Houston Airshow Moves Ahead With Pandemic Strategy

Commemorative Air Force Wings Over Houston Airshow.
Credit: www.chron.com

HOUSTON—Over more than three decades, the Commemorative Air Force Wings Over Houston Airshow has allowed patrons to stroll among exhibits of vintage World War II aircraft as well as the military’s latest fighters.

But this year’s 36th edition, planned for Oct. 9-11 at Ellington Airport, will be different because of the coronavirus pandemic response. Too popular to cancel, the event has embraced a drive-in format, one that will accommodate up to 1,600 vehicles each of the three days, with up to six people per vehicle, or a potential total show count of 28,800.

“While this will be a very different show lineup and viewing experience, we also are proud to host every single-ship demonstration team the United States Air Force has to offer,” says Bill Roach, the air show director. “For three days in October, we are going to put on an amazing show, which is something I think we all need during these difficult times and also as a reminder of how important and fortunate we are to live in a free country.”

Under guidelines approved by the city of Houston earlier this week, showgoers must remain in or alongside their parked vehicles and wear masks when walking to and from public restrooms. Because of the pandemic restrictions there will be no food vendors, so those attending may bring their own prepared food and drink.

In order to attend, patrons must sign up by Sept. 24 to become “insiders” at www.wingsoverhouston.com. There’s no fee for the online sign up, which will permit ticket purchases under two categories, VIP and general admission.

Beginning about 10:30 a.m., though timing is still being worked out, the lineup each day will feature the F-22 Raptor, F-16 Viper, A-10C Thunderbolt II and C-17 Globemaster III flight demonstration teams. The U.S. Air Force also plans a Heritage Flight formation with aircraft still being selected.

Unlike previous years, the 2020 airshow will be all about flying. There will not be any ground displays, with one exception, the Shockwave Jet Truck, which will scream down the runway powered by J34-48 Pratt & Whitney jet engines.

Jason Newburg will also grace the skies with his aerobatic skills, flying a customized Viper Pitts S2S aircraft. Jacquie Warda and Deborah Rihn-Harvey, a world aerobatic champion, will do the same in their own aircraft.

The show will open with the RE/MAX Skydiving team with a performance choreographed to the national anthem.

The U.S. Coast Guard, which is based at Ellington, will demonstrate rescue routines from those it has provided along the Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coast since 1963.

This year’s show will also feature an annual staple, a World War II aircraft re-enactment of the bombing of Pearl Harbor known as Tora! Tora! Tora!

Mark Carreau

Mark is based in Houston, where he has written on aerospace for more than 25 years. While at the Houston Chronicle, he was recognized by the Rotary National Award for Space Achievement Foundation in 2006 for his professional contributions to the public understanding of America's space program through news reporting.