Arnold Palmer Regional Airport will recall the “date which will live in infamy” — the Pearl Harbor attack that brought the United States into World War II — when it hosts performances by the Texas-based Commemorative Air Force during the 2019 Shop ‘n Save Westmoreland County Airshow.
The show will be Memorial Day weekend, May 25-26, at the Unity airport.
Combining a simulated aerial attack by replica Japanese warplanes with explosive effects on the ground, the “Tora! Tora! Tora!” program will return to the local air show for the first time since 1983.
“This is something we’ve been wanting to do for a long time,” said Gabe Monzo, executive director of the Westmoreland County Airport Authority, which operates the airport. “We were just never able to get the scheduling to work out. But this time it just clicked, and it’s going to be amazing.”
The program based on the pivotal Dec. 7, 1941, attack began in 1972, with six replica Japanese aircraft that had been used in filming the eponymous war movie.
Most of the aircraft are trainer planes that were modified to resemble Japanese “Zero” attack planes or bombers, according to program spokesman Bill Mount.
To accompanying narration, “aircraft will be flying overhead in multiple patterns,” he said. “You have fighter aircraft, torpedo bombers and dive bombers all criss-crossing and occupying the same space.”
More than 60 pyrotechnic effects will simulate machine gun fire, bombs and torpedoes. “The finale is a wall of fire,” Mount said.
“It’s a 1,000-foot wall of fire. You’ll feel the heat,” Monzo promised. “It’s truly a spectacle.”
“It’s going to be quite a different air show,” said Don Rossi, chairman of the county airport authority.
A vintage B-17 bomber also will take part in the program.
The performance is presented as a living history lesson meant to honor soldiers on both sides of the conflict who gave their lives for their countries.
“We’re honoring the people that let us live the life we’re living now,” Rossi said of America’s World War II forces.
A memorial service is being planned for the second day of the air show.
VIP tickets for the show cost $150 for adults or $50 for ages 6-12 accompanied by an adult. They will be available at palmerairport.com beginning Dec. 1.
The VIP ticket includes free parking, cart and limousine service to a VIP tent, an air-conditioned private rest room, a commemorative program and food and soft drinks.
General admission tickets will go on sale in February at $25. The tickets will be available for $15 at Shop ‘n Save supermarkets.
This year’s air show was held July 28-29.
Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff at 724-836-6622, [email protected] or via Twitter @jhimler_news.