Soaring Sky-High for Air Show : Airplane Exhibits, Flying Awards Will Be Offered at Aviation Expo '89 at Van Nuys Airport

Here's what this weekend offers: formation flying, fly-overs and the opportunity to see at close range both the latest in military aircraft as well as venerable World War II war birds.

Ah, the romance of an air show. And if you've been smitten with the Blue Lady of the Sky, what better place to rendezvous than at Aviation Expo '89 at the Van Nuys Airport this weekend?

Sponsored by the Greater Van Nuys Area Chamber of Commerce, this free event, scheduled for today and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., will feature demonstration flying, entertainment, tours of the airport, celebrities and static displays.

Attracted by the technological power and sheer beauty of flight, millions of spectators flock to air shows each year. Many seem to share the sentiments of author ("Sympathy for the Devil") and air-show devotee Kent Anderson. "These performances give people an opportunity to experience flying with a certain immediacy not available to them on films or TV," he said.

In Los Angeles, this type of spectacle flying began in the late '20s when competitive races were held at Mines Field--at that time open agricultural land--which has developed into today's Los Angeles International Airport.

In 1929, Bobbi Trout, flying the Golden Eagle monoplane built by an Inglewood manufacturer, set an endurance record of more than 12 hours in the air. Trout landed at Metropolitan Airport, later renamed Van Nuys Airport, the busiest general-aviation facility in the nation.

About as much emphasis will be necessary for automobile-traffic control as air-traffic control this weekend, when an expected attendance of more than 100,000 people arrive for the Van Nuys show, which is themed "Aces in Aviation."

Bow to Contributors

"We plan to honor the men and women who have made major contributions to flight, including pilots, engineers, designers and war aces," said Bob Hayes, airport public-relations director.

The awards program will take place today and Sunday at 1:30 p.m. in the staging area. Among those to be honored are Bobbi Trout, who competed with Amelia Earhart in the late '20s to set distance and endurance records; she will receive the historical-achievement award.

Among others slated for awards are John J. Fling, World War II radar engineer for Gilfillan Bros. Inc. (now ITT Gilfillan), and retired Air Force pilot Bill Anderson, who flew 200 Berlin Airlift missions. Astronaut Kathy Sullivan will receive a special-achievement award.

The San Fernando Valley chapter of the Ninety-Nines, an international organization of women pilots, will receive a community-service award. Col. William (Pete) Knight, X-15 test pilot and former vice commander of the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base, will receive a special-achievement award. United Airlines pilot Clay Lacy, who was aerial photographer for "Top Gun" and other films and set a round-the-world speed record with a Boeing 747, will receive recognition.

Steve Ritchie, a Vietnam Air Force flying ace, will receive an award, as will Lt. Lori Melling, a Navy test pilot who is among a select group of women assigned to tactical fighter aircraft.

Special awards will go to Bud Whalen for flight instruction; Allen Paulson, board chairman of Gulfstream Aerospace Corp., for general aviation contributions, and Norm Norton, air-traffic control supervisor at Van Nuys Airport, for air traffic-control achievement.

The flying demonstrations will begin at 2:30 p.m. both days when an A-10 Thunderbolt team, led by Capt. Jack King from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona, will perform. A squadron of fast-diminishing World War II P-51 Mustangs will go through their paces, while sturdy C-130s, flown by the California Air National Guard, will perform flybys.

'Limited Spectacle Flying'

Because of the heavily populated area, Hayes said, "we plan limited spectacle flying." Expo '89, however, will feature more than 50 military planes in static display, including the F-14 Tomcats, the fighter plane featured in "Top Gun," and other high-tech aircraft.

Among the planes to be viewed, and, in some instances, whose capabilities will be explained by pilots and volunteers, will be the F-16 Fighting Falcon, the EA-7 Corsair from Pt. Mugu Naval Air Station, the KC-10 from March Air Force Base, the P-3 Orion, several attack helicopters, the B-1 bomber and a number of vintage aircraft.

In the vintage-aircraft area, Bill Rheinschild, a pilot active in the Confederate Air Force, a Texas-based group that restores and flies World War II aircraft, will exhibit his P-51 Mustang, a T-28, T-33 and T-6. Winner of an award at the Reno Air Races this year for his Mustang "Risky Business," Rheinschild considers the P-51 a "wonderful craft to fly. It made long-range bombing possible and turned the tide of the war," he said. "One reason pilots participate in air shows is to demonstrate and explain their planes in an effort to further interest in aviation and help young people think about careers."

