Adam Fox, manager of Pryor Field Regional Airport, shows the Vampire jet that will be part of the North Alabama AirFest this weekend.

Pryor Field Regional Airport in Tanner to hold first airshow this weekend

Aircraft demonstrations, performances and comedy stunts will be part of the inaugural North Alabama AirFest this weekend, and organizers hope the event raises awareness of the host site, Pryor Field Regional Airport.

“We’re pretty much inviting everybody to bring your walking shoes and bring a chair and enjoy the aviation industry and Pryor Field Regional Airport,” said Adam Fox, the airport manager.

He said there will be up to 3½ hours of fly-by aircraft demonstrations at the AirFest. He said the airshow June 10 and 11 — from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days — is a family event and will be “action packed.”

Fox said some aircraft that will part of the show date to World War II. He said there will be more than 30 aircraft coming from out-of-state.

“An aircraft’s even coming down to our airshow from Canada. So, theoretically, this is like an international airshow now,” Fox said. “We’re still adding aircraft, even right now, to the mix.”

The airport is home to 141 airplanes, Fox said.

“You’re going to have several pilots with their hangars open that you can go by and see some of their aircraft,” he said. “We’re trying to give everyone an opportunity to come to the airport because most people, they don’t get opportunities to get close up to an aircraft or even pay to ride in some of these aircraft.”

Airport Board Chairman Nathan Fowler said airshows always have plenty of things to look at and see.

“There’s going to be static aircraft displays … airplanes on the ground where people can go up and look at them,” he said. “There’s going to be a lot of different shows where different aircraft will be demonstrating their capabilities. So, it’s kind of a mixture of things to see there.”

Attendees will be able to purchase a ride of several minutes in a UH-1 Huey helicopter, Fox said.

“These rides are for all ages if everyone fits in the seat,” he said. “This is going to be $80 per person so it’s affordable.”

There will be vendors selling aviation and other types of merchandise plus about 15 food vendors, Fox said. He said they are keeping the food vendors local from Morgan and Limestone counties. Fox said there will be a kids’ zone with inflatables.

“We’ll have ‘Top Gun’ themed photo booths free to the public to take a picture inside of a cockpit,” he said. “We’ll have California Tom Cruise and Arizona Ice Man, Maverick and Ice Man impersonators, at the airshow doing photo opportunities for the public.”

Fox said he expects a crowd of between 15,000 and 20,000 people. He said he has been planning the event since November. Fox said he thought about having an airshow after attending different functions involving community and business leaders and other residents.

“No one had any idea just how big Pryor Field is or how important it is to so many different key cogs in our communities and from an economic development standpoint,” he said. “This event is to get people out here to the airport to learn what all we do. … We want folks to come and learn just how we play a key role in so many other industries, not just the aviation industry.”

Fox said the idea just clicked for him.

“I need to get people to the airport,” he said. “What’s the best way to get people to the airport? That’s an airshow.”

Fowler said the airport’s leaders want to “start showing that Pryor Field is an asset to the community; it’s a crown jewel.”

Fox said he hopes the airshow also will promote the aviation industry.

“We want people to be educated that we have very good paying jobs and opportunities, not only at Pryor Field but in north Alabama as a whole,” he said.

Aviation companies need accountants and managers like all businesses but also aircraft technicians, painters and pilots, Fox said.

“Hopefully we’ll inspire the youth through this event,” he said. “But also bring awareness to just how big the aviation industry is and how much it impacts north Alabama through Pryor Field.”

Fowler said aviation is underrepresented in our area.

“We’re hoping people will come out, especially kids, and people who are trying to figure out what to do with their lives; aviation is a great career path for a lot of kids these days,” he said. “It’s not just going to the military, there are a lot of commercial applications for aviation. We hope this will be a good outreach event so people will come out and understand, it’s not just flying airplanes; it could be air traffic control, it could be working in airport operations, airport management.”

Fowler said the airport hopes they will be able to make it an annual event.

“This is the first time, that I’m aware of, that Pryor Field has had an air show,” he said. “We wanted to try it for the first year and we’re going to see how it goes and if it goes well, yes, we would like to see it happen more often. But as far as saying we’re definitely going to do it next year, we’ll just have to see how the first one goes.”

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