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The roar of jet engines, the streaks of white smoke across the sky, the upward-turned faces of everyone young and old, and the collective "WHOA!" from crowds all along the lake shore--they can only mean one thing: It's Cleveland National Air Show time at Burke Lakefront Airport.
But don't think the Cleveland Air Show is just your run-of-the-mill festival. The setting alone is pretty sweet. You can watch a flight demonstration start out over gorgeous Lake Erie, maneuver along Edgewater Park, then speed off overhead to circle the Downtown skyscrapers (and buzz anyone who happens to be in them).
But it's oh-so-much more than that. And this year promises to be pretty legit, including the Blue Angels, the Batcopter and F-22s (oh my!).
THE U.S. NAVY BLUE ANGELS
Adrenaline junkies - this is for you. If you can get your heart out of your throat even for a few seconds, you'll be shouting "Oh em GEE!" and "What the WHAT!"
These highly trained Navy pilots can flip, dive and streak across the sky in a high-precision dance, demonstrating the crazy skills needed to be one of the Navy's elite fighter jet pilots. Their legendary four-plane diamond-shaped pattern tests your anxiety levels, while the inverted fly-bys are insanely intense (and loud. and fun.).
HOLY MEMORABILIA, BATMAN!
Guys, the original Batmobile and Batcopter are going to be at the Cleveland Air Show. Seriously.
Come check out the two original machines from the Batman TV series (1966-1968) plus meet the famous TV, movie and air show pilot, Captain Eugene A. Nock, A.T.P. You'll get to see all the gadgets and gizmos, and watch both the Batcopter and Batmobile in action.
SO, WHAT ELSE IS NEW?
A lot, actually. This year, the Cleveland Air Show welcomes for the first time the F-22 Raptor stealth tactical fighter demonstration team. It's one of the most sought-after demonstrations in the air show circuit, so yeah, it's a pretty big deal.
Not to be outdone, the futuristic F-35 Lightning II will be flying in the inaugural F-35 Heritage Flight program, where it will fly alongside the World War II era P-51 Mustang “Baby Duck." It'll be quite the visual of the evolution of U.S. airpower history. And, it's the first time the F-35 will be appearing in Northeast Ohio.
U.S. ARMY GOLDEN KNIGHTS
Another high-intensity showstopper during this year's Air Show includes performances by the U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute team. Instead of using planes, the Army team uses their bodies to create formations as they plummet toward the earth in parachutes.
Ever wondered what happens when the first parachute fails to open? They'll demonstrate that for you, as well.
BRING THE HEAT!
And, for those pyromaniacs among us - yeah we know you're out there - the Cleveland National Air Show has several fixations for you, too.
The Shockwave Jet Truck is a triple jet-engine semi truck that reaches tops speeds of 376 miles per hour. It screams down the runway while racing airplanes above.
When people hear the triple jet engines of Shockwave Jet Truck start up, they run toward the fence to see it race down the runway. It even needs its own parachute to stop the truck so it doesn't end up in Lake Erie.
Fans go absolutely bananas over this act as the Shockwave Jet Truck shoots giant flames out of its exhaust. You don't know whether to be amazed or totally freaked out.
If you enjoy a side of pyrotechnics with your fire, you're in luck. Tinstix of Dynamite combines aerobatic plane formations amid huge fireballs and explosions on the ground. Even spectators can physically feel the heat of the fire.
And, for even more fire action, check out the Mad Bomber. As the name so aptly suggests, you'll get a crazy mix of aerodynamic awesomeness combined with a huge "wall of fire." Now, that's what we call "mad."
For a more high-tech, wow-is-that-what-I-think-it-is display, be sure to check out the British Sea Harrier demonstration where a privately owned plane will fly like both a helicopter or a plane. Weird, huh?
Or, be there as a husband-wife team with pilot Melissa Pemberton flying her aerobatic plane as her husband, Rex Pemberton, takes to the sky in his wingsuit. Yes, a real wingsuit. And, no, this isn't some spy movie with cool gadgets. This is the real deal.
On the ground, you can find static displays where you can tour in person a huge array of military, vintage and commercial planes along with helicopters, tanks and simulators. Sit in the cockpit to pretend you're a pilot. Or, just go ahead and meet the real pilots stationed around the exhibits.
HONORING THE PAST
Cleveland is one of the oldest air shows in the country. In fact, the modern air show started in 1964 at Burke Lakefront Airport and is rooted in Cleveland's earlier aviation history, which included hosting the National Air Races from 1929-1949.
TIPS ON VISITING
With up to 100,000 people expected to attend the Cleveland Air Show, it's best to prep your plan of action in advance.
Find parking and directions to Burke Lakefront Airport, which is located in Downtown Cleveland right near the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, Great Lakes Science Center and Cleveland Browns NFL's First Energy Stadium.
The best way to get there? The RTA. Check out Park-N-Ride options, so that you can park for free, hop on the rapid train and take a short walk to the festivities.
Or, book your close-by accommodations now. Hotels like the DoubleTree by Hilton Cleveland Downtown-Lakeside, Cleveland Marriott Downtown at Key Center and the Westin Cleveland Downtown are all located within a short walk to Burke Lakefront Airport.
Event organizers recommend you bring your own lawn chairs or blankets to stake out a great spot to watch the show (or you can purchase a reserved box seat).
And, remember, there's a lot more to do than watch the planes - the airfield has children's activities, food, interactive attractions, aircraft that can be climbed upon, autograph center and much more.
For more information and an upcoming schedule of activities, visit the Cleveland National Air Show.
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