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Old Planes Take Crowd on Flights of Fancy : Oxnard: The 15th annual air show draws 4,000 spectators to see dozens of historical aircraft, including a 1913 Beachey.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Some of the loudest applause at the 15th annual Oxnard Air Show on Saturday went to the quietest aircraft.

The “Little Looper,” a wooden Beachey aircraft built in 1913, sputtered through gloomy skies over an estimated 4,000 enthusiastic spectators at the Oxnard Airport.

Strapped to the seat of a kitchen chair, pilot Vern Dallman rode just in front of the craft’s single propeller.

The plane is expected to be retired to a museum after its performance at the weekend show, whose theme is aviation history, spokesman Ross R. Olney said.

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The spluttering tickety-tick of the Looper’s engine bore little resemblance to the deafening roar of the F-16 fighter jet that flew later in the day or the flaming Smoke-n-Thunder rocket car, a ground vehicle powered by a jet engine.

But when the Beachey looped upside down at 1,000 feet and then nose-dived, “oohs” and “ahhs” burst from the crowd.

“It was real neat to see an old plane fly like that,” said Jonathan Enke, 11, of Newbury Park.

Ojai resident Hollis Green, 69, a former flying instructor and World War II pilot, said the Looper “looks like it would be fun to fly.”

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He said the Looper and dozens of other old aircraft at the show brought back memories of planes he piloted.

The historical planes reminded Simi Valley resident Barbara Williams of seeing some of the first jets land at a U.S. Army base in her native Maine.

“My brother lay on the ground screaming, the noise was so tremendous,” Williams said.

Ted Johnson, who was an Army pilot during World War II, said he used to fly a B-25 bomber identical to one on display. Johnson is a member of Tuskegee Airmen Inc., a national association of black military pilots that had a booth at the show.

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“I’d like to take it around one more time,” Johnson said of the bomber.

Hidden Hills resident Norm Levine said he prefers the older airplanes. “I think they should build more” aircraft like the Looper, “and not retire it,” he said.

Flying a plane like the Looper is a challenge, Levine said, “more of what I think flight is about--man against nature, being like a bird.”

The opening performance was another example of man exposed to the elements.

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A hang-glider floated 1,000 feet overhead, with pilot Dan Buchanan strapped below the A-shaped wing. An American flag flew from the top of the craft as “The Star-Spangled Banner” was sung over the loudspeaker, the hang-glider swooping to accompany " . . . and the home of the brave.”

Simi Valley resident Bill Williams said Buchanan’s performance “put tears in your eyes.”

Buchanan, a paraplegic since a motorcycle accident 11 years ago, said he finds the experience moving, too. “I can hear the music. I can see the people. I am proud to be there.”

The air show continues today from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Oxnard Airport. Admission is $3 for adults and $1 for children. Profits go to Ventura County charities, spokesman Olney said.

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