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Visitors flock to Fairchild for Skyfest

Visitors line up July 30 for a chance to go inside a Fairchild KC-135 Stratotanker. A new record of attendees was set when 125,000 people came to the base July 29 and 30 for Fairchild's open house.

Visitors line up July 30 for a chance to go inside a Fairchild KC-135 Stratotanker. A new record of attendees was set when 125,000 people came to the base July 29 and 30 for Fairchild's open house.

FAIRCHILD AFB, Wash. -- -- A record-breaking crowd estimated at 125,000 visitors turned out this weekend for Skyfest 2006, the base's air show and open house.

Eclipsing the previous record of 123,000 set in 2004, this year's Skyfest featured Airmen from all professions from Team Fairchild representing the Air Force and its expeditionary nature. Outfitted in the desert camouflage uniform and desert camouflage flight suit, as well as the battle dress uniform and traditional green flight suit, Airmen told visitors about Fairchild's missions and the role of the Air Force in fighting terrorism.

"The variety of uniforms worn at Skyfest signifies the expeditionary nature of our fighting force," said Col. Scott Hanson, 92nd Air Refueling Wing commander. "By wearing these uniforms, Team Fairchild painted a striking visual portrait of just how involved we are in the Global War on Terrorism."

On top of being the world's most respected air and space force, our Airmen also take part in vital non-traditional Air Force roles, such as securing convoys transiting combat zones and disabling improvised explosive devices, said Colonel Hanson.

From young children to the elderly, Skyfest offered spectators a look at the life of an Airman, as well as entertained the love of aircraft for many aviation enthusiasts.

"The Thunderbirds were cool," said nine-year-old Bradley Graham of Spokane, Wash. Bradley and his family took advantage of the rare opportunity to come out to Fairchild's flightline this weekend.

His favorite part of the day, he said, was watching the Thunderbirds in front of him, and then having a solo fighter speed up from behind. "It was really loud," he said.

In addition to the Thunderbirds were several other military and civilian aircraft, both as aerial demonstrations and static displays.

Fairchild was the first base to welcome the Air Force's CV-22 Osprey to its airshow besides its home base, Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M.

Other crowd favorites included the several "heavy" aircraft, including the C-5 Galaxy, C-17 Globemaster III, KC-10 Extender and Fairchild's own KC-135 Stratotanker. Aircrew were available at each of these aircraft to offer visitors a closer look at the insides and some background on what each of them does to support the Global War on Terrorism.

"Air Mobility Command's ability to support global reach is tested daily, from providing fuel, supplies and aeromedical support to troops on the front lines of the Global War on Terrorism, to bringing humanitarian relief at home and abroad. Skyfest presented a unique opportunity to showcase our capabilities to the people who we are responsible for defending." said Colonel Hanson.

But there was much more to Skyfest than highlighting the Air Force mission. It was also a celebration of all things aviation. For those who prefer the smaller, more maneuverable aircraft, there was no shortage of those on display, along with their larger cousins. Lining more than one mile of open airfield were 87 fighters, trainers and vintage aircraft.

Saturday's show included several hours' worth of dramatic aerial demonstrations by some of these same aircraft. On Sunday due to strong winds with gusts up to 30 knots only several military acts could fly.

"Safety comes first. We're all about making sure we don't bend metal and that no one gets hurt," said Maj. Stephen Matthews, Fairchild's military air boss for Skyfest.

Also on Sunday was a visit by The Honorable Cathy McMorris, Congressional representative for Washington's 5th District. After talking with some Fairchild Airmen who she recently visited during their deployment to Iraq, she gave a short announcement, thanking the Airmen for their service and the local community for their support.

"It is great to see everyone from the local community out to support the military," Representative McMorris said. "I want to thank Fairchild Airmen, along with the Air National Guard, for making this possible today. It's just a wonderful event."

Skyfest itself was an example of` the partnership between the base and the Spokane community. Fifty-five law enforcement officials representing various agencies throughout the community, state and federal governments were present to help control the crowds. The local American Red Cross chapter offered relief from the elements, and several local businesses were out to keep spectators happy and refreshed.

"We have an outstanding partnership with the community," said Colonel Hanson. "Skyfest is just one way we can show them how much we appreciate all that they do for us."