Thousands of spectators watched Sunday’s air show from just about every place they could fit in – from inside Selfridge Air National Guard Base, to a tailgating party and in Lake St. Clair.
There was no official attendance available on Sunday evening for the two-day Selfridge Open House & Air Show 2022 in Harrison Township, but many visitors said they appreciated the efforts of the Selfridge team to make the beautiful place for a day of exhibitions, flight demonstrations and air acrobatics.
“I just wanted to take my kids to see what’s involved in keeping our country safe, like the different types of planes,” said Sandra Aderholdt of Grand Blanc. “My mom used to take me to the air show when I was a kid and I wanted my kids to see it.”
Her fiancé, Brandon Heineman, a retired staff sergeant, said he felt like a “tourist” with the civilian crowd instead of showing off the planes and equipment.
“I saw so many of these Warthogs and A10s in Afghanistan and Iraq. I’ll tell you, it’s one of the best sounds a soldier can ever hear, it’s one of those Warthogs coming over our heads,” he said.
Hosted by the Michigan National Guard’s 127th Wing in Selfridge, the free show featured aerial acts and static displays highlighting the U.S. military. Included were approximately 30 aircraft from World Wars I and II, including 127 Wing’s own KC-135 Stratotanker and A-10 Thunderbolt.
The show also included the US Air Force F-22 Raptor, C-17 Globemaster III, A-10 Thunderbolt II, KC-135 Stratotanker, US Army CH-47 Chinook, C- 130 Hercules, the Golden Knights elite parachute team, the American coast. Guard MH-65 Dolphin and CF-18 of the Royal Canadian Air Force.
Organizers said crowds enjoyed perfect weather, with highs in the 80-degree range and a cool breeze blowing off the lake.
“It’s so awesome,” Scott Arsenault said as he watched a plane soar through the air.
Many people, with two children, waited in line for almost an hour to board some planes. They compared the wait to standing in line at Cedar Point amusement park in Ohio.
“My son wanted to see the big planes and you don’t often get to see them, especially up close,” said Brandon Bialas of Bruce Township. “Everything here is well organized and everyone on the base is super friendly.”
The P/A A-18 Hornet, the so-called Top Gun: Maverick Experience, owned by DreamBig Entertainment, drew a large crowd of people.
DreamBig took a disused F/A-18 cockpit section and developed it into an interactive event and museum piece. Visitors can wear helmets like a real fighter pilot and can have their picture taken with a Tom Cruise color cardboard cutout or mannequin, according to retired Col. Dewey “Jellyfish” Larson, the owner.
Larson says business was good when Covid came out, but even better since the release of “Top Gun: Maverick.”
“When the movie came out in June, my business grew exponentially,” he said, pointing to the long line of people waiting for their chance to see the plane.
“These people wait an hour or more to have that once-in-a-lifetime experience to wrap their hands around the controls and just for a moment imagine what it must be like to be an Air Force pilot.”