With heads bowed to fight gusts of wind that peaked at 36 mph, hundreds of people determinedly walked around - and inside - some of the country's most expensive military aircraft Saturday afternoon.
Despite the howling wind and rain, the first day of the Southeast Alaska Regional Airshow drew a big crowd to the Tarmac outside the National Guard hangar at the Juneau International Airport.
``It's a much bigger show than I thought it would be,''said Jerry Painter, Post Chaplain of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars unit. ``I've been to bigger shows in larger cities but this is quite an array of airplanes.''
Although the weather was foul, thousands of people poured into the area surrounding the airport to watch the performance by the Royal Canadian Air Force Snowbirds.
Along with the flight demonstrations, the air show also displayed more than 15 military aircraft on the ground. The crowd peaked into windows and climbed aboard the planes and helicopters that were open to the public.
``There's a half a billion dollars worth of aircraft right here,'' said air show coordinator, Mark Farmer, as he watched the E-3B Sentry AWACS plane land around noon.
Handing off a Humvee: An Alaska Army National Guard UH-60L Blackhawk helicopter lowers a Humvee vehicle to the ground during a slingload demonstration at the air show Saturday afternoon at the Juneau Airport.
MICHAEL PENN / THE JUNEAU EMPIRE
The AWACS, a large radar plane that flies at a low altitude, is open for the public to board.
``This plane can see for 100 miles,'' said Sgt. Art Honea of the National Guard. ``You can fly over the Alaska Range and see out to the Bering Sea.''
Although the AWACS is a popular attraction, the ultimate crowd pleaser at the air show is the Air Force C-5 Galaxy Transport. Along with its cargo area that can hold helicopters, tanks and satellites, the plane's flight deck, located upstairs, can accommodate 21 troops. In addition, the back portion of the upper deck can house another 73 troops and is equipped with bedrooms and computer rooms, Major Todd Brooks said.
``It's totally awesome,'' said 12 year-old Andrew Pellett.
He and his father, Mark Pellett, waited on line in the massive cargo hold of the plane for more than 50 minutes to see the upper part of the aircraft.
``It was worth the wait. It's awfully hard to comprehend, until you get up there, how big it really is,'' Mark Pellet said.
Brooks, who was born and raised in Juneau, flew the C-5 from Travis Air Force Base in California to Alaska.
``This is the largest U.S. aircraft. When the fore and aft ramps are open, it's longer than the Wright Brothers first flight,'' Brooks said.
As Brooks and his colleagues welcomed spectators to the cockpit, jaws dropped and smiles spread across the faces of both adults and children.
``It's pretty impressive. It's a massive plane,'' Andrew Loney said.
Loney's wife, Marilyn, thought the whole experience, the line and the attraction, felt like Disneyland.
``I want to fly it when I'm big,'' said the couple's 5-year-old son, Jonathon.
The Southeast Alaska Regional Airshow continues today. Gates open at 10 a.m. and events ends at 5 p.m.
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