Blue Angels, Thunderbirds draw massive crowds to watch skies over Johnson County on Fourth of July weekend

Aerial displays from elite military teams and other aerial stunt flyers as well as displays on the ground drew massive crowds on Saturday and Sunday to New Century AirCenter in Olathe. Above, the United States Air Force Thunderbirds perform their signature Delta Burst directly in front of the crowd at New Century AirCenter on Sunday afternoon. Photo credit Carlos Moreno/KCUR 89.3

By Carlos Moreno 

The skies above Olathe roared to life with the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, Air Force Thunderbirds and a slate of other aerial spectacles Saturday and Sunday.

Throngs of visitors flooded the gates at New Century AirCenter to celebrate the Fourth of July weekend as well as take in the static displays of modern and vintage aircraft along with the aerial demonstrations.

The U.S. Navy Parachute Team, the Leap Frogs, open the Kansas City Airshow Sunday morning as the “The Star Spangled Banner” is played. Photo credit Carlos Moreno/KCUR 89.3.

The air show kicked off with the Leap Frogs, the Navy’s parachute team, which floated to earth with smoke trails and the American Flag as the “Star Spangled Banner’ played over loudspeakers.

Shortly after the Navy SEALs gathered up their parachutes, the air show displays commenced with various aerial stunt planes, including the KC Flight Formation Team. The 10-plane team offered several acrobatic and carefully timed maneuvers, including a red, white and blue smoke trail.

The Blue Angels C-130 transport, also knowns as Fat Albert, rolls onto the runway early Sunday after delivering the U.S. Navy SEALS to their jump location. Photo credit Carlos Moreno/KCUR 89.3.

Meanwhile, on the ground, visitors had their choice of a variety of modern and vintage aircraft displays to visit.

Maggie Morris, dressed as Rosie the Riveter, was part of the team handling the B-17 bomber display on the ground while stunt planes zoomed overhead.

Spectators at the Kansas City Air Show wait for the U.S. Navy Blue Angels–lined up in background–to take to the air Sunday afternoon at New Century AirCenter. Photo credit Carlos Moreno/KCUR 89.3.

“On Fourth of July, it’s very special,” she said. “We always love representing with our planes. It’s great.”

Waldo resident Cody Johnson was touring a Vietnam-era Chinook helicopter with his son Theo who just turned 3. Theo was particularly enamored with the “bubble window” that enables crew inside the craft to look for damage to the exterior.

Theo Johnson, 3, peers out of a “bubble window” on the side of a Chinook CH-47 helicopter Sunday at the Kansas City Air Show. Photo credit Carlos Moreno/KCUR 89.3.

“We wanted to come do something different. It was his birthday this week and he’s infatuated with airplanes, construction equipment and trucks — anything big and of that nature,” Johnson said. “So, just beautiful weather. What better way to celebrate the Fourth of July?”

The KC Flight Formation Team pours out a red, white, and blue stream of smoke during their performance early Sunday morning at the Kansas City Air Show at New Century AirCenter. Photo credit Carlos Moreno/KCUR 89.3.

Also viewing the display on the ground was Valley Center, Kansas, resident Wayne T. Bormann, a Vietnam veteran. He was showing off his PT-19, which he and two of his friends rebuilt over the course of eight years working Tuesdays and Thursdays.

The 75-year-old said he took his first flight when he was 14 and was hooked. He said he spends nearly every weekend at an air show.

Wayne T. Bormann, from Valley Center, Kansas, slides onto the wing of his PT-19, a trainer built in 1942. He and his friends re-built the plane over the course of eight years — working every Tuesday and Thursday with lunches at Golden Corral. Photo credit Carlos Moreno/KCUR 89.3.
“What I’ve created here, I want to show it off,” he said while sitting on the bright yellow wing of his trainer. “I want people to see what it was like for the troops to join and become pilots during World War II.”

“It’s a great thing to get involved with,” he added. “I just like doing air shows.”

KCUR 89.3 is Kansas City’s NPR affiliate public radio station. You can read and listen to more of their reporting at kcur.org.