‘Cajun Jet Blast’ Finally Took to the Skies at Executive Regional Airport

Flying in precise formation, more than a dozen historic jets raced across the River Parish skies this past April at the Classic Jet Aircraft Association’s (CJAA) first-ever “Cajun Jet Blast” hosted at the Port of South Louisiana’s Executive Regional Airport.

While CJAA Jet Blasts have been held all over the country since 2000, this particular event was handled by Sonny Schilleci, local aviator and CEO of Auric Avionics. Schilleci welcomed pilots from around the country to sharpen up their skills so that they are permitted to fly at events with waivered FAA airspace, like airshows and other demonstrations or exhibitions. 

At this particular Jet Blast (which was originally scheduled for October 2020, until Hurricane Delta halted plans) the entire fleet was composed of L-39 jets – a Cold War-era model used in many Eastern European arsenals that’s now often featured in domestic civilian aerial performances. In the past, Schilleci says, CJAA Jet Blasts have also included L-29s, T-33s, S-211s, MiG-15s and MiG 17s – the latter two jets Soviet-designed planes used in combat during the 1950s. 

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“These aircraft are a very integral part of Cold War Era history,” Schilleci says. “And to highlight (these historic jets) to the public provides awareness of our military and continued sacrifices made to keep our country free.”

Though the Jet Blasts are technically a private event, formation patterns were visible to many River Region residents who took in all the action from the comforts of their own property or public spaces like parks. When the Jet Blast pilot finally landed, Schilleci showed off the deep traditions and attractions of the area to the outside pilots who made the trek to South Louisiana. 

“As you know, Louisiana has a very unique culture. I titled the event ‘Cajun Jet Blast’ which was exactly what it was,” Schilleci says. “We cooked dishes for everyone such as gumbo, jambalaya with white beans and pastalaya. We also hosted a crawfish boil, which was the first time most of the guests ever saw or tried crawfish. Needless to say, our culture sent everyone home happy. Folks also were able to do some alligator spotting and fishing.”

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The rescheduled Cajun Jet Blast was a proud and important moment to those at the Port of South Louisiana, as well. 

When the Port acquired control of the airport a decade ago, its main mission was to provide clients within the Port District, and customers of those clients, easier access to drop-in on operations or hold meetings on site, rather than flying into Jefferson Parish and driving 30 minutes west to get to their facilities. Undoubtedly, that mission has been accomplished, as the entire airport has undergone numerous upgrades and improvements over the years – from lengthening the runway to accommodate larger aircraft, to modernizing the main terminal, to constructing multiple state-of-the-art hangars. 

While supporting the industries located along the Mississippi River with more convenient business-related travel options continues to be of the utmost importance, the Port of South Louisiana Executive Regional Airport has also developed into a showcase stage for public events, philanthropic causes and wholesome aviation entertainment. 

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Prior to the March 2020 lockdown, the airport hosted a wide variety of events. Finally being able to host gatherings like the CJAA Cajun Jet Blast was a reminder that that calendar will once again be filled as 2021 continues. 

“Although this airport did not close for the pandemic, our monthly events had to,” says Airport Director Lisa Braud. “We have had two already this year, and it’s nice to see people coming out and enjoying the food and enjoying the camaraderie. They are happy to get out and fly to events, again.

“There are still residents in the area after decades of this airport being in existence, first as Parish-run and for the last 10 years Port-run, that do not know there is an airport here,” Braud continues. “What better way to spread the word than to open it up for public events where kids can come in and ride in an airplane or just see an airplane, the scouts can come in and learn things to get a merit badge, residents can come out and just enjoy the day watching planes take off and land. We invite car clubs for ‘Wings and Wheels’ events, and other groups, all to invite the community in, all to get more people visiting us and all to get maybe just that one child (or even adult) who may become interested in learning to fly and getting their own pilot’s license.”


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