This weekend is the public party that celebrates 100 years since Scott Field was founded to train pilots and crews to serve in World War I. The Scott Air Force Base air show is a tradition nearly as old as the base.
Flight instruction started Sept. 11, 1917, followed by a lot of public curiosity and fascination with the new flying machines. By the next summer the base commander decided to invite the public to an air spectacle in appreciation for supporting the base and inviting young soldiers into their homes.
That show on Aug. 17, 1918, drew more than 25,000 residents from miles away — a feat considering the difficulty of travel 100 years ago to a rural base. Expect this weekend’s events to draw 100,000 or more.
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While the air show is the military’s way of showing its appreciation of the community, it also serves as a reminder of the risks faced by our service members.
Just a week after flights began at Scott Field, Sgt. A. L. Alexander, a 30-year-old mechanic from Buffalo, New York, was killed when hit by a prop. During the 1918 flying season eight soldiers were killed training for the war. There was a plane crash during that first air show. Scott was named for an enlisted man killed during a training flight.
The Thunderbirds have performed more than 4,000 times over 54 years, but precision flying by the best of the best is still dangerous. Three members of the Thunderbirds have died during shows.
So remember that while their stunts are amazing, that those stunts are inherently dangerous and represent the hazards all our service members face every day. It is easy to appreciate their flying skill, but easy to forget those skills are born of service to country and sacrifice for our safety.