Open house and air show at Selfridge to highlight aerospace and defense in Macomb County

Take a flight through Macomb County’s aerospace and defense industry, as it celebrates with an open house and airshow at the Selfridge Air National Guard Base on June 8 and 9. 

Photo Courtesy of Vicky Rowinski. Vicky Rowinski, director of planning and economic development for the county says the area has a long history of aerospace and defense. Before WWII, the region had a very prominent automotive industry that was forced to pivot. 

“At that time they had to stop making cars and a lot of those executives transformed their assembly lines so they could build tanks and A52 Bombers for WWII,” Rowinski says. 

This industry has not died here, Rowinski says. Today, those same assembly lines build aircraft, spacecraft, ground vehicles, weapon systems, and defense equipment. 

It is one of the county's targeted industries, Rowinski says. In Macomb, the industry has been awarded more than $25 billion in defense contracts from 2010 to 2020 and Michigan is one of the leading states in aerospace. There is also over a thousand businesses in aerospace and defense, supplying more than 40,000 jobs, in Macomb County. Most of those are in the manufacturing sector. 

“That could be from building replacement parts to bringing in new technology,” Rowinski says. “Whether that’s in the EV space or Lidar-Radar sensors, these companies are supporting our Department of Defense.” 

Selfridge Air National Guard Base plays a big role in the county’s aerospace and defense industry. Their mission is to provide trained, equipped, and motivated air refueling, fighter, and support resources serving the community, state, and nation. Some of that training is on aircraft like the A-10 and KC135s. Many tenants on the base have different missions and projects they’re working on. 

One of the new projects at the base is the Selfridge Research Park, Rowinski says. This would be Department of Defense (DOD) tenants who have a product or service that would benefit the DOD. 

Another project is homeland security, Rowinski says. Although this industry is thriving, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t come without challenges. 

“Finding funding to maintain the infrastructure but also enhance it is a big deal for us,” Rowinski says. “We’re constantly in communications with our partners at Selfridge, with the National Guard at the state level as well as our federal partners on how we help support bringing in new programs and missions to Selfridge.” 

Open House & Air Show

It’s not very often that military bases and our international guard bases open up to the public, Rowinski says. 

“It's a great opportunity to see some really cool aircraft in the sky,” Rowinski says. “When we’ve got that community support of people taking their time to see the air show and all the acrobats in the sky, they’ll walk away with a sense of pride of what Selfridge means to their hometown.” 

This year's theme of the airshow is Innovation-Focused STEAM Driven. That includes an expo with the Michigan robotics teams, hands-on activities, and workshops. 

Photo Courtesy of Selfridge Air National Guard Base.

There will be many teams from all over the state, says Major Kraig Lohse, an A-10 pilot, and the air show director. Most of these teams are high school students. The students will share the inception of building these robots used in competitions. 

“We really want to make sure we are supporting our youth and looking at the future of Selfridge and also future talent,” Rowinski says. “That technology that they’re playing with whether that be robots or welding there’s an application in aerospace and defense.”  

This focus on STEAM also has the opportunity to showcase technology that the military is working on, Lohse says. From the precision that goes into building the engines in the aircraft to the safety in the cockpit and flight controls. 

Photo Courtesy of Selfridge Air National Guard Base.

At the airshow, they will also have special performers like the USAF Thunderbirds. The Thunderbirds will be flown by the Air Force Precision Jet Demo Team with six F-16 Viper aircraft. 

“The Thunderbirds are our primary headliner for this year's show, that’s what really brought this whole thing together,” says Senior Master Sergeant Craig Shipway, the air show ground operations director. “We’re really excited to have them because 2017 was the last time they visited so it was about time to have them return.” 

Other special performers are The Swamp Fox, an E-51 Mustang and classic WWII fighter, and The Misty Blues jump team who will kick off the show by jumping into the base with an American flag. 

Photo Courtesy of Selfridge Air National Guard Base.

“What’s special about the Misty Blues is it’s an all-female aviation team and most of them are highly part of the trades and STEAM,” Shipways says. “Their lead jumper is a master welder and teaches welding to students.” 

There will be other performers and aircraft like the US Army Golden Knights and the Canadian CF-18 Demo Team. 

“This is going to be a phenomenal air show,” Lohse says. “From Piston aircraft to some of the most advanced jet engine aircraft, it’s going to be a spectacular sight.” 

The airshow also gives the base a chance to show that the military is part of the community too, Lohse says. 

“There’s always a gate or a fence between outside and inside and so this is that opportunity to bring our population onto the airbase, show everyone that we are part of the community,” Lohse says.

The airshow is free to enter and runs June 8 and 9 from 10 am to 4 pm.
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