COLUMBIA — Capt. Dave Neely of the Marine Corps loves flying. He said air shows are "just kind of the icing."
Neely performed high-speed passes, turns, slides and vertical takeoffs and landings Saturday at the 22 Annual Salute to Veterans Air Show.
The Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier demonstration was the headline of the air show Saturday, and Neely, who started flying Harriers in 2005, piloted the plane.
Unlike most planes, the Harrier is capable of landing and taking off straight up and down, like a helicopter.
To get ready for an air show demonstration, Neely said pilots practice in a simulation plane that doesn’t leave the ground.
Capt. Tyler B. Sanders of the Marine Corps didn’t fly Saturday, but has been flying since he was 15. He joined the Marines in 2005 and started flying for them in 2007.
“My favorite thing about flying is the freedom and challenge associated with it,” Sanders said. “You have to be 100 percent focused, 100 percent of the time with this.”
This year's demonstration showed very little flying, he said. Instead, it showcased the Harrier's vertical takeoff and landing.
Retired Air Force Col. Charles McGee said the thrill of the air show is being around people who love aviation.
“It’s always pleasant to be here with folks who have a love for aviation and love honoring our veterans,” said McGee, a pilot.
McGee was the commander of Richards-Gebaur Air Force Base in Kansas City before retiring after 30 years. He was an honored guest at the ceremony Saturday afternoon, and has attended each of the past six years.
Retired Maj. Gen. Arnold Fields of the Marine Corps said he enjoys the air show because of the friendly and “very patriotic” people in Columbia.
“I appreciate the recognition,” said Fields, who retired in 2004.
The Salute to Veterans Air Show included air demonstrations by planes and parachutes, and grounded aircraft that were available for visitors to explore.
Henry Sapp, 7, spent his third year at the air show exploring an MG-53E Sea Dragon with his father.
The Sea Dragon, which is primarily a mine counter, is one of the grounded aircraft that visitors can walk into at the show.
Henry's father, Chad Sapp, said that the best part of the air show is coming out and letting the kids look at everything.
“They love airplanes,” Sapp said.