Selfridge celebrates centennial in style

Base marks 100 years with air show, open house

By: Julie Snyder | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published August 20, 2017 | Updated August 21, 2017 9:17am

HARRISON TOWNSHIP — Millions of people from around the world helped Selfridge Air National Guard Base celebrate 100 years of history during its Open House and Air Show Aug. 19-20.

Gen. John D. Slocum, commander of the 127th Wing based at Selfridge, said after the festivities had wrapped up that their live stream video feed of the high-flying event had broken records, with millions of viewers from more than 100 countries tuning in online to view the thrilling air stunts.

“We’re looking at five million people watching us from 125 different countries,” Slocum said. “It’s phenomenal.”

At press time, Slocum was waiting for the final count of visitors who came through Selfridge either Saturday or Sunday, but he’s expecting to hear more record-breaking news.

“The entire weekend was executed so well by the team here at Selfridge. A lot of people did a lot of hard work,” he said. “It takes everybody working together to make this happen, and boy did they step up.”

And the end result pleased spectators.

“Everybody seemed to have a great time,” Slocum continued. “I’ve gotten so much positive feedback, and from all the smiles on the faces I saw this weekend, it warms this commander’s heart.”

The 4,500 men and women who serve the area at Selfridge were on hand either up in the air delighting guests or on land greeting them.

One of those was Tech Sgt. John Diaz, a member of the 171st Air Refueling Squadron, who manned the exterior of a KC-135 Stratotanker, which was open for visitors to tour on the ground.

“This is a static display so everything is turned off completely,” Diaz explained. “So people can go in and touch whatever they want: sit where the pilots sit or at the boom.”

The KC-135 is a mid-air refueler, or a “flying gas station,” that the squadron operates across the country and internationally.

Diaz said the plane was a popular attraction during the open house, with more than 1,000 people getting a look inside.

Tours were also given inside other aircraft and vehicles, including the MV-22 Osprey and an Army National Guard CH-47 Chinook helicopter.

While the Air Force Thunderbirds F-16 demonstration team executed its aerial stunts, visitors also enjoyed getting a closer look at similar jets like the A-10, the F-22 and the F-35 Lightning II.

The base is under consideration to house the F-35, and, if selected, it would gradually replace the A-10 at the base. Air Force officials are expected to make a final decision before the end of the year.

Another plane on display was the T-38A Talon, a supersonic jet trainer that U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Ben Mix flew in from Fort Lauderdale.

Mix said 2017 was his first time at the Selfridge Open House and Air Show, and that he was enjoying the experience.

“I have been approached a lot; a lot of people have questions about how fast it can go,” he said. A majority of the younger spectators ask Mix about the centerline pylon, which looks like it may be carrying a rocket, but it wasn’t. “It’s been awesome.”

Michael Nutt, of Warren, too felt the uniqueness of the Selfridge air show.

Nutt, a pilot and a member of the Tuskegee Airmen National Museum in Detroit, said he’s been involved in other air shows, but Selfridge’s has more of a community feel to it.

He said attending such shows not only exposes more people to the history of the Tuskegee airmen, it along with donations help sustain the museum as well as educational programs for inner-city kids.

Nutt manned a display of the last three active TG-7A motorgliders, two of which he flew into Selfridge from Detroit City Airport where they are kept.

“There were 12 of these built and nine have since been retired,” Nutt said of the gliders. “They’re for training and used to get kids, mostly inner-city kids, into aviation.”

Attending the open house and air show from Grosse Pointe Shores was Adam George and his 1 ½-year-old son Charles.

George said this year was his and his son’s first time viewing the show on base. The last Selfridge  Open House and Air Show was in 2014, before Charles was born.

“He really likes planes,” George said of Charlie. “Anything that flies and makes a lot of noise.”

But there was so much more than the sound of propellers and engines at Selfridge.

“It’s great what they’re doing here,” George said. “You’re also enjoying the history of the base.”

The base has hosted numerous community events and educational programs since January to mark the centennial.