Annual auto/aircraft show returns Saturday to Vail Valley Jet Center |

Annual auto/aircraft show returns Saturday to Vail Valley Jet Center

The town of Gypsum is seen from above during flight in a biplane piloted by Gary Rower. Rower is performing stunts in his plane today during the Wheels and Wings show in the Vail Valley Jet Center at the Eagle County Regional Airport.
Anthony Thornton | |

If You Go

What: Wheels and Wings/Vail Automotive Classic

When: Saturday 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Vail Valley Jet Center, Eagle County Regional Airport. Saturday’s classic auto auction, 3:30-6 p.m. Sunday, Vail Automotive Classic, 9 a.m.-1 p.m., Vail Village.

Where: The Vail Valley Jet Center is inside the Eagle County Regional Airport. If you’re coming from the east, get off in Eagle and head toward the airport.

Cost: Saturday’s Wheels & Wings, $20, $5 for children. Discount tickets available online. Sunday free in Vail Village

Information: This is the fifth year for Wheels and Wings. Go to

EAGLE COUNTY — If you’re lucky or have the very good sense to be at the Eagle County Airport Saturday, you’ll see a couple biplanes belching smoke and looking like they’re falling.

They’re not. OK, they are falling, but they’re supposed to. Do not call 911.

That’s Buck Roetman of Wild Horse Aviation and Gary Rower of Rower Airshows performing for Saturday’s Wheels and Wings show in the Vail Valley Jet Center at the Eagle County Regional Airport.

They flip a switch and special smoke oil falls on the hot exhaust manifold, which creates a smoke trail. It’s the best and highest use of petroleum products in human history – both literally and metaphorically. They do stuff that defy the laws of physics and gravity, and makes every kid in the place holler, “Oh yeah! I wanna do that!” as their mothers roll their eyes and their fathers agree with the kids.

Saturday is the Wheels & Wings show at the Vail Valley Jet Center. Sunday is the Vail Automotive Classic in Vail Village, events that celebrate The Great American Symphony that is the well-tuned V-8 engine. It features more than 250 cars, 100 motorcycles, and 50 aircraft.

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Flying with Fardie

Vail Valley local Ken Fardie flies a 1956 North American Trojan AT-28. His was a South Vietnamese fighter plane during that war, and has a few panels riveted to the fuselage to cover the bullet holes.

The AT-28 carries two 50 caliber machine guns, seven rockets on each wing, and a couple wing-mounted bombs. The plane did much of the damage along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. They’d fly at night looking for truck lights. When they spotted a truck, it was lights out.

When we were flying Friday afternoon, Fardie politely declined to let me to strafe a Toyota Prius, although the machine guns do everything machine guns are supposed to do. We also didn’t get to drop water balloons on the Vail Daily building because, well … I didn’t think of bringing any until we were buzzing the rooftop. He did, however, fly us by the spot where Capt. Craig Button corkscrewed his A-10 into the side of the New York range.

During the Vietnam war, the AT-28 was frequently flown at treetop level, and when the pilot used the airbrake the fuselage would get sticks and leaves in it, along with bullet holes.

It generates 1,425 horsepower, flies 400 mph and will reach an altitude of 38,000 feet. It has tail hooks so it can land on aircraft carriers.

Fardie bought his AT-28 six years ago from a guy in Rockford, Ill., and just spent $50,000 for a new motor. That’s just the motor. It cost about $30,000 more to get it installed.

“It was worth it,” he said smiling.

He named it Sherry Berry because that’s what his wife’s father used to call her.

“Few people know that below 10,000 feet the Trojan will out climb and out turn a P51 Mustang, though the P51 people don’t like to admit it,” he said.

He’s also the proud owner of a Spitfire, not the sports car, the Royal Air Force World War II fighter plane.

Fardie does most of his own work. He’s a retired nuclear engineer who built nuclear surface ships, and later ran his own business restoring antique Jaguars.

Saturday’s Wheels and Wings show, and Sunday’s Vail Village car show is full of people like Fardie and Rower and Roetman, and the machines they love.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or Follow him on Twitter at @torqueandrecoil.

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