AirFEST: The sound of summer - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

AirFEST: The sound of summer


By Jamie Hersch - bio | email | Twitter | Facebook

JANESVILLE (WKOW) -- Fighter pilots from across the continent came together to wow the crowds in Janesville on Saturday at the ninth annual Southern Wisconsin AirFEST.

For the first time ever, AirFEST had two jet teams: the USAF Thunderbirds and the Canadian Snowbirds.

This weekend's performances are the teams' only appearance together on American soil this year. 27 News got to see firsthand what goes into making sure the show goes on.

The festival is a summer tradition for families across Wisconsin.

"We've been coming every day that it's open, rain or shine, hot or cold, we're here," said Heidi Jonczyk of Janesville, who attended AirFEST Saturday with her husband and four children.

"I like the loud sounds and I like seeing them do tricks," said Jonczyk's son, Jayden.

AirFEST offers some incredible sights but what you don't see is the men behind the magic.

Structures Technician Cpl. David Easton has to make sure everything is ready to go for the Snowbirds show.

Tires? Check. Brakes? Check. Flight controls... the engine... the list goes on.

It's second nature for Easton but his job couldn't be more important.

"If they don't do their job, we can't fly. If it weren't for the professionalism and dedication of our ground crew, we'd be going nowhere," said Cpt. Eric Willrich, a Snowbirds pilot.

Finally, the moment arrives. Nine CT 114's in perfect unison, blasting across the sky at about 500 mph.

These pilots have performed dozens of times but they say the thrill of the show never gets old.

"Going to work every day is actually fun because you're not tired and grumpy and wake up saying, 'Ugh, it's Monday.' We actually love what we do," said Willrich.

Whether from the pilot's seat or the ground, these airmen are proud to perform for their country.

"I've been in the military now 24 years and to be able to go out and show the skill and professionalism the Canadian military shows every day is quite an honor," said Easton.

The Snowbirds say they share friendly jokes between them and the Thunderbirds and they're a bit jealous of the Thunderbirds' newer planes, but they feel like family because they all know what it's like to risk their lives to serve their country in the skies.

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