Threat of War May Cancel 2003 Point Mugu Air Show

Times Staff Writer

The future looks uncertain for this year's Point Mugu Air Show, which may be canceled because of the looming threat of war and the inability of organizers to secure an aerobatic team to perform.

If the air show is canceled, it would be a first in 39 years for the annual military exhibition.

In 1998, the three-day event was held for the first time in April instead of October. This year's show is tentatively scheduled for mid-April.

But without an aerobatic team on tap to fly its awe-inspiring maneuvers, there is not much of a draw, said Teri Reid, a spokeswoman for Naval Base Ventura County.

"It's a big crowd-pleaser," Reid said Wednesday, adding that booking reasons forced the 2000 show to be held without a jet team.

Reid said the local command had asked both the Air Force's Thunderbirds and the Navy's Blue Angels to perform this year, but when the squadrons released their schedules, "we weren't on them."

She said she did not think last year's jet crash had anything to do with Point Mugu's omission from the schedules. A QF-4 Phantom crashed during a low-flying formation, killing the pilot and navigator as thousands of horrified spectators watched.

A Navy investigation has attributed the crash to pilot error.

Reid said there is even less reason to hold an air show this year because a U.S. war with Iraq would force officials to cancel anyway.

The show attracts as many as 300,000 visitors over its three days.

When the exhibition first began in the 1960s, it was called the Point Mugu Space Fair. Flight demonstrations filled the skies over the Pacific Ocean, and children frolicked on carnival rides.

The Thunderbirds flew for the first time at Point Mugu during the 1971 Space Fair, piloting the F-4E Phantom II. They returned in 1989, flying the F-16A Fighting Falcon.

In 1979, the Royal Air Force made its only appearance at Point Mugu with a Nimrod MR Mk 1, a maritime reconnaissance aircraft.

The Point Mugu shows were among the few to perform live AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air and Zuni air-to-ground rocket-launch and bomb-drop demonstrations before an audience.

The 1981 air show marked the last time live missiles were launched during an air show.

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