Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011 | 4:36 p.m.
Thousands of onlookers fixed their eyes on the North Las Vegas skyline Saturday morning as Air Force jets soared over Nellis Air Force Base.
Aviation Nation, Nellis’ annual open house, is celebrating 70 years of the Air Force’s presence in the valley.
“It’s our way of being accountable to the public, to let them know the capabilities of their Air force and what we provide,” said Nellis spokesman Lt. Ken Lustig. “These performances are sort of sweet and condensed versions of what we do on a regular basis.”
Lustig said visitors can watch demonstrations from local Air Force members as well as from teams from around the world.
“The performances that you’ll see out here this year include demonstrations of what we did in the '40s and '50s and contrasting those same missions as performed by modern aircraft.”
The three-day event attracts about 150,000 visitors a year. Lustig said about 7,500 people attended Friday’s program for Veteran’s Day.
Many visitors Saturday said they came to watch the air shows and honor veterans.
Henderson resident John Ferrington, who said he worked in aviation for almost 20 years, planned to celebrate Veteran’s Day all weekend. He said the event was a great way to see a show and recognize veterans like his son-in-law, a former Navy SEAL.
“His name was Steve and back in the late '70s we lost him because of illness,” said Ferrington. “He left a grandson and we helped raise him so it’s a family thing.
“Another reason I enjoy coming out here is seeing the B-1B bomber because I handled the subcontracts on it.”
Rima Follman was honoring members of the military.
“We like to come out here and support the troops and watch the flights and the planes taking off,” said Follman. “Just the noise — it’s something that you don’t hear everyday.”
While some took a seat to watch the air shows, others explored planes on exhibit.
Erik Trudaeu, an Air Force crew chief on the C-5 Galaxy plane, guided visitors through the empty aircraft, which can fit up to 100 people in flight, he said.
“It’s one of the largest in the world,” said Trudaeu. “We go everywhere (in it.) We’ve gone to Germany, Spain, Iraq, Afghanistan, all around.”
Lustig said guests will be able to catch World War II bombers, World War I displays and air-to-air combat, as well as the Patriots Jet Team that flies the British Aerospace Hawk.
“We’re proud to be a part of the Las Vegas community,” said Lustig. “The air show itself brings in approximately $1.2 million into the local economy each year.”
Aviation Nation continues Sunday, Nov. 13. Gates open at 9 a.m. The last performance, the Thunderbirds, is at 2 p.m. The event is free. Visitors can park at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway where a free shuttle will take them to and from the base.