Air Show Enthusiast Puts El Toro on Web


Short of taking over the controls of a Blue Angels jet, Michael Ullman sees volunteering for the annual air show at El Toro Marine Corps Air Station as the closest he can get to the thrilling speed, the controlled fury and the death-defying acrobatic feats of the Navy’s precision flying team.

He’s run the beer booth, ushered people to their seats, and helped organize a golf tournament that precedes the air show. Then, the Irvine resident decided to put his computer background to work, volunteering more than 200 hours to create a World Wide Web site about the event.

“I was looking for a way to get more involved,” explained Ullman, 33, a field representative for an international computer firm. “The response has been amazing. I’ve gotten messages from people in Japan, Germany, Sweden, Spain, Italy and England.”


A visit by Web browsers to offers a preview of the April 26-27 air show, a history of the base, tips on what to bring (sunscreen and a hat), what to leave home (fireworks, roller-blades), and how to take the best pictures.

The Web site has registered more than 21,233 “hits” or online visits since its creation, affirming both the worldwide popularity of the annual air show, which is having its 47th and final performance this year, as well as the growing use of Web sites for everything from family newsletters to information of general interest.

“Our most recent figures show more than 1 million customized Web pages among our members, where only five years ago there were hardly any individual Web pages,” said Debbie Pickford, a spokeswoman for America Online, one of the most popular commercial services offering access to the Web.

Last year, the El Toro Air Show drew more than 1.2 million visitors, making it one of the most widely attended events in the nation, organizers said. Larger crowds are expected this year because it may be the last El Toro air show ever, and almost certainly the last before the Marine Corps surrenders the base to civilian control.

“There’s been speculation that maybe the air show will be held again next year. But from everything I’ve heard, this is pretty much the final flight,” said event spokeswoman Jill Martinette. Indeed, the greeting on the air show’s Web site proclaims: “Be a part of History! Say ‘Goodbye’ to the Nation’s Largest Airshow!”

What won’t be found on the Web site is speculation about El Toro’s future. Ullman is opposed to plans to turn the 4,700-acre base into a commercial airport, but he said his personal opinions don’t belong on the Web site.


An unabashed air show fan, Ullman attended his first several years ago at a friend’s urging. He said he had no particular interest in military aircraft, didn’t quite know what to expect, but found himself captivated by it all.

“I think it was the speed, the excitement of the flight, that got me,” recalled Ullman, who guesses he’s attended more than a dozen air shows since then.

The Web site has also been a new adventure. Despite his computer background, Ullman had never set up a Web page before. He said it’s been fun talking via computer to people around the world. Recently, he helped a tourist from Australia who wanted to plan a side trip to the air show while visiting the United States.

“When I get e-mail like that, it’s really exciting, especially when it’s in broken English,” Ullman said. “The common denominator would be a love of flight and air shows.”

For those who prefer to do things the old-fashioned way, a hotline provides information on the show: (714) 726-2100.

A special show will be held Friday, April 25, just for senior citizens and the disabled. The April 26-27 shows are free. Special seating tickets are available for purchase.


The highlight of the event will be the flight of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, the military’s elite aerobatic team.