SPOKANE – When planning for Skyfest started five months ago, Fairchild Air Force Base Commander Col. Brian Newberry sat down with Air Boss Capt. Gonzalez, the first line of the plan was, “As long as our show is safe, it’s a success.”
Fairchild expected over 150,000 people over the course of the weekend for Skyfest, an open house to showcase what the Air Force base does. The show returns after a four-year hiatus.
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It was 20 years ago that a B-52 crashed while practicing its drill the day before the show, killing all four people on board.
Skyfest organizers at Fairchild Air Force Base said crashes like that are rare, but while there was no expectation for an accident, they work very hard to prepare for one. Fairchild works with nine off-base agencies to practice for several different emergency scenarios. Additionally, professionals come in to coordinate the air activity while working closely with the lead agencies on the ground.
“They ensure that the safety drill is run through with a fine-toothed comb and all those details are discussed ad nauseum,” Gonzalez said. “We’ve got several procedures that are in place for, what we would call our ‘benchmark,’ our standard response actions and those are all laid down within the foundation from day one.”
The rescue teams will be staged on-base this weekend during the air show.
All aerial maneuvers will be done so that, in case something goes wrong, the aircrafts’ momentum would carry it away from the crowd, which is as close as 1,500 feet away.
The five-hour air show was scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. The US Air Force Thunderbirds will headline the event, which also features the US Army’s precision parachute team, The Golden Knights. Fairchild officials also planned to have about 45 military and civilian aircraft along with crews at Skyfest.
Gates open at 8 a.m. and the airfield opens at 9 a.m.
Organizers recommended spectators bring sunscreen, hearing protection, and water.