TAKING FLIGHT: What you need to know about Air Expo 2011

A YAK-52 at the Joint Base Charleston Air Expo 2011

Alan Hawes // The Post and Courier

Air Force families get a sneak peek of some of the planes Friday, including the A-10 Thunderbolt, at the Joint Base Charleston Air Expo 2011. The show is open to the general public today.

An estimated 100,000 people will stream into Charleston Air Force Base today for the Air Expo 2011.

Dozens of planes from across the decades -- many with different jobs and different missions, from fuel-haulers to jet fighters -- will be on display at the North Charleston base. There also will be skydivers and trick fliers.

Many of the planes not directly involved in the day's demonstration flights will be parked on display around the tarmac. Some will be open to tours that allow you to step on board and walk through.

So, if you like planes, it's your kind of day.

Here are some tips for navigating the show:

When should I get there?

The expo begins at 10 a.m., but with all that traffic, earlier is better. The gates open at 8 a.m. and will close to incoming traffic at 2 p.m. to begin preparations for visitors leaving the base. The show and parking are free.

The show will last for hours. What about seating?

There are no bleachers, but lawn chairs are permitted.

What items are prohibited?

Coolers, backpacks or gym bags (diaper bags are OK), alcohol, pets, firearms, illegal drugs, glass containers, knives, walkie-talkies, bicycles, skateboards and in-line skates. Food and beverage vendors will be at the show.

What if my child gets lost?

Two stations for lost children will be operating. Parents have the opportunity to write their cell phone number on a wristband their children can wear.

Will flights be affected at Charleston International Airport?

The airport will remain open throughout the performance lineup of at least 12 aerial teams, though arrivals and departures will be delayed during the events. Airport officials issued an alert for today to allow extra driving time for anyone trying to make a flight or coming in to pick up an arriving passenger.

What will be the highlight?

The finale will be an hourlong show by the Air Force's elite Thunderbirds performance squadron. The six-plane unit will scream across the sky as low as 200 feet off the ground and as high as 15,000 feet above the base.

What about handicap parking?

A handicap parking area is available near the entrance to the main flying and display areas.

Would a government shutdown stop the show?

Local officials say they plan for all elements of the show to go on, no matter what Congress decides in its ongoing budget battle.

What about shortcuts?

Police will be directing traffic and are expected to have a heavy presence in the area. They've worked out what they see as an efficient road plan.

"Don't try to take any shortcuts," said base spokesman Thomas Kistler.

How about the weather?

The high temperature around the base today is expected to be in the mid-80s. There's a roughly 30 percent chance of rain, mainly in the afternoon, according to the National Weather Service.