By Rebecca Fiedler
Look out, grackles! Planes, helicopters and skydivers will fill the Waco sky this Saturday as Texas State Technical College hosts the first air show its had in seven years.
The Heart of Texas Airshow will take place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday at the Texas State Technical College campus airport on Campus Drive. Ticket prices range from around $6 to $50 and can be purchased via heartoftexasairshow.com
The air show will feature attractions and shows such as the world’s smallest jet, combat recreation and remote control aircraft. The aerobatic flights of both the Trojan Phlyers Demo Team and five-time National Aerobatics Champion Kirby Chambliss will also be featured at the show.
Attendees will have the chance to view and fly in historic aircraft, helicopters and other airplanes.
There will be amusement rides for children, and the U.S. Air Force will have an interactive exhibit on site called Command Center Alpha, where visitors can experience the high-tech activities of a F-16 Thunderbird jet.
Chambliss, an award-winning aerobatics pilot, will fly an Edge 540 in the show.
Chambliss said he’s been flying planes with his father since he was a small child.
Chambliss first entered the world of aerobatics, also known as “stunt flying,” for safety reasons, he said.
“I was 21 years old, and I was flying a business jet for La Quinta Motor Inns, and our chief pilot said, ‘When I hire, all my guys get aerobatic training. If that jet ever ends up upside down with a CEO on board, we want you to be able to turn it right side up without killing anyone.’ And I thought, well, that makes sense to me,” Chambliss said. “So I went out in an aerobatic airplane with an instructor and we turned the airplane upside down, and I went, ‘Wow, this is the coolest thing ever.’”
Chambliss represented the U.S. from 1997 to 2005 in world competitions for aerobatics and has won 13 medals.
“I specialize in the very aggressive, explosive type of aerobatics, where basically the tail is going over the nose multiple times,” he said.
Chambliss said he performs at a low altitude so onlookers can see his stunts more clearly.
“Basically, if I can leave there with people saying, ‘I’ve never seen an airplane do that before!’ then I’ve done my job, and I almost always do my job,” he said.
Chambliss said his work is dangerous, but said he practices his stunts many times before performing.
“It’s supposed to be exciting,” he said. “That’s the whole idea — putting on a show. I consider myself a kind of artist. The plane is my paint brush and the sky is the canvas. I’m up there trying to paint a really cool picture for everyone.”
Jan Osburn, director of marketing and communications at TSTC, said the college is hosting the air show because it promotes aviation.
TSTC has five aviation programs: aircraft pilot training, aviation maintenance technology, avionics technology, aircraft dispatch technology and air traffic control.
“From our standpoint, by hosting it, we get a lot of people on campus that find out more about the college and our aviation programs and all of our programs in general,” Osburn said. “And then also, it’s a great thing for the community — an event for the community to come out and be a part of.”
In addition to the performances, Osburn said there will be food available at various vendors for people to purchase.
“I just think it’s going to be a great event for the community,” Osburn said. “It’s been several years since there’s been an air show here.”