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Tacoma Freedom Fair - 2012

As the smoke from the fireworks cleared from Tacoma's, Rushdon Way waterfront, the 2012 4th of July Freedom Fair came to a close. Throughout the day, thousands had come to support this now traditional Pacific Northwest event in not so traditional perfect weather! Many of those attending knew that sadly, this may be the last time this particular celebration of the nation's independence might be staged. As in past years, this year's Freedom Fair was organized into two parts. Both held in the skies over the waters of Tacoma's Commencement Bay. The celebrations started mid-afternoon with an airshow and ended after sunset with a spectacular firework display.

This year the organizers managed to capture a big headline act for the airshow in form of the U. S. Air Force, Lockheed Martin F/A-22 Raptor. Due to financial restrictions being implemented by the Air Force the F/A-22 is the only single-ship aircraft demo beng available for airshows in 2012. It's inclusion was quite a coup for the organizers as it had never before performed the full demo in the Pacific Northwest region.

In addition to the Raptor, other acts to take to Tacoma's beautiful blue skies included the F/A-18F Super Hornet from U.S. Navy squadron VFA-122 'The Flying Eagles'. Even without the thrust-vectoring engines of the F-22 the Super Hornet crew still manage to put on a spectacualar flying display with both positive and negative high-G manouvers. The high speed pass during the morning rehersal generated huge amounts of vapor and a visible shockwave cone around the rear of the aircraft.

A C-17A Globemaster III from nearby Joint Base Lweis-McChord carried out a couple of passes showing off this huge transport aircraft's capability to the full. Tim Webber and Vicki Benzing both displayed their resective Extra 300s showing the amazing monouverabilty of their small German built aerobatic aircraft. On a more gentle note Greg "Ace Maker" Colyer was on hand with his T-33 leaving perfect smoke trails behind his sweeping loops and rolls. Greg Anders flew his P-51 Mustang 'Val Halla' in his usual spirited way before joining up with the F-22 Raptor to carry out a 'Heratage Flight' sequence to close the show.

The Raptor however, was without doubt the star of the show and did not dissapoint those who had come to watch the Air Forces' newest fighter aircraft. 2012 F/A-22 display pilot Major Henry "Schadow" Schantz ripped up the Pacific Northwest Skies in typical F-22 fashion. Both high and low speed charicteristics of the aircraft are shown to the full. However, things got really interesting when the effects of the Thrust-vectoring engines were added to the mix. The tail-slides, flat spins and cobra manouvers are incredible to witness. Members of the audience were suitibly impressed and some of the comments from those in the crowd included "Jets aren't supposed to do that - are they?" and "How can he (the pilot) do that without throwing up?" However, some of t the younger members of the crowd were not too thrilled by all the noise, some to be seen covering their ears or eyes or cowering behind their parents legs.


The final attraction secured for the 2012 show was Bill Braack with his jet powered car 'Smoke-N-Thunder'. Soon after sunset the engine was fired up and the gathering crowd was treated to the sight of the 20 foot-long afterburner flame. This visual specticle was equally matched by the incredible amounts of noise generated by the huge engine.



Unfortunately, as is often the case with airshows, there were some hiccups for the event organizers to deal with. The planned 'Airshow Cruise' was shut down on July 3rd by the Coast Guard. Sadly, the loss of the $9000 ticket money has just added to the financial woes of this now traditional Northwest event. Another issue on the day of the show was caused when the display pilot for the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, 'Sentimental Journey' was called into work to carry out his 'day job', flying a 737 for Southwest Airlines. As there was no back-up pilot available at such short notice this part of the flying program had to be cancelled.

Overall, this year’s 4th of July Freedom Fair was another good one and can be regarded as a success, all of those who attended hope that the financial issues can be overcome and this now traditional Pacific Norrthwest event will continue for many years to come.

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