Quad Cities Airshow – Celebrating 25 Years!

Ken Hopper has made a career producing the Quad Cities Airshow with his wife, Margi.

by Geoff Sobering

This year was the 25th anniversary of the Quad Cities Airshow, June 18-19, 2011. Ken and Margi Hopper, along with the rest of the organizing committee, really “pulled out all the stops” for the show. One evidence of their success was being designated a “Tier One” event in the Navy’s year-long “Centennial of Naval Aviation” celebration. Of course, the Navy’s Blue Angels demonstration team headlined the show.

Fitting with the celebration of 25 years, the list of performers was long and varied, with something for everyone. Part of the Blue Angels team is the “Fat Albert” C-130 capability demonstration. The Air Force F-15 Strike Eagle demo team and Vlado Lenoch’s P-51 “Moonbeam McSwine” performed a “Heritage Flight.” Mike Wiskus and the Lucas Oil S-2C Pitts Special performed “high energy” aerobatics. The “E-Team” skydivers jumped into the show wearing their signature Elvis costumes. Bob Carlton showed what a jet-powered Super Salto sailplane can do, and Clyde Zellers flew his elegant SNJ-5 aerobatic routine. One jet-powered truck wasn’t enough for a silver anniversary, so the show had two: Les Shockley in his Peterbilt “Shockwave” and Neil Darnell in his S-10 pickup. John Mohr was there with his stock Stearman, along with Roger Buis and “Otto the Helicopter.” Those two together at the same show can only mean that Todd Green would also be there for the “biplane-to-helicopter transfer” act. The University of Iowa’s two L-29 flight research aircraft flew a “close air support” demonstration with J&M Displays providing the pyro. Rounding out the aerial acts was Dan Buchanan with his hang-glider aerobatics performance. Quite the lineup, and quite the show!

On the ground, things were busy, too. There were many aircraft on static display, from C-47 “Dakota” transports, to a Fouga Magister jet.

Attendance was record-breaking with more than 70,000 people attending Saturday alone. The southwest half of the show-line was packed with general admission fans, and the northeast part was full of spectators in corporate chalets. Everybody had a great view of the show.

The weather wasn’t picture-perfect, with overcast skies on both days. The ceilings prevented the Blue Angels and F-15 from flying their “high show” routines, but I think the low/flat shows actually keep the planes in front of the crowd a bit more. The cloud cover also helped the viewing because with the show-line aligned with Runway 15/33, the afternoon sun was on the far side of the aerobatic box and could have been in people’s eyes for most of the show.

This was my first time in Davenport, but after seeing the results of all the hard work the show’s organizers put in, I suspect I’ll be coming back next year!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Wingwalker Todd Green, 48, was killed August 21, 2011, while performing at Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Harrison, Michigan.

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