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Sun, Oct 21, 2007

St. Petersburg Airfest Starts Off With A Bang

SPG Airshow Draws A Crowd... And Public Safety

A jet-powered 1957 Chevy truck and a dive-bombing airplane kicked off the fourth annual St. Petersburg Airfest at Albert Whitted Airport Saturday.

When Scott Shockley's "Shockwave Jet Truck" fired up its engines, the explosive sound it emitted prompted calls to 911 from people nearby... who thought that they had heard a disaster, according to the St. Petersburg Times. The twin jet engines in the Chevrolet truck -- more accurately, the noise they made -- drew three police cars and a fire truck.

"We didn't know exactly what he was going to do," Airfest president Dave Thompson said. The truck -- capable of speeds over 400 mph -- threw out flames and black smoke making a spectacle.

Earlier in the week, a divebomber practicing its runs was mistaken for a crashing plane, and created yet another false alarm.

This year's Airfest hopes to draw a similar crowd to last year's 20,000, according to Thompson. The airshow board added World War II type aerial re-enactments this year, as well as a special obstacle course for kids.

The popularity of Airfest is a sweet vindication for those who fought off an effort to close Albert Whitted Airport just a few years ago. As ANN reported, SPG earned a reprieve from developers in 2003, who wanted to encroach on the airport land. AOPA's Airport Support Network helped convince the city not to close the airport for development in a resounding victory for pilots and users of the airport.

The airport also recently received $2.2 million for a new control tower from an appropriation provided by Congressman CW Bill Young (R-FL), while he was chairman of the House Appropriation Committee in 2004.



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