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Soaring Sky-High for Air Show : Airplane Exhibits, Flying Awards Will Be Offered at Aviation Expo '89 at Van Nuys Airport


Here's what this weekend offers: formation flying, fly-overs and the opportunity to see at close range both the latest in military aircraft as well as venerable World War II war birds.

Ah, the romance of an air show. And if you've been smitten with the Blue Lady of the Sky, what better place to rendezvous than at Aviation Expo '89 at the Van Nuys Airport this weekend?

Sponsored by the Greater Van Nuys Area Chamber of Commerce, this free event, scheduled for today and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., will feature demonstration flying, entertainment, tours of the airport, celebrities and static displays.

Attracted by the technological power and sheer beauty of flight, millions of spectators flock to air shows each year. Many seem to share the sentiments of author ("Sympathy for the Devil") and air-show devotee Kent Anderson. "These performances give people an opportunity to experience flying with a certain immediacy not available to them on films or TV," he said.

In Los Angeles, this type of spectacle flying began in the late '20s when competitive races were held at Mines Field--at that time open agricultural land--which has developed into today's Los Angeles International Airport.

In 1929, Bobbi Trout, flying the Golden Eagle monoplane built by an Inglewood manufacturer, set an endurance record of more than 12 hours in the air. Trout landed at Metropolitan Airport, later renamed Van Nuys Airport, the busiest general-aviation facility in the nation.

About as much emphasis will be necessary for automobile-traffic control as air-traffic control this weekend, when an expected attendance of more than 100,000 people arrive for the Van Nuys show, which is themed "Aces in Aviation."

Bow to Contributors

"We plan to honor the men and women who have made major contributions to flight, including pilots, engineers, designers and war aces," said Bob Hayes, airport public-relations director.

The awards program will take place today and Sunday at 1:30 p.m. in the staging area. Among those to be honored are Bobbi Trout, who competed with Amelia Earhart in the late '20s to set distance and endurance records; she will receive the historical-achievement award.

Among others slated for awards are John J. Fling, World War II radar engineer for Gilfillan Bros. Inc. (now ITT Gilfillan), and retired Air Force pilot Bill Anderson, who flew 200 Berlin Airlift missions. Astronaut Kathy Sullivan will receive a special-achievement award.

The San Fernando Valley chapter of the Ninety-Nines, an international organization of women pilots, will receive a community-service award. Col. William (Pete) Knight, X-15 test pilot and former vice commander of the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base, will receive a special-achievement award. United Airlines pilot Clay Lacy, who was aerial photographer for "Top Gun" and other films and set a round-the-world speed record with a Boeing 747, will receive recognition.

Steve Ritchie, a Vietnam Air Force flying ace, will receive an award, as will Lt. Lori Melling, a Navy test pilot who is among a select group of women assigned to tactical fighter aircraft.

Special awards will go to Bud Whalen for flight instruction; Allen Paulson, board chairman of Gulfstream Aerospace Corp., for general aviation contributions, and Norm Norton, air-traffic control supervisor at Van Nuys Airport, for air traffic-control achievement.

The flying demonstrations will begin at 2:30 p.m. both days when an A-10 Thunderbolt team, led by Capt. Jack King from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona, will perform. A squadron of fast-diminishing World War II P-51 Mustangs will go through their paces, while sturdy C-130s, flown by the California Air National Guard, will perform flybys.

'Limited Spectacle Flying'

Because of the heavily populated area, Hayes said, "we plan limited spectacle flying." Expo '89, however, will feature more than 50 military planes in static display, including the F-14 Tomcats, the fighter plane featured in "Top Gun," and other high-tech aircraft.

Among the planes to be viewed, and, in some instances, whose capabilities will be explained by pilots and volunteers, will be the F-16 Fighting Falcon, the EA-7 Corsair from Pt. Mugu Naval Air Station, the KC-10 from March Air Force Base, the P-3 Orion, several attack helicopters, the B-1 bomber and a number of vintage aircraft.

In the vintage-aircraft area, Bill Rheinschild, a pilot active in the Confederate Air Force, a Texas-based group that restores and flies World War II aircraft, will exhibit his P-51 Mustang, a T-28, T-33 and T-6. Winner of an award at the Reno Air Races this year for his Mustang "Risky Business," Rheinschild considers the P-51 a "wonderful craft to fly. It made long-range bombing possible and turned the tide of the war," he said. "One reason pilots participate in air shows is to demonstrate and explain their planes in an effort to further interest in aviation and help young people think about careers."

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