MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. -- The booming sound of rolling thunder was heard by a crowd of nearly 20,000 people gathered along the station flightline as afterburners thrust jets like the F/A-18 Hornet and MiG-17 across the desert sky during the 2002 Yuma Air Show, Saturday.
Civilian and military pilots performed aerial acrobatics and tactical maneuvers while the crowd cringed at every stall and corkscrew, or covered their ears during fly-bys.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the air show and the air station's attempts to reach out to the community, to thank them for supporting their local military.
"We like folks to come out here and look at the military and what we do, because this is their military," said Lt. Col. Matthew Schwob, station operations director. "Their taxes pay our salaries and buy our planes."
With numerous aircraft displays, concession stands and 15 different aerial performances, staying interested was not an issue.
"This is awesome," said Lucas Perkins, as he pretended to fly in a ZLIN-50 display aircraft. Perkins traveled with his family from Sacramento, Calif., to see his aunt, but to watch the air show as well.
Local Marine recruiters added a physical challenge to the event as they brought their pull-up bar and a giant inflatable Marine drill instructor to challenge people on how many pull-ups they could do. Men who performed 20 pull-ups, or women who held a flexed-arm hang for more than 70 seconds received a free T-shirt.
"They don't have this kind of stuff at bases by us," added Perkins, who at the time, liked the F/A-18 show the most, but was still waiting to see the AV-8B Harrier fly. He added, he had never actually seen one fly in real life and was very excited.
Among some of the air show sponsors who set up booths on the flightline during the show were Sea World, with a giant blown-up polar ensemble, AT&T Wireless and KYJT 100.9 FM the Jet, a local radio station.
The flying portion of the show spanned from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., with special fly-bys from the Air Force's B-2 Spirit and F-117A Nighthawk.
The station's south gate opened at 8 a.m. to let people aboard station to park and make their way to the flightline, but because the crowd was nowhere near the size it was last year, traffic and parking were not a problem, said Schwob.
Schwob added, due to the events on Sept. 11, 2001, and other conflicts, the air show had to be postponed for nearly two months.
"We lost a lot of our attendance with most of the snow birds being gone, but the community has shown tremendous support," Schwob said. Things being what they were, Schwob claimed the air show was a great success and everyone who did attend seemed to really enjoy themselves.