By David Yarger
Last Thursday, the Niagara Military Affairs Council held their annual members meeting at the Niagara Aerospace Museum.
The meeting discussed the success of the 2018 Thunder of Niagara Air Show that occurred June 8-10 at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station and also the 2018 Merrell Lane Memorial Aviation Scholarship.
The main goal of NIMAC is to support the growth and prosperity of the NFARS and its personnel to create a positive economic impact in Western New York.
The scholarship, in honor of Merrell Lane, the co-founder and first chairman of NIMAC, is awarded to a member assigned to the NFARS and pursuing a career related to aviation.
Kurt Hammer, chair of the Scholarship Committee, said, "It's in memory of Merrell Lane ... who had a love for aviation. ... Everyone on the committee wanted to make that a lasting memory, so that we could always remember Merrell and his love for aviation. We think the best way to do that is to give a scholarship out to a deserving individual who is interested in a career in aviation."
To win the scholarship, one must be enrolled into an aviation curriculum or an accredited private pilot program, have completion of a solo flight, and complete a 250-300 word essay on why they wanted to pursue aviation.
The second Merrell Lane Scholarship for $1,500 was awarded to Chase Jones of Freedom, New York. Jones, a recent high school graduate with an advanced regents diploma, was an honors student, three-sport athlete in golf, track and basketball; winner of the Principal's Award at his school; and has over 60 flying hours as a student pilot.
Jones said, "It's a great honor. I just can't say enough about NIMAC what they're about to do for me. I'm gonna put this scholarship to good use."
NIMAC Chairman John Cooper spoke highly of Jones' achievement.
"He's definitely an impressive young man," Cooper said. "I was really pleased when I met him. For a 17-year-old young man, he's definitely a very mature and already involved in the military, already involved out here in the pre-enlistment program. We're very proud to be able to give him a scholarship.
"The Air Force has a shortage of pilots and it's our small way of trying to help out to possibly bring more pilots into the Air Force."
Following the presentation, Vice Chairman Bill Wagner spoke about the air show and its success.
Wagner said the big thing was the show was safely executed and secure. The air show did have one case where an 18-year-old tried bringing a hand gun into the event, but Wagner said due to the security, it kept all spectators safe.
"Bottom line is our security forces did a phenomenal job. They did what they needed to do. They found his weapon and they were able to make sure ... he wasn't able to do any harm. ... Safety is the primary concern and we achieved that," Wagner said.
Wagner added that over 93,000 people attended the events from Friday to Sunday. Wagner also thanked the many sponsors of the event.
"The objective of the show is to bring in people and give them a great experience and that's exactly what happened. The flying lineup ... was second to none," Wagner said.
The 2018 air show featured acts such as the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, the Canadian Forces Snowbirds, USAF C-17 Tactical Demo, F/A-18 Super Hornet Tactical Demo, and many more.
Wagner ended his discussion with a YouTube video of pictures and videos from the weekend.
For more information on NIMAC, visit the committee's website at nimac.org.