Perhaps the biggest change people will see at the next Fort Wayne Air Show will be on the ground.
Land around the Air National Guard base will be used for vehicle parking for the 2019 air show. At the most recent show, in 2016, shuttle buses transported visitors from downtown to the Ferguson Road base and back, a round trip of roughly 16 miles.
“We'll have plenty of parking at the airfield this time, which will be a big deal,” Michael Gouloff, president of the nonprofit Fort Wayne Air Show Inc., said Wednesday at a news conference at the base's Aircraft Heritage Park.
Gouloff said he expects 80,000 people to attend the 2019 air show, which will be July 6-7. The 2016 version brought spectators from around Indiana and surrounding states, he said.
Col. Michael Stohler, commander of the 122nd Fighter Wing, said the 2019 show will feature a “world-class lineup of performers,” including the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds. Also scheduled are other military air demonstration teams, civilian stunt pilots, demonstrations by the fighter wing's A-10 combat jets and ground displays of military aircraft from World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Admission will be free.
“The great thing about this air show is it allows our community to come out and see what the 122nd does on a daily basis,” Stohler said. “You'll get to see some of our airmen performing their real jobs. Loading aircraft munitions, launching and servicing aircraft, our firefighters, our security forces and multiple other entities on our base will be open for people to see and enjoy.
“This is a chance for us to give back to our communities, open our gates up, let folks come in and see,” he said. “We all pay a little portion of our paychecks in taxes to support our beautiful military, and this is a chance for you to see what you actually pay for and to interact closely with those in your local community that serve.”
Gouloff, president of the Fort Wayne-Allen County Airport Authority, said the air show will cost $500,000 to stage. Fort Wayne Air Show Inc. is raising money through donations and sponsorships.
“Everybody out in the business community knows me. They know when I show up what I'm going to ask for,” Gouloff said.
He said the Thunderbirds asked to return after performing at the 2016 Fort Wayne Air Show. They stayed at a downtown hotel and got a literal taste of the city.
“In the morning they were on the street at 5 a.m., going to the Y to work out, did their 5-mile run and went to Cindy's for a plate of Garbage,” Gouloff said, referring to a popular concoction of eggs, potatoes, cheese, onions and ham served at Cindy's Diner. “They bonded with our community; they loved it.”
The 2019 edition will be the third air show at the Air National Guard base since 2012.
“It's a great time,” Gouloff said. “I love seeing the children's eyes light up when they see the airplanes flying. It's just a very special thing.”
Organizers hope to raise at least $50,000 from the show to donate to the Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit organization that provides programs and services to wounded military veterans.
Gouloff and Stohler said people should go to www.fwairshow.com for updates about next summer's show.