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Pacific Airshow ready to rip in Huntington Beach

Members of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds arrive at the Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base on Thursday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

U.S. Air Force Capt. Daniel Katz liked going to the now defunct Van Nuys Airshow as a child growing up in the San Fernando Valley.

Sometimes, his mother would take him to Los Angeles International Airport to see planes take off and land.

“It was always just one of those things that I thought would be really cool to do,” Katz said.

This weekend, Katz will be soaring over Huntington Beach at about 1,000 miles per hour.

He’s a member of the Air Force Thunderbird demonstration pilot team which will take flight at the Pacific Airshow, which begins Friday and continues through Sunday.

Daniel Katz, a captain with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, speaks to reporters on Thursday in Los Alamitos.
Daniel Katz, a captain with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, speaks to reporters on Thursday in Los Alamitos.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Thunderbird planes Nos. 1 through 4 fly in a diamond formation. Katz is the No. 6 pilot, one of two solos along with the No. 5 pilot.

“You’ll see us fly at each other real fast,” Katz said. “We’ll have a closing speed of about 1,000 miles an hour and pass about 75 feet apart. We fly upside down real well.”

The Thunderbirds, celebrating the Air Force’s 75th anniversary, are just one element of the show that has airshow director Kevin Elliott excited. They were featured at a media event Thursday afternoon at the Joint Forces Training Base, along with jumps by the Navy Leap Frogs and Army Golden Knights.

Walter Moskal, an E6 with the U.S. Navy Leap Frogs, parachutes in to the Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base on Thursday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Officials say around three million people are expected over the event’s three days on the sand. The airshow is free to the public, though ticketed options are available.

“The crowd is massive,” Elliott said. “I don’t know if the number is as important, frankly, as the positive effects on the community. The economic impact is really where the rubber meets the road. I look forward to measuring some of those results after the airshow and demonstrating that it’s continuing to grow, and continuing to deliver good value to our businesses.”

The airshow runs from about 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each day, with full schedules available by downloading the Pacific Airshow app.

Members of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds fly over the Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base on Thursday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

It will also air live on Hulu on Saturday, with a replay to follow immediately following the event. There will also be on-demand replay available after the weekend.

Friday is more of a practice day, though spectators can still expect thrilling runs.

Elliott, who was presented a special baton from the Golden Knights at Thursday’s event, said the lingering marine layer could be a concern. But he is otherwise thrilled to get the show underway.

“We’re really excited to get things rocking and rolling,” Elliott said. “It’s going to be great out on the beach. It’s our biggest setup by far, in terms of the size and scope of it. It’s the most hospitality we’ve ever sold. I think things are looking the best that they’ve looked, and I feel good about that.”

Kevin Elliott, the director of the Pacific Airshow, receives an honorary baton from the U.S. Army Golden Knights on Thursday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

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