Pilots making preparations for this weekend’s Deke Slayton Airfest
LA CROSSE, Wis. (WEAU) - For the first time in seven years, the Deke Slayton Airfest returns to La Crosse this weekend.
The airfest ran for ten straight years beginning in 1998, but has been off-and-on since then.
The show’s return will feature performances from the United States Navy Blue Angels, who are celebrating their 75th anniversary.
After missing out on air shows last year due to the pandemic, Blue Angels #4 Pilot James Cox says his team is glad to get back out across the country this year.
“Each individual town that we get to go to really appreciates it and it’s a blessing to be able to reach out to the communities,” Cox expressed.
The Blue Angels are returning to form this year following a change in their role last year.
“We were rerolled into inspiring America, flying over the cities that were most heavily hit by COVID,” Cox said. “We got to fly over the largest cities all over the country...and really reach out to those people who were on the frontlines battling this pandemic that we’re all overcoming”
Along with the Blue Angels, those coming to the airfest can see the Air Force’s newest fighter jet in action - the F-35A Lightning.
Maj. Kristin “BEO” Wolfe is the F-35A Demonstration Team’s Commander and Pilot, and she says people who come to the airfest will get the unique experience of seeing active fighter jets.
“We’re taking two combat-ready jets off the line at Hill Air Force Base, so we do nothing to modify these jets at all when we take them from any squadron that we’ve got,” Wolfe explained. “These jets might have been to war, might be going to war, they’re completely combat mission-ready jets.”
Wolfe is humbled to be able to demonstrate what the F-35A can do all around the nation.
“To be able to bring that on the road, which not many people get to do, to a different location, different airfield environment and get to show off acrobatics, that’s not something that most pilots get to do,” Wolfe said. “I’m just super lucky to be able to do this for a couple of years.”
All of the performers this weekend hope they can inspire a new generation of aviation enthusiasts, just like a Blue Angels performance did for Crew Chief Jeremy Bluhm.
“The first time I ever saw the Blue Angels I was four or five-years-old and ever since then I thought it was amazing,” Bluhm said. “I’m super proud to be here and hopefully those younger people take my place one day.”
The Deke Slayton Airfest will take place this Saturday and Sunday, and will be held via a drive-in format at the La Crosse Regional Airport.
More information on the air show can be found at the Deke Slayton Airfest website.
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