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Pope Air Show to Fly Into Sunset

The aerial spectacle staged every year at the Pope Air Show draws more than 100,000 people. But this weekend's show will be the base's last.

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FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — The aerial spectacle staged every year at the Pope Air Show is expected to draw a crowd more than three times its normal size. But fans will be giving a last hurrah to a family favorite.

This weekend's show will be the base's last as Pope Air Force Base closes in the coming months as part of the military's base realignment process. The base will become Pope Army Airfield, incorporated into neighboring Fort Bragg.

"This is it. We want to go out with a big bang," Maj. Brian May, the show's air boss, said.

"We tripled our air show line-up (over what) we've ever had in the past. We're expecting pretty much three times the people we've had in the past," he added.

Thunderbirds and F-16s soared overhead at speeds of more than 400 mph, making their grand entrance to the show on Thursday.

The Air Force Thunderbirds demonstration team are the main attraction, but the show also will feature acrobatic planes performing daring maneuvers, and the Army's Golden Knights parachute team will drop in. Modern and vintage aircraft will also be on display.

"I’m really excited that we have the opportunity to come when it is the last show and Pope is going to be Pope Air Force Base," Maj. Ed Casey, pilot of Thunderbird #5, said. "I think it’s also significant that it’s the 60th anniversary of the United States Air Force.

"It’s a big deal, and we’re just happy to be a part of it. "

Military families and Fayetteville workers said they are sad to see the event go.

"This is our one final shot to show what our airmen and soldiers do in Fayetteville," May said. "It's bittersweet."

The Air Force put in extra planning for the large crowd, arranging for additional shuttles, parking and security. Four times the normal amount of metal detectors will be out to speed viewers onto the show.

The show starts at 10 a.m. Saturday and runs through Sunday afternoon. Gates open at 8:30 a.m. each day.


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