Posted: under Air Show, Day Trips, Entertainment, Family Fun, Helena, MANG, Montana, Outdoor Fun, Scenic Views.
Tags: Airshow, Day Trips, Entertainment, Family Fun, Gateway to Freedom 2009, MANG, Montana, Outdoor Fun, U.S. Air Force Thinderbirds, U.S. Army, U.S. Army Golden Knights, US Army National Guard, US Marines, US Navy, USAF
The warm sun illuminated the ‘Big Blue Sky’ of Helena, Montana over the weekend of June 27 & 28, 2009. Even the moon stayed out to observe the stars of the Gateway to Freedom 2009 Airshow. This special event was held at the Montana Army National Guard (MANG) Aviation Support Facility in Helena, Montana. An estimated 20,000 people were in attendance over the 2-day event.
The US Army Golden Knights Parachute Team made what I consider impossible feats, seem effortless. I held my breath while one team member demonstrated what happens when their parachute fails and they have to use their back-up chute. The Golden Knights performance was done with such finesse that it was like watching a professional ballet in the sky.
At ground level, in addition to souvenir and food booths, people gathered around different static displays. The EA-6B Aircraft caught my attention. The electronic warfare EA-6B version was developed for the Marines and is a fascinating piece of aircraft both on the ground and in the air. The EA-6A seats 2 and the EA-6B seats 4.
My husbands favorite is the A-10 Thunderbolt II, referred to by many as the Warthog. This immense beast weighs in empty at 25,000 pounds! The Warthog is powered by 2 Non-After-burning Turbo General Electric TF34-GE-300 engines. It truly is BIG BANG BOOM capable as it carries a GAU-8/A Avenger 7-barrel Gatling gun with 1,350 30mm rounds of ammunition with a firing rate of 2,100 or 4,200 rounds per minute, along with LDGP mk 82 226kg, 500lbs of general purpose bombs, BLU-1 nad BLU-27/B Rockeye II cluster bombs Cluster bomb unit CBU-52/71, AGM-65A Maverick Air-to-Surface Missiles and AIM-9 Sidewinder Air-to-Air Missiles!
Representing the Army National Guard’s image is popular NASCAR #88. Although driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. wasn’t present, the fans crowded around this popular Chevrolet. Retired Marine Donald Elliott, visiting from Manteca, California is a big NASCAR fan and couldn’t have been more proud to stand by #88 for me to take his picture. You could also get your picture taken for free by The Army National Guard made available for pick up through their website. For more information on Dale Earnhardt Jr’s partnership with the Army National Guard, visit: http://www.nationalguard.com/guardracing/dalejr.php.
The USAF Thunderbirds 2009 show season has taken on a few changes. They are now flying up-dated F-16 Fighters, each with a more powerful Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-229 engine. This adds an additional 3,600 lbs of thrust, increasing the maximum allowable gross weight for ground handling, taxi, take-off and in-flight maneuvers by nearly 5,000lbs, reaching speeds of over 500 mph!
You could feel the excitement mount as the 12 member team approached the 6 F-16 Fighters in perfect formation. Each step they took in unison gave me goosebumps as I eagerly awaited their take-off. One-by-one each of the 6 F-16′s taxied past waving at the cheering crowd. Watching and feeling the power of these Fighters, both physically and emotionally was exhillerating. A strong Patriotic commoradity seemed to take hold and unite everyone.
The range of ages of the guests at the Gateway to Freedom 2009 Airshow seemed to be from 0 – 99+ years. Everyone we met seemed to be enjoying themselves at the various aspects of the event. This definetely was a great way to spend time together with family and friends. Joining myself and my wonderful husband Bill, was our dear friend Donald Elliott visiting from California. Don served in the Marines in 1961-1977. Also with us was our daughter Zell, her boyfriend Justin and thier 17 month old son, Nate. Our grandson Nate clapped, cheered, laughed and pointed upwards for hours until his energy was finally exhausted at the end of the day.
On behalf of my family, I would like to thank MANG and all of the participants for making tha Gateway to Freedom 2009 Airshow one of the best that we have attended. Also, our thanks to the Shilo Inn at 2020 Prospect Avenue in Helena Montana for offering a special Airshow package and for thier cleanliness and hospitable services. When visiting Helena for any future events we already know where we want to stay!
This was an entertaining event, but it also enbeds a reminder of all of the men and women that have serve our country both past and present. For those, I am truly thankful for all they do for us and our beautiful country.
As I continue to go through the numerous photos taken at the Airshow, I will continue adding them in the Gallery. Please continue to visit the Gallery and watch as the album grows. If you have more information on any of the photos please contact me and I will update them as soon as possible.
Comments (1) Jul 05 2009