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200,000 Expected at Annual Air Show

October 06, 1988

The annual Point Mugu Air Show, which features jets, experimental aircraft and stunt planes in maneuvers ranging from aerial drag-racing to aerial ballet, is expected to draw 200,000 spectators to the Pacific Missile Testing Center this weekend.

Events will range from graceful to "gut busting," said U.S. Navy Cmdr. Rick Fessenden, the show's director.

The program begins at 12:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday with the Leap Frogs, the Navy's parachute team. The parachutists will drop from the sky toting an American flag while the California Air National Guard band plays "The Star Spangled Banner."

Civilian pilot Wayne Handley will manipulate his experimental home-built Pitts Special through a series of heart-wrenching maneuvers he calls "agrobatics."

"He has the plane every which way, except right side up," Fessenden said.

Aerial ballet will be performed by The French Connection, making its Point Mugu debut. Daniel Heligoin and Montaine Mallet will fly in synchronized patterns in a dance that brings their planes canopy to canopy.

Next is a race: Jet dragster Scott Hammack will pit his Smoke-n-Thunder exhibition jet against a stunt plane being flown upside down by Oxnard pilot Joann Osterud, repeating a closely fought race from last year.

Hammack's 10,000-horsepower plane will start the race from a dead stop on the runway. Osterud will already be airborne; upside down, she will fly a stunt plane just a few feet above Hammack's.

The show concludes with the Blue Angels in their FA-18 Hornets.

The two-day show, which draws the largest crowd of any single event in Ventura County, comes a month and a half after an air-show accident that claimed 51 lives when three stunt planes collided at an American air base in West Germany.

More than 100 people have died and $1 billion in equipment has been destroyed in accidents at air shows since 1955.

"We always put on a very safe show," Fessenden said.

Three Federal Aviation Administration representatives will be on hand to monitor safety procedures, he said.

Since the show usually is packed, the Navy asks spectators to arrive about 8:30 a.m. when the program features ground displays. The gates will close to new arrivals about noon, a spokesman said.

The Navy will provide bleacher seating at $3 each for about 25,000 spectators. The remaining viewers will have room to set up their own chairs.

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