South Carolina July 4 flyover will be a blast from the past

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 03, 2013 3:37 PM
South Carolina July 4 flyover will be a blast from the past

By Harriet McLeod

CHARLESTON, South Carolina (Reuters) - Some 200 events marking the U.S. July 4 holiday have been affected by government spending cuts, but South Carolina has saved an Independence Day tradition with the help of some vintage World War Two planes.

The Palmetto State's fourth annual "Salute to the Shore" would have been grounded, along with other U.S. Air Force flyovers, by so-called "sequestration" federal budget cuts. But event organizers in South Carolina called on collectors of vintage warplanes to take to the skies for the benefit of an estimated 700,000 spectators.

Six to 10 historic aircraft are due to fly along the state's coastline from North Carolina to Hilton Head in place of modern jets from Shaw Air Force Base.

"While we're disappointed with not having the jets, the good news is these guys are slower so the experience will last longer for the people on the beach," event director Andy Folsom said.

Organizers of an Independence Day air show in Tacoma, Washington, found a similar solution for the city's "Freedom Fair," hiring stunt pilots and vintage planes for the event.

Last year's show featured the F-22 "Raptor," the Air Force's newest jet fighter, which cruises at supersonic speeds. "It doesn't matter how great a pilot you've got and what kind of stunts he's doing," said Gary Grape, leader of the Tacoma event. "If you've got a jet flying over, it's just unbelievable."

The South Carolina air show will include a wartime C-47 cargo plane, two C-45 "Twin Beech" planes and an SNJ-6 Navy aircraft, said volunteer pilot Barry Avent, 53, who will fly his C-47. Vintage Stearman biplanes and small Globe Swifts will round out the fleet, he said, adding that the C-47 flies at about one-third the speed of a modern jet.

Avent's plane was in service with the Royal Air Force during World War Two. He said his late father flew C-47s over the Himalayas on India-China supply route during the war.

The Department of Defense is due to review flyovers at the end of the fiscal year, but officials have so far had to cancel or decline 731 events around the world, said Pamela Friend, manager of the Air Force Aerial Events Program.

"Sequestration is a 10-year problem so the future of the aerial events program is uncertain," she said in an email.

(Editing By Karen Brooks, Greg McCune and Andre Grenon)