Chennault International Airshow ready to take off

By Special to the American Press

There’s a buzz building about the return of an area tradition — and it will evolve into the roar of jets, air stunts and vintage

aircraft.

It’s the Chennault International Airshow — a community effort that is bringing together area businesses, volunteers and public service agencies. The event is set for Sept. 28-29.

“The partnerships already in place have

been amazing, starting with our volunteer Airshow Committee,” said

Megan McLellan,

airshow director. “The whole airshow industry is excited that Lake

Charles is returning to the national airshow circuit. I

went to the International Council of Airshows’ national

convention, and the performers remember the success of the past shows.”

“Lake Charles is hungry for an airshow, so it’s very exciting to be a part of the team bringing the show back,” said Dirk

“Gumbo” Hebert, a partner in the Latitude 31 airshow consulting firm.

Hebert, a New Iberia native, is a former F-14 radar intercept officer for the U.S. Navy.

“For essentially what is a new show, it

is going to be exceptionally dynamic and entertaining — with the power

of the Canadian

F/A-18 demo combined with the precision and grace of the AeroShell

team,” Hebert said. “You’re talking first-class entertainment,

and it’s only going to get bigger and better in future years.”

Lake Charles’ last airshow was in 1998.

Like its predecessors, the new airshow will have flights and ground

displays of aircraft,

daredevil acts and exhibits that salute Southwest Louisiana’s

military heritage and the Chennault site’s own rich history.

Among the airshow attractions scheduled

to appear are the AeroShell Aerobatic Team, stunt flights in a Russian

jet, an exhibit

that spotlights the Red Tail Squadron, the African-American air

heroes of World War II, the Dodge Jet Truck from Darnell Racing,

wing-walking daredevil Jane Wicker and Pemberton Aerosports,

described as “the X Games act of airshows.”

Full details will be announced at a news conference in the coming week. The airshow’s logo, designed by The O’Carroll Group,

will be unveiled then.

“Putting on an airshow is a lot of work. We have a great deal of teamwork and community support, and we’re excited about staging

an incredible airshow for kids of all ages,” said Randy Robb, president of the airshow’s volunteer board of directors.

Robb, executive director of Chennault International Airport, wanted to revive a local airshow after fielding so many suggestions

from the community to bring it back.

Robb himself is a pilot and Navy veteran. McLellan, the airport’s sales, marketing and development director, joined Chennault

from the state Department of Transportation and Development’s Aviation Division. Both are energized that they’ve heard so

much positive response about the revival.

“People tell us about how they went to the airshow when they were kids,” McLellan said. “And now they’re looking forward to

bringing their own kids to share the experience.”

The airshow is being formed as a nonprofit group apart from Chennault. It is governed by a volunteer board. Chennault airport

and staff will supply facilities and logistics.

A volunteer committee meets each month to plan event logistics, donations and airshow acts. A number of people involved in

the effort are veterans of the original airshow.

One of them is Larry Rewerts, who recently attended the International Council of Air Shows national convention with McLellan

to gather ideas and help shape the performance schedule.

“We still welcome volunteers, service

organizations and sponsorships for the airshow,” McLellan said. “It

won’t be possible

without the business community’s support. It’s a great opportunity

to showcase your products, services and community involvement

in front of thousands of people at a two-day family event.”

For more information, email McLellan at mmclellan@chennault.org.