AFA Chapter Helps Maxwell AFB Revive First Air & Space Show in 7 Years

April 30, 2024   |   By Ken Philippart

AFA’s Montgomery Chapter 102 in Alabama supported the first air show at Maxwell Air Force Base since 2017. The “Beyond the Horizon Air & Space Show” was held April 5-7. The Chapter supported the entire event, including its STEM Expo, family members of the Blue Angels, the Check-6 Pilot For a Day program, and more.

The Montgomery Chapter allocated $10,000 in chapter funds to support the show’s revival, and was highly involved in the planning, organizing, and execution of high-visibility, high-impact activities at BTH. More than 135,000 people attended this “first-of-its-kind in many years” event in Alabama. Chapter 102 ensured that the AFA name and brand were front and center at the event for the Maxwell AFB community, dignitaries, educators, and the public.

The Montgomery Chapter co-hosted the DV Tent with the 42d Air Base Wing and Air University leadership. When the BTH team realized they did not have a food/beverage sponsor for the Blue Angels’ families-and-friends tent, Montgomery Chapter stepped up to sponsor that tent as well. In total, the Chapter served food and beverages for 1,500 distinguished visitors over two days, including Air Force leadership at Maxwell, the mayor of Montgomery, Montgomery’s Chief of Police, an Alabama Supreme Court Justice, the Montgomery Chamber of Commerce President, Montgomery City Council members, the State AFA Teacher of the Year, and more than 45 community partners. 

The Blue Angels’ protocol team leader reported that the feedback from the hosted families was overwhelmingly positive. He said that he had been with the Blue Angels for over 20 years and had never experienced such attention, hospitality, and care for Blues’ families as the Montgomery Chapter provided.

Interactions with so many DVs and guests generated very positive publicity for AFA and resulted in the recruitment of new community partners.

The Montgomery Chapter also transported distinguished visitors and guests around the sprawling show grounds during the event giving dozens of rides in an air-conditioned ATV to various locations. These guests included the Check-6 Foundation’s Pilot for a Day group, Maxwell AFB personnel, AFA members, DVs, and Commemorative Air Force show participants.

On the Friday before the show, Chapter 102 helped conduct the BTH STEM Expo. More than 3,700 middle and high school students from the River Region and beyond participated in the expo with almost 400 adult leaders. The Montgomery Chapter was on hand to promote AFA’s unique STEM programs for youth and educators. Situated in the Educational Resource hangar, the AFA exhibit explained AFA’s signature STEM programs for middle and high school students, CyberPatriot and StellarXplorers. The chapter also gave teachers information on AFA’s Aerospace/STEM Teacher of the Year program and the $500 Educator Grant program in a special BTH STEM Expo tote bag with the AFA logo displayed. 

During Friday’s STEM Expo Day, the Montgomery Chapter supported the Check-6 Foundation’s “Pilot for a Day” program, where an ill student from Montgomery Public Schools was selected as Pilot for a Day. The student was a guest of the Wing Commander and was given special tours and demonstrations on Maxwell AFB at the Wright Flyer in the historic Air Park, in the Air Traffic Control Tower, and on the flight line to see visiting aircraft. She was transported by the chapter to meet with the commander and pilot of the F-16 Viper Demo team where she donned a flight suit and G suit.  She also got to meet the Blue Angels, take a photograph, and receive autographs from the demonstration team.

Montgomery Chapter President Scott Key represented AFA at the 42d Air Base Wing presentation with the Check-6 Vice President, Mr. George Onyenyeonwu, who presented the young lady with a Pilot for a Day Medal of Courage. Chapter 102’s support was essential in promoting the Check-6 Foundation’s mission to provide aid, assistance, experiences, purpose, inspiration, and hope to children battling serious illnesses and military veterans in need.

The Montgomery Chapter also supported a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Montgomery Chapter and State of Alabama Aerospace/STEM Teacher of the Year, Catherine Kenny, a STEM and robotics teacher at Pike Road Schools. In recognition of her outstanding accomplishments in STEM education, Catherine was selected as the “Hometown Hero; Key Influencer” and awarded a flight with the Blue Angels. The Blue Angels Key Influencer program aims to showcase the hard work and dedication of people who support their local communities. 

The Montgomery Chapter’s intent in sponsoring key activities at BTH was to continue to make the chapter even more relevant in the River Region. They beyond succeeded in that goal. Glowing feedback from DVs and the commanders of Air University, the Holm Center, 42d Air Base Wing, the 187th ANG Fighter Wing, the 908th AFRC Airlift Wing, the Barnes Center, and the International Officers School attested to Chapter 102’s outstanding efforts in making Beyond the Horizon 2024 a phenomenal success.

If any visitors to “Beyond the Horizon Air & Space Show” 2024 were unfamiliar with AFA before, they are no longer. The Montgomery Chapter dispelled any notions of AFA being a “best kept secret” and demonstrated in a fun, friendly, and highly visible manner, the benefit to the Maxwell AFB and local communities of AFA programs.