This has to be the nadir of airshows for me. I didn’t attend. I was in town and decided to celebrate the Fourth at my sister’s house instead. I don’t see any photos from Bob Nelson either. Maybe he was out-of-town. Either way, our interest in airshow had dropped but would recover in the coming years. I know at one time I was very chauvinistic about aircraft. I was only interested in military aircraft and if the Blue Angels or Thunderbirds weren’t flying it was hard to get my attention. It would be another six years before I saw the The Canadian Forces Snowbirds, a team I have since grown to appreciate. But at the time their 1961 CT–114 ‘Tutor’ aircraft didn’t interest me.
Although I didn’t attend this airshow, I found photos of the 2003 Snowbirds on Flickr. The photo of the Canadair CT–114 ‘Tutor’ (above) was shot by Ken Shanaberger at the Amigo Airsho 2003 (El Paso, TX).
The Fargo AirSho committee asked the DOD for appearances by B1, B2 and B–52 bombers; C–5 and C–17 jumbo transport planes. The USAF had their hands full in Iraq at the time.
The AirSho committee tried to book the USAF Thunderbirds after the Grand Forks Air Force Base canceled their Friends and Neighbors Day. It didn’t work out. But at that same convention, the Canadian Snowbirds offered to fly in and perform for a single day. The team’s leader, Major Stephen Will was friends with Jim “Fang” Maroney. Maroney was a NDANG fighter pilot and would be performing in this year’s show.
Although a one day show would raise less money than a two-day show, the committee was hoping to raise enough money to pay off the remaining debt on the Fargo Air Museum. The museum, opened in 2000. It cost $1.2 million, and still carried $400,000 in debt. And if the show went well they could bank funds for a second Air Museum building.
The timing wasn’t great, but the timing for 2004 and 2005 would be worse. Hector Airport would be rebuilding the main runaways those years. (A $26 million project.)
The Fargo AirSho has been held in 1995, 1997, 1999 and 2002. They have raised $350,000 for the Roger Maris Cancer Center at MeritCare and the Fargo Air Museum. The budget for the 2003 show would be $156,000. They were hoping for 15,000, but only 8,000 people attended; the break-even was between 10,000 to 12,000. The 2003 AirSho lost about $15,000.
There were two problems with holding an airshow on the Fourth of July. Many resident would be out-of-town for the weekend. Second a one day show risks being rained out completely. “AirSho organizers have taken out an insurance policy, costing $1,400, that pays $50,000 should more than 2/10ths of an inch of rain fall between 8 and 11 a.m. Friday.” -The Forum
These quotes are from The Forum as well as some of the facts and figures above.
With its high maneuverability and relatively slow speed, the Tutor is ideally suited to formation and aerobatic flying. The Snowbirds fly closer to the ground, with nine airplanes in extremely tight formations. From a crowd perspective, you’re going to see a lot of precision flying, not only in formation, but solo. It’s precise, graceful and highly choreographed. -Jim Maroney
I feel safer hopping in a jet and going up with these guys than I do driving down the freeway in downtown Toronto. This is the perfect backdrop for the show because the smoke shows up. Rarely do we get a perfect blue sky. -Captain Lyle Holbrook, RCAF
I hope (The Heritage Flight) sends a message everywhere that people in World War II gave their lives for freedom, and the P–51 symbolizes that just as the F–16 symbolizes that today. We’re a very fortunate society, but we need to realize that freedom isn’t free. -Colonel Frank Borman
One thing we’ve decided is never again to have it on the Fourth. There are just too many (competing) events. (It’s) very disappointing to our 75 unpaid volunteers who worked very hard on the show. (But) We know we brought a lot of people to town.. Borman told us this was the best-organized air show he’d been part of, which went a long way toward making us feel a little better. -Dick Walstad, co-chairman AirSho committee