Wing-walking returns as part of annual Monroe air show

abell@charlotteobserver.comOctober 29, 2013 

  • Want to go? The Nov. 9-10 air show is at Charlotte-Monroe Executive Airport, 3900 Paul J. Helms Drive, Monroe. Gates open at 9 a.m. and flying starts each day at 12:30 p.m. Tickets at the gate are $15 for adults, $10 for veterans and children ages 12-17; free for children younger than 12. Parking is free. For information and advance discounted tickets, go to www.warbirdsovermonroe.com

Wonder Woman will be wing-walking into the annual Warbirds Over Monroe Air Show in November, one of many ways organizers hope to expand the appeal of the event.

This is the third year Monroe has officially sponsored the air show, the only one of its kind in the Charlotte area and one of the bigger nonmilitary shows on the East Coast. The dates are Nov. 9-10 at Charlotte-Monroe Executive Airport.

“Our biggest challenge is to make it new and exciting every year,” airshow organizer Pete Hovanec said. “We’re making it very family friendly.”

That includes an aerobatic comedy act called The Alabama Boys, a precision flying team, a rock climbing wall courtesy of the North Carolina National Guard and the return of wing walking.

Wonder Woman is actually Ashley Battles. And she won’t be on an invisible plane like her comic book namesake, but will instead be aloft on a red, white and blue biplane.

Hovanec called wing walking a small and dangerous profession. In June, a wing walker and her pilot were killed when their plane crashed and burned in a Dayton, Ohio, show.

“It’s very dangerous but very entertaining as well,” Hovanec said. “They know what they are getting into.”

Safety is always a key concern for the Monroe show, which has never had an accident.

As usual, the event will feature several dozen World War II vintage aircraft, including P-51 Mustangs, Corsairs and Monroe’s C-46 cargo plane, The Tinker Belle. Another returning attraction this year will 30 to 50 World War II re-eneactors.

Attendance, while tough to get exact figures, was down 10 to 15 percent last year from the approximately 40,000 to 50,000 who attended in 2011, Hovanec said. Last year’s show occurred a couple of days after Hurricane Sandy and right before the presidential election.

Hovanec is optimistic that attendance will be a lot higher this year, given an improving economy and the variety of attractions at the show.

He also is hopeful that Monroe’s next expenses will be considerably less than last year’s $125,469, which was a 66 percent increase over net expenses in 2011.

“We have really made an effort to lower expenses and tighten the budget while still producing a great event,” Hovanec said. “We need to bring that net cost down to more manageable numbers and are hopefully doing so by increasing gate revenue and decreasing the spending.”

But he said Monroe does not produce the show to make money.

The goal is to honor veterans and enhance the city’s quality of life. The air show also closely ties in with Monroe’s vibrant aerospace community, Hovanec said.

Bell: 704-358-5696; Twitter: @abell

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