POINT MUGU : Hotshot Fliers Ready to Thrill Air Show Fans


True to the stereotype, many of the hotshot pilots milling around a hangar Friday before the Point Mugu Air Show tested positive for bravado.

“I’m putting on my life jacket--in case I have to go swimming,” said 31-year-old stunt pilot Don Johnson (no, not the actor) as he clambered into his aerobatic monoplane’s tiny cockpit for a test run.

As pilot Mike O’Hearn leaned against the 13-foot propeller of a World War II fighter plane, he said he had no problems with performing in an air show headlined by the Canadian Snowbirds, a big-name, jet demonstration team.


“Jets are for kids,” said 50-year-old O’Hearn, a “colonel” in the Southern California Wing of the Confederate Air Force. “Landing one of these [older planes] is like trying to throw a dart backward.”

And John Piggott, a 53-year-old businessman from Lafayette, near San Francisco, said he looked forward to flying his Russian-built Sukhoi Su-29 plane sideways with the propeller pointing straight up toward the sky. “It makes the crowd say, ‘Gee, I didn’t know an airplane could do that,’ ” Piggott said with a chuckle. “I do the same thing upside down.”

Less confident, perhaps were the air show organizers, who feared that the patchy fog that hovered over Ventura County most of Friday might come back to haunt the show over the weekend. The irritating white billowy stuff delayed the Red Baron Stearman Squadron from flying the short hop from Camarillo to Point Mugu on Friday morning.

The National Weather Service predicts that fog and low clouds today will not clear until about noon. But Friday afternoon, the sun came out briefly and officials became optimistic.

“We’re just hoping it stays like this,” Phillis Thrower, a Point Mugu Navy base spokeswoman, said Friday afternoon. “You know how it is here at Point Mugu. You never can tell.”

The 33rd annual air show, which runs through Sunday, weather permitting, features two full days of aerobatics including simulated biplane dogfights, flyovers by the U.S. Air Force’s F-117 stealth fighter and stunt flying by top civilian and military pilots.


The Canadian Snowbirds, one of the world’s premiere demonstration teams, is scheduled to perform both days at 3 p.m. Known for their highly choreographed, ballet-like aerobatics, the team’s nine pilots, considered the top fliers in Canada’s air force, will launch their 33-minute act in a unique way.

“We are the only team in the world that does a nine-plane takeoff,” said Captain Menes Pierre-Pierre, the team’s coordinator. “We are going to take advantage of [Point Mugu’s] 200-foot wide runway.”