HomeNewsFeaturesDisplay

2009 Sioux Falls Airshow: Bringing it all together

Lyle Cunnigham of the Sioux Falls Argus Leader interviews Maj. Eric Gerber about Airshow details.
(U.S. Air Force Photo by Master Sgt Chris Stewart)

Lyle Cunnigham of the Sioux Falls Argus Leader interviews Maj. Eric Gerber about Airshow details. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Master Sgt Chris Stewart)

Staff Sgt. Miranda Skiles interviews Cmdr. Greg McWherter, flight leader and commanding officer of the Navy Blue Angels flight demonstration team.
(U.S. Air Force Photo by Master Sgt Chris Stewart)

Staff Sgt. Miranda Skiles interviews Cmdr. Greg McWherter, flight leader and commanding officer of the Navy Blue Angels flight demonstration team. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Master Sgt Chris Stewart)

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- One of two F-22 Raptors from the United States Air Force F-22 Raptor demonstration team maneuvers for a smooth landing at Joe Foss Field here during their arrival July 23 in support of the Sioux Falls Airshow. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Quinton Young)

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- One of two F-22 Raptors from the United States Air Force F-22 Raptor demonstration team maneuvers for a smooth landing at Joe Foss Field here during their arrival July 23 in support of the Sioux Falls Airshow. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Quinton Young)

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- F-18s from the Navy's Blue Angels demonstration team arrive at Joe Foss Field in Sioux Falls, S.D. July 22, 2009 for the Sioux Falls Air Show here July 25 and 26.

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- F-18s from the Navy's Blue Angels demonstration team arrive at Joe Foss Field in Sioux Falls, S.D. July 22, 2009 for the Sioux Falls Air Show here July 25 and 26.

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- An F-22 with the Air Force demonstration team takes its place in the line-up at Joe Foss Field after arriving for the Sioux Falls Airshow July 23.  The Airshow was a two day event held at Joe Foss Field July 25-26. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Quinton Young)

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- An F-22 with the Air Force demonstration team takes its place in the line-up at Joe Foss Field after arriving for the Sioux Falls Airshow July 23. The Airshow was a two day event held at Joe Foss Field July 25-26. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Quinton Young)

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- An F-22 Raptor takes off  during the 2009 Sioux Falls Airshow.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Quinton Young)

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- An F-22 Raptor takes off during the 2009 Sioux Falls Airshow. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Quinton Young)

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- Steve Falon pilots a Pitts Special during the 2009 Sioux Falls Airshow.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Quinton Young)

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- Steve Falon pilots a Pitts Special during the 2009 Sioux Falls Airshow. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Quinton Young)

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- The 2009 Sioux Falls Airshow went off without a hitch. This did not happen by accident or stroke of luck. Thousands of hours of planning over the last year went into making the event one of the best Airshows yet. 

One key player in the planning of this show was Maj. Eric Gerber, 175th Fighter Squadron Operations Officer. His additional role as the Military Project Officer made him the point man for getting the ball rolling. His main focus was the military side of the show. He worked side by side with the Airshow committee to coordinate the event down to the last detail. 

The first stage in planning the Airshow started about a year ago. The civilian Airshow committee members requested support letters from Congressmen and State Representatives through the contacts they have at the state capitol and in Washington, D.C. These letters are included in the package for the Department of Defense. The committee must submit all paperwork to the DoD in July to request big name acts like the Navy Blue Angels Flight Demonstration Team. 

Over the next few months, the committee receives a tentative schedule of what show locations will get which performers. This allows them to start doing a little planning, but they don't get the official commitment from the performer until late in the year. 

In December, Gerber attended an Airshow conference in Las Vegas to recruit other acts to perform at the Sioux Falls Airshow. This is where he initially made contact with the F-22 team. They have a lot less performances on their schedule than most demonstration teams, so Sioux Falls got lucky to get them here. 

Several members of the F-22 crew are from the Midwest region and they were eager to perform in Sioux Falls so they could be closer to home. All the big Air Force bases get F-22 shows, but they specifically wanted to come here. 

Gerber said he got the word that Sioux Falls had probably secured the Blue Angels for the show while he was on deployment in the desert, but the announcement wasn't made official until he got back to South Dakota. 

Once the Blue Angels were committed to the Sioux Falls Airshow, the date was set and the committee then started contract negotiations on hotel rooms, vehicles, and all other necessary arrangements. 

Many South Dakota Air National Guard members took on extra duties to make the show a success. Senior Master Sgt. Scott Schaffer and Master Sgt. Kurt Lunstra worked together with the committee to find a block of rooms for all the performers. Chief Master Sgt. Mike Laufman made vehicle reservations. Capt. Travis Boltjes and 1st Lt. Dell Schledewitz made cold calls for static displays. In previous years it was much easier to line up displays for the show, but due to budget constraints this year, nobody wanted to spend money to go to Airshows. 

"It's nice being the Military Project Officer here because of the support we have on this base," said Gerber. "As long as you can get some organization going and get the basic plan set, everyone else will help out. It was so neat to see how people want to work."
Gerber had to balance his normal work schedule and the Airshow planning duties. During the UCI, he put the Airshow on hold except for completing FAA paperwork. While he was still flying and instructing, he requested the minimum number of sorties possible to allow time to get paperwork done and still maintain proficiency. 

"I don't know how the civilian guys on the committee got their work done. They worked on the Airshow two to three days per work week and still had to keep up with their normal day-to-day jobs," said Gerber. 

"Our unit did a lot of nice things for the performers that a lot of other shows wouldn't," said Gerber. For example, the electric shop gave their workspace to the F-22 team so they could have an area to themselves. The Raptor team said they would love to come back to Sioux Falls because they received better treatment here than they have at any other show. 

Many of the performers made similar comments about the great treatment here in S.D. 

"Just like the South Dakota Air National Guard always does, a lot of people pull together and impress people so they want to participate again," said Gerber. 

So would he want to head up the next Airshow? Probably not. "It got to be very time consuming, I know my wife is happy it is done," he jokes. "Once per career is enough. But the people you meet and work with makes it definitely well worth it. Working with everyone, civilian and military, was a really neat experience. A lot of hard work goes in to it. Whatever the task, I could hand it off and it was done in a day or two." 

For Gerber the highlight of the whole process was seeing it all come together through the execution phase because everyone involved was working as hard as possible. "Not one bad comment has come back from everybody we've talked to, both performers and spectators," says Gerber. "This was one of the best Airshows because hundreds of people came together to make it work. It's pretty neat." 

To sum up the experience Gerber says, "We are one big happy team. But a team that is happy it's done!" 

Every member of the South Dakota Air National Guard and the Airshow committee deserves a huge thank you. The success of this event is a reflection of our great unit and the community we call home. 

When the Sioux Falls Airshow rolls around again, gather your family and friends, relax and enjoy the show. But remember all the hours of planning put in to an event of this size. What another wonderful reminder that the South Dakota Air National Guard can successfully complete any task thrown its way, no matter how huge the feat.