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Northland natives to arrive with massive C-17 for Duluth Airshow

A C-17 Globemaster III is positioned during a large formation exercise last week at Pope Army Field in North Carolina. One of the big planes is flying to the Northland to be on display at this weekend's Duluth Air and Aviation Expo. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christian Sullivan)1 / 4
Ground crew members with the F-35 Demonstration team from Luke Air Force Base stand at attention as a F-35 Lightning II aircraft piloted by Maj. Will Andreotta arrives at the 148th Fighter Wing in Duluth Thursday afternoon. Two F-35 fighter jets are in Duluth for this weekend's air show. (Clint Austin / / 4
Four Blue Angels F/A-18 Hornets fly in a tight formation near the Duluth International Airport while practicing Thursday afternoon for the Duluth Airshow this weekend. (Clint Austin / / 4
A F-35 Lightning II aircraft piloted by Maj. Joe Walker from the 56th Fighter Wing at Luke Air Force Base arrives at the 148th Fighter Wing in Duluth Thursday afternoon. This is the first time F-35 jets have been to the 148th. Two F-35 fighter jets are in Duluth for this weekend's air show. (Clint Austin / / 4

Northland residents may get a close-up glimpse of one of the U.S. Air Force's largest aircraft when it flies low across parts of the region this afternoon.

An Air Force C-17 "Globemaster," which can carry 170,900 pounds of cargo or troops, will be practicing maneuvers that include flying low over the South Shore as well as the North Shore up to Two Harbors today as it arrives for this weekend's Duluth Air and Aviation Expo.

The C-17 will be completing off-station training that includes air refueling while it flies from Charleston, S.C., to Duluth.

"We're going to fly up to Two Harbors and that's where we're going to drop down and do a low-level. It'll be low and fast," said Master Sgt. Adam Mattson, who is a native of Oulu in Bayfield County.

Duluth native Maj. Aaron High will also be among the crew visiting the Duluth Airshow with the C-17.

The Duluth Airshow runs Saturday and Sunday at the Duluth International Airport. Jodi Grayson, the airshow's media director, said she expects a few performances in particular to be popular with the crowd. The U.S. Navy Blue Angels arrived in Duluth on Thursday and are already a big hit, with people stopping to watch them in the sky as the jets practiced on Thursday, she said.

"Driving around town, you see so many people pulled over ... so many people just in awe. Clearly, that's the biggest draw and you can tell everyone is so excited about that," Grayson said.

Grayson said she expects the U.S. Air Force F-35s, which also arrived in Duluth on Thursday for an inaugural airshow appearance, also will be popular, along with the many planes on display on the ground.

"Each airplane is completely unique and that's the best part about an airshow, where you can have a fan favorite and then suddenly you're like, 'What is that?' and everyone gets super excited, whether it's a military one or a non-military one — everything is different," she said.

At the airshow, visitors will be able to see inside the C-17 as part of the aircraft display. The C-17, a strategic and tactical airlifter, can fly both cargo and troops either across the world or within a military theater, Mattson explained.

"We can put a M1 Abrams tank in there. We can put up to four HH-60 helicopters in there if we want to. I can haul 18 pallets of cargo," he said. "We can do anything from hauling patients to hauling 102 airborne jumpers if we want to and airdrop them at one time."

The C-17 is the third aircraft Mattson has served on during his 18 years in the Air Force.

"I started off as a gunner on helicopters, went over to AC-130 gunships as a gunner and then I switched over to be a loadmaster about four years ago," he said.

Mattson will be one of three aircraft loadmasters with the C-17's crew during the airshow. The crew usually doesn't know what the cargo is until they arrive to pick it up and then they have just short of three hours to get it loaded on the aircraft, he said.

Mattson explained that the C-17 is much larger than the C-130, which is also expected to be on display at the airshow. The C-130 can carry six pallets of cargo compared to the C-17's capacity of 18 pallets.

The C-17 can fly for 24 hours and 45 minutes and then the crew has 12 hours off after the C-17 lands, he said.

"I call it 'sky trucking' because that's basically what it is. You're a trucker in the sky. It can be grueling days," Mattson said.

2017 Duluth Air and Aviation Expo

  • Saturday and Sunday at the Duluth International Airport
  • Gates open at 9 a.m. and close at 6 p.m. each day; the flying begins at 10 a.m. each day.
  • General admission day passes at the gate are $23 for adults age 17 and older; $17 for kids ages 6-16; and free for kids 5 and younger. A family pass for two adults and two kids is $65.
  • Parking and shuttle service is available for an additional fee; find more information about tickets and parking at Updates about parking and the weather during the airshow will be posted on the airshow's social media pages and on the website.

Runway 4K

The inaugural Runway 4K running race will be held Saturday at Duluth's Sky Harbor Airport in conjunction with this weekend's airshow. The race starts at 8:30 a.m., with a Jack Link's stunt plane set to "buzz" the runners at 8:35 a.m. Find more information at