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Wings Over Meridian to surprise' onlookers

By By Penny Randall / staff writer
April 11, 2004
Gary Ward likes to shock the audience during air shows.
So right after takeoff, the 62-year-old pilot plans what he calls a "wild funky roll" that may surprise and scare onlookers. But they shouldn't be worried, Ward said, because it's all part of his 12-minute routine.
Ward along with dozens of civilian and military pilots will entertain the public at the Wings Over Meridian 2004 air show set for next weekend at Naval Air Station Meridian.
The show is free and starts at noon; gates open to the public at 9 a.m.
The two-day air show also will feature the world famous Blue Angels as well as pilots Greg Koontz of Birmingham, Ala.; John Moody of Brandon, Fla.; the father-son team of Tim and Andrew Boyd of Canada; and more.
Local officials have said that community support for NAS Meridian is expected to be a key factor in efforts to save the base from the Defense Department's next round of base closures.
NAS Meridian has survived three previous rounds of base closings, commonly called BRAC. This time, however, BRAC has been expanded to include National Guard installations across the country.
A list of bases targeted for closure is expected to be released in May 2005
At Wings Over Meridian, a group of U.S. Army soldiers will open the air show with a free-fall from about 12,500 feet above NAS Meridian.
Several aircraft currently in use at NAS Meridian will be featured at the show: the T-2C Buckeye, the Navy's oldest jet trainer; the T-45C Goshawk, the Navy's newest jet trainer; and the Search and Rescue Team's HH-1N Huey, the workhorse aircraft during Vietnam.
Other crowd-pleasers are expected to include the JATO (Jet Assisted Take Off) by "Fat Albert," the name affectionately given to a C-130.
Eight solid-fuel rockets attached to the sides of the C-130 help Fat Albert take off in less than 1,500 feet, climb at an angle of 45 degrees and attain an altitude of 1,000 feet in minimum time.
A personal invite:
I want to offer my personal invitation to everyone to attend the Wings Over Meridian air show.
The air show will run both Saturday and Sunday, April 17 and 18, from noon to 4 p.m. Gates will open at 9 a.m. The cost absolutely free!
You will have an opportunity to see up-close some of the most advanced military aircraft, including the renowned Blue Angel flight demonstration team.
You will also see military parachutists and a wide variety of World War II and acrobatic aircraft performing right before your eyes.
I want to acknowledge the outstanding community support that has enabled us to make this a really top-notch event.
We at NAS Meridian look forward to putting on an event you will enjoy and remember for a long time. Please tell all your friends. Come early, bring a lawn chair or blanket to sit on, and make it a day of family fun.
Capt. Jeffrey K. Dickman, commanding officer, Naval Air Station Meridian