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News > Westfield International Air Show Chooses Hometown Hero for F-16 Flight
Westfield International Air Show Chooses Hometown Hero for F-16 Flight

Posted 8/6/2010   Updated 8/6/2010 Email story   Print story


Release Number: 071510

8/6/2010 - Westfield, MA -- PRESS RELEASE
Barnes Air National Guard Base
104th Fighter Wing
Public Affairs Office
Massachusetts Air National Guard
175 Falcon Drive, Westfield, MA 01085

Contact: Major Matthew Mutti, Executive Officer pa.104fw@ang.af.mil <mailto:pa.104fw@ang.af.mil> // 413-568-9151, x1263 Cell 413-627-9735

Westfield International Air Show Chooses Hometown Hero for F-16 Flight

(Barnes Air National Guard Base, 104th Fighter Wing - Westfield, Mass.)- The US Air Force Thunderbirds are scheduled to perform aerial demonstrations at the Westfield International Air Show in conjunction with the Barnes Air National Guard Base Open House on 21 and 22 August (www.westfieldairshow.net), prior to their performances they will recognize a local hometown hero with a potential orientation ride in an F-16D high performance military fighter.

The Air Show and the Hometown Hero selection committee received 67 submissions for this opportunity; the nominations highlighted achievements from community members, all whom made a positive impact on their communities. After careful deliberation, the 67 nominees were narrowed to 10 and asked to provide more information as well as be seen by a medical professional, clearing them for the opportunity to fly in one of the Air Force's high performance fighter aircraft.

"I was inspired by the quality of the nominations," said Col Robert T. Brooks Jr., 104th Fighter Wing Commander. "I learned about some ordinary people doing extraordinary things... I wish we could recognize them all."

The committee selected Dr. Mark Bigda, of Easthampton, to receive the opportunity to fly with the Air Force Thunderbirds. Bigda, a Medical Doctor, has volunteered the past 7 years with the Health Care Project at the College Church in Northampton Mass, providing free medical care to homeless and uninsured community members. He recently returned from a volunteer trip where he provided medical treatment to earthquake survivors in Haiti. He also makes a bi-annual trip to third-world countries where he, and other medical professionals provide free care to those in need. Bigda has been recognized as the Clinician of the Year by the Massachusetts Medical Society and as the Rotary Club Paul Harris Fellow for his humanitarian actions.

The committee also selected 2 additional heroes which will be the Air Show's special guests for the event. Ms. Anna Saldo-Burke of Williamstown Mass and Mr. Larry Ross of Canaan Maine.

Saldo-Burke, a North Adams school teacher has dedicated the past 16 years to serving not only the school system but also the community. She has made a significant impact to the community through organizing a program call "Operation Troop Support "providing holiday cheer to overseas military members. She has also served as a key coordinator for the annual Fall Foliage Parade, and numerous patriotic holiday observances throughout the pioneer valley. She teaches her students to work toward bettering the community, living by the motto "Adding to the Good."

Ross, a school teacher in Canaan Maine, is also the founder of the Lindberg Crate Day. The Spirit of St Louise, on its voyage back to the US, was crated up and sent through a New Hampshire ship yard in 1927. In 1990, Ross transformed this crate into a museum that celebrates the advancement in aviation. Ross uses this museum, to educate and inspire the youth to pursue careers in aviation. He has founded an annual Lindberg Crate Day which celebrates the accomplishments of Lindberg and all military veterans. At last count, Ross has been instrumental in influencing and mentoring 10 youths who have since become Air Force pilots.


The full nomination package can be made available for more information regarding these Hometown Heroes. The ride in the F-16 will be offered upon the Thunderbirds arrival to Barnes ANGB on Aug 19th or 20th. Members of the media interested in orientations flights during the Air Show please coordinate with the public affairs office. There will be many aircraft available for your anchors/reporters as early as Aug 10th.

More information on the US Air Force Thunderbirds can be found at http://thunderbirds.airforce.com

Additional information on the Westfield International Air Show & Barnes ANGB Open House can be found at http://www.westfieldairshow.net

Below is the original press release.

Barnes Air National Guard Base
104th Fighter Wing
Public Affairs Office
Massachusetts Air National Guard
175 Falcon Drive, Westfield, MA 01085

Contact: Major Matthew Mutti, Executive Officer Pa.104fw@ang.af.mil <mailto:Pa.104fw@ang.af.mil> // 413-568-9151, x1263

USAF Thunderbirds offer flight opportunity for local hero in a Military F-16 (Barnes Air National Guard Base, 104 Fighter Wing - Westfield, Mass.) - On Aug. 21 and 22, 2010, the 104th Fighter Wing in conjunction with the Barnes Municipal Airport will host the Westfield International Air Show, at which the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds are scheduled to perform.

The Thunderbirds, the U.S. Air Force aerial demonstration team, are looking for a member of the local community who is deserving of an opportunity to receive an orientation ride with their team the Friday before the show through a program titled the 'Home Town Hero program'.

The 'Home Town Hero program' is designed to highlight a member of the local area who has given of themselves to better the community. A local hero will receive an opportunity to take a one-hour Thunderbird orientation flight in one of the world's premiere fighter jets-the Lockheed Martin F-16D.

Heroes might include, but are not limited to: an average citizen who heroically saved a life; a renowned teacher; a community humanitarian; a local firefighter, paramedic or police officer; one who mentors children or volunteers as a coach or tutor in a youth program; or someone who dedicates their life to working with at-risk children.

All nominations are being collected through the Westfield Air Show Website www.westfieldairshow.net <http://www.westfieldairshow.net> . Nominations may be made through the 'contact us'

section of the website in a message limited to 100 words, identifying who the nominee is and why they may be deserving of this opportunity. After the initial nominations are made, a selection committee will select 10 nominations and solicit supplemental information to include a list of 3 references that can substantiates the nomination. If heroic actions are the bases for the nomination, official documentation will also be required (a newspaper article, a police report, etc.) The nominations will be collected until June 15th at which point finalists will be chosen and medically qualified for the flight opportunity. The finalist and a runner up will be unit's guest at the Air Show and the finalist will be given the opportunity to participate in an orientation flight with the US Air Force Thunderbirds. The flight is subject to cancellation for operational and maintenance reasons, or for weather.


Please share this opportunity with your viewers/readers/listeners.

Additional information is available upon request as are interviews in relation to this program and the Westfield International Air Show. Her are links for the F-16 Falcon and the US Air Force Thunderbirds fact sheets:

F-16: http://www.af.mil/information/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=103 <http://www.af.mil/information/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=103>

US Air Force Thunderbirds: http://www.af.mil/information/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=185 <http://www.af.mil/information/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=185>

The Air Show will also be collecting media nominees for an opportunity for an incentive flight. If your news organization would like the opportunity to ride with the Air Force Thunderbirds, or one of our other acts, please contact us soon in that spaces are limited, see attached MEDIA INFORMATION FLIGHT INFORMATION SHEET.doc.

Please contact Public Affairs with any questions, pa.104FW@ang.af.mil
413-568-9151 x1263

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