Air show fans who mourned the passing of Air Fiesta in Brownsville have something to look forward to June 22-23 with the inaugural Commemorative Air Force AIRSHOW! at Port Isabel-Cameron County Airport.
The Rio Grande Valley Wing of the CAF is putting on the event, which will feature a number of aerobatic performers, World War II-era fighters and bombers, modern military aircraft, pyrotechnics and the RGV Wing’s own fleet of vintage military training aircraft.
The wing hosted Air Fiesta at the Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport for 26 years until being forced to relocate its headquarters and museum, with the last Air Fiesta taking place in February 2017. The wing is now based at the Cameron County airport, which served as an Army airfield during World War II and is about 20 miles north-northeast as the crow flies from the CAF’s previous digs.
“It’s been a tough slog, really, because it took us almost a year to get moved,” said wing financial officer and AIRSHOW! chairman David Hughston. “We’re still adjusting to a new site and different logistical issues, but it’s all coming together really well.”
Cameron County, the city of Los Fresnos and the South Padre Island Convention and Visitors Bureau have been very supportive, with the CVB also kicking in financial sponsorship for the air show, he said.
“This is actually breathing some fresh air into us and helping our energy levels,” Hughston said. “We think the future is bright.”
Among the aircraft scheduled to be on display during AIRSHOW! are two Fairchild Republic A-10 ThunderboltII “Warthogs,” modern military aircraft that are always a hit with the crowd, he said.
World War II-era planes will include B-25 Mitchell bombers, P-51 Mustang fighters, a P-39 Airacobra (P-39s were based at the airfield during World War II, according to Hughston) and the Tora! Tora! Tora! replica Japanese fighters and torpedo planes, which will have a starring role in the pyrotechnic portion of AIRSHOW!
There’s plenty of room for airplanes at the county airport, though hangar space is at a premium, leaving the CAF with about a quarter of the space that it had in Brownsville, Hughston said, adding that the long-term goal is for the wing to build its own complex at the airport.
The good news is that the roads leading to the county airport, FM 106/ General Brant Road and Buena Vista Boulevard, have been completely resurfaced, he said.
“The road was terrible, then they worked on it for two or three years,” Hughston said. “It’s beautiful now. And the bridge at Rio Hondo is finished, too. That was closed for a long time.”
While it may come as a surprise to some local residents that Cameron County has an airport, it’s actually an improvement over the CAF’s former home in some ways, he said.
“It’s a lot easier than finding our museum in Brownsville was,” Hughston said. “I think in the long run it’s for the best.”
STEVE CLARK STAFF WRITER