"We also want people who served (in the military) to know their efforts aren't forgotten," he added.

Bob Guilford, chief pilot for the recently opened Museum of Flying in Santa Monica and founder of the EAA-Warbirds of America (an international organization to preserve antique craft), plans to exhibit several of his own planes: an A-1 Skyraider, an attack fighter used in Korea and Vietnam, and an A-26 Invader, which, Guilford reports, was the only U.S. bomber to see action in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. He also will display, and if possible fly, his British-built, Supermarine Spitfire Mk XIV.

Entry and parking for this weekend's show are free. Enter at 8030 Balboa Blvd. at the California Air National Guard sign. Call for information (818) 908-5965. Sixteen organizations, from aeronautical clubs to service groups, will sell food and run concession booths. Proceeds will be donated to various civic groups and charities in the San Fernando Valley.

Other air shows are scheduled during the year throughout Southern California. Among them are:

Miramar Naval Air Station in San Diego has scheduled its show Aug. 12 and 13. The Navy's Blue Angels will perform, as will the Army's Golden Knights parachute team. Aircraft on display will range from World War II fighters to current strategic bombers. In its 40th year, this is considered a major military show. Follow Interstate 5 to the 805; take Miramar Road east to the entrance. Free admission. Information: (619) 537-4082.

Edwards Air Force Base will have open house, Oct. 29, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Nearly half a million people have been attracted to this Air Force base and NASA research facility in past years to see such experimental aircraft as the SR-71 Blackbird (a high-altitude reconnaissance jet) and a U-2 spy plane. This year, planes in the developmental stage will include the X-29 and the X-15 Eagle (modified for short take-off and landing). Also on display will be modified F-16 fighters and the B-1B. There also will be a number of restored antique aircraft.

At 10 a.m., the Air Force Thunderbirds, first launched as a demonstration team in 1953, will perform.

From Interstate 5, take California 14. Look for Edwards AFB exit sign 11 miles north of Lancaster. Free admission.

Pt. Mugu Naval Air Station has scheduled its annual show the weekend of Oct. 28-29. The Thunderbirds are scheduled only for Oct. 29, but stunt flying, such as wing-walking and jet "dragster" racing, will be offered Oct. 28. At past shows, ground displays have featured a number of heavy-duty helicopters, many open for inspection. Because it's also the home of the Pacific Missile Test Center, Pt. Mugu is a good place to see models of advanced missiles and aircraft manufactured by such contractors as General Dynamics and Northrop. The air station is three miles south of Oxnard on Pacific Coast Highway. Free admission.

Martin Aviation Air Show is scheduled for Nov. 11-12 at Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport, 3000 N. Clybourn Ave. in Burbank. The show will feature planes of the past, such as the Ford Tri-Motor, DC-2, Lockheed Constellation and Lockheed Electra; as well as planes of the future. Admission: $5; parking $2.

Chino Municipal Airport is the site of an annual show that features planes on the endangered-species list, many from Chino's own Planes of Fame Museum. The shows are scheduled the third weekend in May.

This year, using 20 craft from the museum and others that were flown in, pilots demonstrated mint-condition P-51 Mustangs, the F-4U Corsair, P-40, P-47 Thunderbolt and B-17 Flying Fortress. Howard Wilson, the museum's general manager, says the high point was unique formation flying by a German Messerschmitt, British Spitfire, American Mustang and Japanese Zero.

From Los Angeles, take the Pomona Freeway (California 60) through Pomona; turn south on Euclid Avenue to the airport. Air show is $10 for adults, $5 for children under 12. Entrance to the museum is $4.95; children under 12, $1.95. Call for group rates. Rides in vintage planes offered at museum for $300 donation. Museum information: (714) 597-3722.

El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, Santa Ana (714) 726-2937. Show held each year in late April at home of the Third Marine Aircraft Wing. The last show featured skywriting teams and dogfight routines, plus a demonstration by the Marine Corps Air-Ground Task Force. From the Santa Ana Freeway, take Sand Canyon Avenue exit left to Trabuco Road. Turn right and drive 500 yards to the gate.

When attending an air show, it's a good idea to wear layered clothing to accommodate climate changes during a long day outdoors. Bring a lightweight folding chair (one with attached umbrella is especially useful). Sunscreen lotion is a must, especially for children, and don't forget sunglasses and binoculars. Parents of toddlers may want to bring strollers. You might want to keep a cooler of beverages in your car for an all-day expedition. If you're attending a show on a military base, be sure to fill up the gas tank before entering.

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