CRANSTON, R.I. (AP) -The N2S-5, the SNJ-5 and the P-51D are among the names sure to mean something to vintage aircraft enthusiasts at the Rhode Island Air Show.

For the less fanatical, two words should suffice: Blue Angels.

The Navy’s elite precision flying team will headline the show at Quonset Air National Guard Base in North Kingstown this weekend.

“The Blues are the Navy’s rock stars,” said Lt. Col. Michael B. McNamara, spokesman for the Rhode Island National Guard, the show’s host. “When the Blues fly, people come out.”

Last year, about 130,000 people watched the Air Force’s Thunderbirds. And if national air show attendance figures are any indicator, more could turn out this year, assuming the weather’s good.

According to John Cudahy, president of the International Council of Air Shows, a nonprofit trade group based in Leesburg, Va., attendance has been up since last year. This year stands to be “one of the biggest air show years ever.”

“It’s pretty clear to the average American citizen that air power is an important element in the success we’re having in conflicts,” Cudahy said. “And there are not many opportunities for a taxpayer to get a look at many of the assets that they are paying for.”

Bigger turnout could bode well for recruiters. Air shows have always been one of the military’s strongest recruiting tools, Cudahy said.

After the air show recruiters “may see a slight bump,” in recruitment, said Lt. Col. Mat Santos, a spokesman for the Rhode Island Air National Guard.

Scheduled events include demonstrations from contemporary military aircraft, vintage aircraft, parachuters and sport aerobatic planes, which are known for their rolling, tucking and looping capabilities.

The Rhode Island Air Show will also feature a combined arms demonstration. The simulated assault on an air base shows off tactical muscle by land and air units of the Rhode Island National Guard.

“It demonstrates what you’re trained to do,” Santos said. “People still refer to us as ‘weekend warriors’ and we’re anything but that right now. The amount of time we’re spending training and deploying is phenomenal. Our guys are as prepared … as the active duty units.”

Some of the pilots scheduled to perform recently returned from duty in the Middle East, McNamara said. There are about 500 Rhode Island National Guard troops still deployed, including one Air National Guard Unit.

The $200,000 it takes to hold the show is covered by donations and sponsorships, McNamara said. All profits go to charity.



On the Net: http://www.riguard.com/AIRSHOW/default.html

AP-ES-06-24-03 1617EDT



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