MCLAUGHLIN AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, CHARLESTON, W.Va. --
Over the weekend of September 29-30, 2017, more than 25 different aircraft took to the skies above Charleston, West Virginia, as part of the 70th Anniversary Air Show. This air show was sponsored by Yeager Airport in Charleston, with support from West Virginia Air National Guard’s 130th Airlift Wing.
Amongst those in attendance were various local and state representatives, Congressman Evan Jenkins, Yeager airport officials, but most notably - Brig. Gen. James McLaughlin, after whom the 130th AW base is named. McLaughlin was an honorary guest, taking part in the opening ceremonies of the 70th anniversary air show. Asked about his thoughts on the 70th anniversary of the U.S. Air Force and the West Virginia Air National Guard, McLaughlin said, “The Air Force needs the Air National Guard more than ever now; more than they realize. They have the Air National Guard working around the clock, around the world now.” He went on to stress the importance of the strategic location of the 130th AW, saying that it provided much-needed support in times of need, as well as serving as a cornerstone of the local community.
McLaughlin is considered to be “the father of the West Virginia Air National Guard,” having founded it in 1947, the same year that the U.S. Air Force became a separate service from the U.S. Army Air Corps. McLaughlin served in the European theater during World War II, having flown 39 combat missions and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with three clusters, the U.S. Army Air Corps Air Medal with eight clusters, the French Croix de Guerre, and a Presidential Unit Citation.
The 70th anniversary air show also showcased various aircraft on display for all to see – multiple C130-H planes from the 130th AW, as well as World War II-era planes like a B-17, B-25, C-46, C-47, and a special redtail P-51 Mustang, which was flown in combat by the Tuskegee Airmen. The air show also included numerous flyovers from professional stunt pilot Billy Werth, showcasing his aerial prowess by performing death-defying aerobatic stunts. The U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute team also performed multiple jumps during the air show, displaying their mastery of aerial performances and the skies.
Col. Randy Huffman, vice wing commander of the 130th Airlift Wing stated, “The airshow was a great tribute to the 70-year heritage held between Yeager Airport and the West Virginia Air National Guard. It’s been an honor to look back at the successful partnership we have had with Yeager Airport and to reminisce of the proud legacy built here by generations of courageous men and women. It was a special honor to have [Brig.] Gen. McLaughlin here with us to celebrate the occasion and we look forward to many more years of success in the future.”
While the air show provided plenty of entertainment and a family-friendly environment, it also helped to serve as remind to a younger generation of the sacrifices made by those that have served. The historical importance of the World War II-era planes reminded all in attendance that wars have been fought to preserve our freedom, and this is not a lesson that should be taken lightly. Jason Smythe of Hurricane, W.Va., said of the weekend, “the air show is a way for my family and I to come out and show our support for the troops. It’s also really historical and interesting to see all of these vintage planes. It makes you appreciate the history of these aircraft.”
The 70th anniversary air show helped bring together a proud community and allowed them to pay tribute to the historical past and focus on an optimistic present and future that awaits the great state of West Virginia in the next 70 years.