Blue Angels dazzle at Huntington Beach air show

Serpentine contrails traced across the sky Saturday afternoon as the famed U.S. Navy Blue Angels performed complex aerial tricks at the Breitling Huntington Beach Airshow.

Hundreds of thousands of people lined the beachfront just south of the Huntington Beach Pier to gaze up as various plane teams performed aerobatic feats at hundreds of miles per hour.

There was concern in the morning that the show wouldn’t go on due to Friday’s practice runs being grounded for inclement weather, but the marine layer parted just in time for the noon starting time. The show will have its final run from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.

Air show director Michael McCabe said after the event that the turnout was better than last year’s inaugural show, which featured the Air Force Thunderbirds and the Breitling Jet Team.

“The sky cleared and we had a perfect air show,” McCabe said. “The Angels were outstanding. This is unlike any other air show in North America.”

The show featured a number of acts, including the Canadian Snowbirds, a popular military jet demonstration team.

Lucas Oil pilot Michael Wiskus stunned the crowd with dizzying flips and barrel rolls in his plane.

At one point, Wiskus’ plane climbed so high that it became obscured by the light of the sun. Over the loudspeaker he playfully uttered, “Uh oh,” as his plane came back into view, diving towards the ocean. He pulled up just in time.

But the real headliner of the show was the Blue Angels.

As Guns N’ Roses’ “Welcome to the Jungle” played over the loudspeakers, the rock star jets soared over the beach in formation. The crowd all staring in awe at the dangerous proximity of the F-18 Hornet jets.

A highlight of the Blue Angels’ roughly 45-minute exhibition was the “Diamond Dirty Loop,” where the jets formed a diamond as they looped in unison to the tune of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song.”

“You can’t compare the Blue Angels to anybody else,” former NASA astronaut and Navy pilot Mark Kelly said during an interview at the show. Kelly flew F-18s during his career.

Attendees also felt the Blue Angels were the top performers of the show.

Randy Thio, 37, of Yorba Linda said this was his first time at the Huntington Beach air show and the precision and speed of the Blue Angels was unparalleled.

The path to this year’s show wasn’t without obstacles.

Because of an estimated financial shortfall of $350,000, the show’s operator, AirSupport LLC, requested help from the city in August. The council on Sept. 5 approved temporary rate increases for parking and recreational vehicle camping during the event to provide about $100,000 worth of support. Council members said it was important to help an event that brings revenue to downtown businesses.

The council also allowed AirSupport to delay its payments for public safety and other city personnel for up to 45 days after the show.

The show is expected to cost $975,000. Last year’s edition lost about $400,000. But, McCabe believes the air show will be around for years to come.

“This could become the premier air show in North America,” McCabe said. “The support of the community has been fantastic.”

benjamin.brazil@latimes.com

Twitter:@benbrazilpilot

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