May 10, 2011
By Mike Collins
Pilots in Alabama are rallying to help their tornado-ravaged state. The first Wings Over Cullman airshow, scheduled for May 21 at Folsom Field in Cullman, Ala., was in doubt following the devastating storms—until city and county officials decided May 4 to go on with the show, and to use the event to help storm victims.
The airshow had been conceived as an Armed Forces Day open house that would allow airport neighbors as well as out-of-town visitors to become acquainted with the Cullman airport and to connect with local businesses. Then, less than four weeks before the show, violent tornados cut across Alabama, leaving Cullman and many other communities reeling. Cullman was hit by an F3 or F4 tornado, and the nearby town of Phil Campbell was destroyed, said Betty Meyer, media coordinator for the airshow.
Since then, city and county officials determined that the airport and other necessary infrastructure are good to go on with the show—and not only will plans continue, the show has become a venue to help tornado victims. “The mayor is resolute in having the airshow,” Meyer said. “He felt it was needed for healing the community.”
Donations will be collected at the airshow for United Way and Red Cross relief efforts. Proceeds from program and T-shirt sales also will support tornado relief.
“As it turned out, this was the only professionally produced airshow scheduled for the state this year,” Meyer noted. “It was a huge undertaking even without the tornadoes. Everyone has pitched in. It is a herculean effort by the volunteers.
“Aside from the airshow, the pilots in Alabama have organized several events,” she said. Pilots have collected toys for children who lost all of theirs, and others delivered planeloads of blue tarps. “Alabama is a state of blue tarps right now. You can follow the paths of the tornados quite easily because of the blue tarps.” Another pilot, Joey Sanders, is organizing a large fly-in at Walker County-Bevill Field in Jasper, Ala., on June 4; donations of diapers, canned goods, and money are sought.
The Cullman event features a sponsored three-hour airshow with a variety of civilian and military acts, including the U.S. Air Force West Coast A-10 Team, as well as Army and Coast Guard helicopter demonstrations. Live music and static displays will be offered from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and there is no admission charge.
Pilots are encouraged to fly in for the event, and fuel will be available, but aviators are reminded to check notams. For more information, visit the website or call 877/345-1208.
Mike Collins has worked for AOPA’s media network since 1994. He holds a private pilot certificate with an instrument rating.
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