Vintage Aircraft Show Planned For October At Willow Grove

Posted: September 11, 1988

After an eight-year hiatus, an air show will be held next month at the Willow Grove Naval Air Station in Horsham Township.

The Delaware Valley Historical Aircraft Association and the base are jointly sponsoring a vintage aircraft show, with display and military air manuevers, on Oct. 15 and 16.

The association hopes to raise money to refurbish hangars on the base where members restore vintage aircraft, said Ralph Bufano, museum director for the association.

Some of the proceeds also will go toward the $18 million construction of an air and space museum on the naval air base.

Barbara MacStravic, public-affairs officer at the base, said the decision to reinstate the air show was due in part to calls from residents asking for them.

No shows have been held at the air base since 1980, when a youngster was killed after he accidentally pushed an ejection button in the cockpit of a plane parked on the ground. John Pigford, 7, of Germantown, was catapulted through the canopy of an S-3 Viking and landed on the runway. He was one of numerous children who crawled into the cockpits of aircraft on display at the July 4th show.

This time, the 60 aircraft displayed on the ground will be manned by pilots, who will answer questions and make sure the buttons in cockpits aren't accidentally triggered.

The War Birds - including an S-9S 2 Panther, a Soviet MiG-15, a B-25 Mitchell bomber and a P-51 Mustang - will take to the air each afternoon during the two-day show.

Bufano said he expected a crowd of 200,000 to 250,000 people.

Horsham township manager Michael McGee said that extra police officers will be needed to direct traffic. McGee also said township officials are working closely with the base on crowd control.

"It's our intent to bill the naval base for any police we have to send to the air show," said McGee. "Fortunately, air shows in the past have gone well, with one notable exception. . . ."

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