airborne plane.

As if the daring feats of the pilots were not thrilling enough, our neighbors to the north provided the icing on the cake. The Canadian Armed Forces Parachute Team, the Skyhawks, presented the opening colors and concluded each day’s show with parachuting tricks and colorful descending smoke trails.

Just the idea of jumping from a plane is crazy enough to some, but for the tough men and women that serve on the team like Master corporal Dominic Raymond, it’s an incredible rush.

“For me, I like the adrenaline, the freeing feeling of free falling,” Raymond said, himself having jumped over 500 times. “When I go back to when I started, I can say I was feeling nervous at first, but you have to go through that feeling and keep going. I won’t say it goes away, but it becomes more fun than stressful.”

Freedom Fair president Tony LaStella was happy how it turned out. “The idea was to get the word out and build the event so that next year it’ll really take off,” he said. “I think we accomplished that as everyone had a great time and all the community leaders and businesses now want to get involved as either sponsors or volunteers.”

Event organizers are already taking action to set up next year’s show, and with a larger airport to work with, they are envisioning that its second year of many to come will see the show really succeed. “We will let people reserve their seats now for next year to make sure they get them. Likewise, many businesses came in too late to become sponsors so we will give them the opportunity now to reserve a sponsorship for next year,” LaStella said.

Before the show, Port of Bremerton CEO Jim Rothlin said, “We’ve had big events here, but nothing this big for our community.”

The air show was a partnership between the port and the nonprofit Freedom Fair. The show had existed as the Gig Harbor Wings and Wheels event and was part of Pierce County’s Independence Day since 2010. Conflicts with county leadership led the show to look for alternatives after last year’s event was called off.

LaStella called a “match made in heaven” just 26 miles away on the outskirts of Bremerton, one made in part due to the work of port Commissioner Axel Strakeljahn offering the airport as a potential solution.

Freedom Fair logistics director Dan Mazzuca expressed his gratitude, saying, “This (Strakeljahn) is the point master for this whole production that is going on.”

Crowds line up at the fence line to catch a glimpse at the underside of the PBY-5A-Catalina.

Crowds line up at the fence line to catch a glimpse at the underside of the PBY-5A-Catalina.

Greg Colyer soars by in a T-33 ‘Shooting Star.’

Greg Colyer soars by in a T-33 ‘Shooting Star.’

Renny Price rides upside down in the SU-29.

Renny Price rides upside down in the SU-29.