Sunday, July 20, 2003

Off we go (slow) to Dayton air show

Oh, to be above it all amid traffic jams on highways

By Maggie Downs
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] Taylor Niemann, 11, of Columbus sits behind the controls of a C-17 Globemaster 3 airplane while family friend Kit Hotzaepfel, also from Columbus, watches on Saturday afternoon at the Dayton Air Show.
(Leigh Patton photo)
| ZOOM |
DAYTON, Ohio - With snappy blue skies and pleasant warm weather, Saturday was a perfect day to be stuck in traffic at the Vectren Dayton Air Show.

Airplanes were supposed to be the foremost attraction of the four-day event, which celebrates the 100th anniversary of powered flight in the hometown of the Wright brothers.

However, traffic seemed to be the main event, dominating time and conversation all day. Miles of stopped cars surrounded Dayton most of the morning and afternoon, leading to excessive delays on westbound Interstate 70, northbound I-75 and a variety of side streets.

Minor traffic accidents further increased delays, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

What: The 2003 Vectren Dayton Air Show
When: Today, 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Prices: General admission $21; parking $7 per car
Directions: Take I-75 north, exit at Northwoods Blvd. (No. 64) and follow the signs.
Parking: Park-and-ride lots are located at the University of Dayton arena, the Salem Mall and the U.S. Air Force Museum.
More info:
8 a.m.: Gates open
8:45 a.m.: Show opening
11 a.m.: U.S. Army Golden Knights
Noon: U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds
2:15 p.m.: U.S. Navy Blue Angels
5 p.m.: Canadian Forces Snowbirds
6:30 p.m.: Show ends
"We came down I-75 and can't believe the traffic. It's absolutely pitiful," said Englewood residents Floyd and Dorothy Leoschke, 76 and 72 respectively, who attended the air show Friday. They returned to the city Saturday to participate in some of the supplementary events.

Parking was another matter, as most lots were filled to capacity throughout the day.

Miami Valley RTA buses shuttled spectators to the show from the United States Air Force Museum, the University of Dayton Arena parking lot and the Salem Mall. Still, the heavy traffic turned some bus rides, traditionally six minutes, into 90-minute excursions. The free service ran from 7 a.m. to the end of the show at 6:30 p.m.

Young mother Jara Lang, 33, of Dayton, with 3-year-old Gracie in tow, opted to take the shuttle.

"I was afraid I'd have to park too far away and hike to get there," she said. "I wouldn't mind if I was by myself. But with a child, it could be trouble."

John Kaine, 39, of Delhi Township was less pleased with the delays at the park-and-ride.

"If I had known it would be this way, I would have looked ahead and driven (to the show) myself," he said.

More than 150,000 people were expected to attend the $3 million air extravaganza, which concludes today. Highlights include demonstrations by the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, the U.S. Navy Blue Angels and the Canadian Forces Snowbirds.

Saturday evening's biggest draw was the National Aviation Hall of Fame's homecoming celebration, with a sellout crowd of 2,000 paying $150 apiece for tickets.

Glenn, Armstrong attend

The homecoming saluted 22 of the 178 aviation and aerospace pioneers who have been enshrined in the hall of fame.

The aviation hall was founded in Dayton in 1962. The Wright brothers are among the enshrinees.

Those attending the event at the Dayton Convention Center were able to rub elbows with former astronauts John Glenn, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. Actor Harrison Ford served as master of ceremonies.

Ford, who owns and flies airplanes and a helicopter, said he was honored to have been asked to participate in the event on the centennial of Wilbur and Orville Wright's first flight.

"The freedoms that have accrued to mankind, the adventure that has unfolded based on the capacity that powered flight has provided, is a very significant event - not just for aviators, but for our civilization, for the planet," Ford said.

The Associated Press contributed. E-mail

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