The 28th annual Salute to Veterans Air Show drew thousands of spectators to Columbia Regional Airport this past Memorial Day weekend to witness thrilling aerobatic maneuvers and see historic and exotic-looking aircraft up close. It was also a time to honor and celebrate America's military veterans.

Jessica Houston, media chair for the event, estimated around 1200 people showed up for Saturday's show, which was open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. And on Sunday, it appeared there were several hundred more than that who enjoyed the air show. There was also a parade on Monday in downtown Columbia.

Planning for the 2017 show has already begun, she noted. “We go out to ICAS, which is the International Council of Air Shows in December. That's where we start lining up the acts that you see out here. So there's a whole year of work that goes into it,” Houston said. “Ted Jacobs, one of our volunteers, has a lot of contacts with the Navy, so he was able to bring in a lot of cool ships. We got some last-minute ships that were really fun and exciting.”

Some of the flying aircraft featured included a WWII Havilland Vampire (the world's first single-engine jet fighter) flying in its first US air show; a Canadian Forces CF-18 Hornet, a F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, the Trojan Phlyers T-28 aerobatic demonstration team, a WWII BT-13 Vultee, and a WWI Jenny, to name a few.

Houston flew with the US Army Golden Knights parachute team on Sunday. “It was fantastic,” she said of her flight. “It gets really cold up there at 12,700 feet. But it was really nice. They've been trying to convince me for four years now to go up with them and I finally agreed this year.”

Houston was asked if she ever considered jumping out of the plane with the Knights and the answer was no. “There was no way I was jumping out of that. I leave that to the professionals,” she laughed. “I had two seat belts.”

The parade on May 30 concluded with a mass jump by the Golden Knights and Canadian Forces SkyHawks Parachute Team into the Columbia College Marvin Owens Athletic Field.

A special veterans ceremony was held at noon with several area vets honored and applauded by the crowd of onlookers. The MU Pershing Rifles Drill Team was the featured performer at the ceremony, which concluded with the playing of Taps.
“That's what we pride ourselves on here at the air show,” Houston noted. “Our whole mission, our whole purpose is honoring those who risk all to protect all. That's the reason we do this air show, is so that they can see some of the planes they used to fly. We're putting history up in the skies for the next generation, so they can remember. We love to do this for our guests, and honor and thank them for their service.”

The organization has over 3,000 volunteers to call upon, and 100 committee chairmen. For more information, visit salute.org.