National Air Show flying high over Cleveland

Shawn McAnallen has always been interested in aviation.

So when his mother won tickets on the radio for the Cleveland National Air Show at Burke Lakefront Airport, he didn’t hesitate to make the 1 1/2 hour trip from his home in New Castle, Pa. to attend.

McAnallen took his father, Scott, his wife, Lacey, and their two sons, 2-year-old Ryder and 6-year-old Rockie to the second day of the three-day event Sept. 3.

“We have a small air show in town but it’s nothing compared to this,” he said as his two boys played with toy airplanes on the grass as real aircraft flew overhead. “I used to follow the Blue Angels, so I’m like a kid in a candy store.”


Stacy and Mark Gongol of Litchfield took their airplane-loving children, 4-year-old Elena, and 2-year-old Sean, to the show.

“Their dad is in the Air Force, and he flies a C-130. But I think their love of airplanes comes naturally,” said Stacy.

The air show typically brings in between 60,000 and 100,000 people each Labor Day weekend, said Kelly Luecke, who is in charge of the event’s media relations.

This year’s show headliner was the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, the Air Force’s official air demonstration team.

“We encourage people to come more than one day, because every day is unique and different because of the weather,” she said. “Yesterday and today were considered ‘low shows’ because of the cloud cover. Spectators got to see pilots flying lower than normal.”

Besides the Thunderbirds’ sharp choreography, another popular show attraction is the F-18 Super Hornet demonstration.

“The F-18 is a souped-up version of the plane the Blue Angels fly,” Luecke said.

The U.S. Army Golden Knights — the Army’s elite parachute team — also had the crowd in awe.

However, Luecke noted that a large portion of the air show is on the ground.

“We have the Shockwave Jet Truck that races an airplane going down the runway as the airplane goes over 300 miles per hour,” she added. “We also have interactive displays like the EAA Spirit of Aviation. It’s STEM-based learning where you can help build a wing of an airplane and use virtual reality goggles to get a real feeling of flying. People are also lining up to the Go Army Experience booth — a simulator with the feel that you are flying an Apache helicopter.”

More than 30 aircraft are on static display as well — most of which are open for public viewing.

In addition, representatives from Dronewerx, located at the Lorain County Airport in New Russia Township, were on hand to demonstrate unmanned aircraft systems technology.

Officials from the Lake County Public Safety UAS (drone) unit also were at the air show doing flight demonstrations of the aircraft that serve Lake County.

The non-profit Cleveland National Air Show, which began in 1929 with the National Air Races, was named Air Show of the Year by World Airshow News Magazine. It is Northeast Ohio’s largest military event and is designed to showcase the quality personnel, equipment and opportunities offered by all branches of the U.S. armed forces, according to the event’s website.

The air show continues through Labor Day. For details, visit,

>>PHOTOS: Cleveland Air Show 2017


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