In the wake of a stealth fighter's spectacular crash during a Baltimore County air show in September, sponsors have decided to eliminate jet aircraft from future exhibitions.
"In consideration of the people of Bowleys Quarters, we will not include jet acts in future shows," said Rick Cammack, president of the Essex-Middle River Chamber of Commerce.
While compromising with community groups that protested the use of high-performance jets at the popular Chesapeake Air Show, Cammack said, "We now feel we can go forward with a feature that showcases our community and brings visitors and dollars into the local economy."
Elimination of the jets also means that road and water traffic in Middle River won't have to be stopped during the show to comply with federal regulations.
Thomas Lehner, president of the Bowleys Quarters Improvement Association, called the elimination of jets from the air show "a good start. We are going to meet with state aviation officials and see how safe the air show, if it continues, will be."
Others in the area disagree with the move.
"I don't think they should have eliminated any part of the air show," said Beverly Wiegand, co-owner of the Wild Duck Cafe on Frog Mortar Creek and a Bowleys Quarters resident for 50 years.
"The stealth crash was a one-in-a-million incident," said Wiegand. "That airport has been here for 50 years."
The decision comes as chamber officials discuss a merger with the Eastern Baltimore Area Chamber of Commerce, a larger organization with more than 600 members. The Essex-Middle River group has about 300 members and relies heavily on the air show to bolster its income.
Cammack confirmed the merger discussions but would not comment on reports the chamber will privatize the show, which has been held since 1990, or find another way to stage it.
On Sept. 14, an Air Force F-117A, one of the world's most sophisticated aircraft, broke up during a pass over Martin State Airport during the show.
The jet plummeted into the Bowleys Quarters neighborhood on Chester Road, exploding in a fireball. The pilot parachuted to safety. No residents were injured.
An angry group of residents from Bowleys Quarters, directly in the flight path of the airport, and those in nearby Wilson Point have protested to the chamber and to state aviation officials.
The crash, they said, shattered decades of peace between residents and members of the Maryland Air National Guard and owners of more than 250 private planes at Martin, the state's largest general aviation airport.
Lehner said military officials have been "extremely helpful" in addressing some concerns, such as sharp vertical climbs by the Maryland Guard's A-10 Thunderbolt attack jets. After his organization complained, the maneuvers stopped the next day, Lehner said.
"The Guard has been a good neighbor, but the state didn't even send a representative when we had a community meeting to discuss our concerns," he said.
Brig. Gen. Bruce F. Tuxill, commander of the Air Guard, said he hopes progress can be made to ease residents' concerns.
Next fall, his unit will be issued eight state-of-the-art C-130 cargo planes to replace similar aircraft nearly 40 years old, he said. The new planes will have curved propellers, significantly diminishing the roar of the props -- now heard miles away.
Edward Ziegenfuss, executive director of the Essex-Middle River chamber, will attend an air show in Las Vegas for new ideas.
"The air show allows the chamber to create scholarship funds, support youth groups and the Glenn L. Martin Museum," said Ziegenfuss, who retires in January.
Pub Date: 12/08/97