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S.C. Responders Prepare for Thunderbirds Air Show

CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Spectators ooh and aah at the aerial acrobatics of F-16 Fighting Falcons over Charleston (S.C.) Air Force Base.

But if one of the Thunderbird jets spins out of control and slams into the airstrip, plane parts could splinter and fly into the crowd of tens of thousands crammed along the flight line for the air show.

It hasn't happened at Charleston Air Force Base, and officials there are hoping it never does, but they want to be prepared, especially in light of last year's crash of an F/A-18A Hornet during the Blue Angels' performance in Beaufort in which the pilot was killed.

"That certainly gets everybody's interest when one goes down like that," said Dave Hunt, exercise evaluation team chief at Charleston Air Force Base.

Crews at the air base on Tuesday used an old single-engine Cessna in a readiness drill.

The wingless remains of the tiny plane that crashed into two old vehicles near the flight line billowed fake smoke as dozens of dummies with differing degrees of injuries printed on their chests and backs littered the mock crash site.

Rescuers, ambulances and firefighters raced to the scene within seconds of two loud explosions and took mock survivors, or the walking wounded, to a grassy area along the flight line away from the crash site.

There, medical crews and Air Force personnel tended to simulated broken arms, lacerations and burns.

Two years ago an estimated 130,000 people attended the free air show.

"Our people as well as Charleston County officials will make sure we have adequate crowd control," Hunt said.

If you go

WHAT: Air Expo 2008, Wings Over Charleston

WHEN: April 26 (gates open at 9 a.m.; show starts at 10.)

WHERE: Charleston Air Force Base

WHO: Air Force Thunderbirds in F-16 Fighting Falcons, Army Golden Knights parachute jump team, C-17 Globemaster III, F-15 Strike Eagle, F-22 Raptor, Navy F-18 Hornet and World War II-era aircraft

ADMISSION and PARKING: Free

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