For the first time in its 32-year history, the Van Nuys Airport's Aviation Expo that begins today features a plane that doesn't need a runway.
The AV-8B Harrier, a U.S. Marine Corps attack jet that can take off and land vertically, as well as hover in one spot, is among dozens of military and civilian aircraft that will be on hand for the two-day event, which is expected to draw more than 250,000 people.
"Up and away, it's the same as any other jet, but once the throttle is done, it's a whole different story," said Maj. Bob Deforge, who will pilot the craft during its public demonstrations this weekend.
The jet, which can exceed the speed of sound, hovers thanks to a 30,000-horsepower boost. It appears at a limited number of air shows across the country each year.
"We're really excited to have the Harrier jet," said Stacy Geere, public affairs manager for the airport. "The expo gives families a chance to view top-gun aircraft and actually meet the pilots."
The exposition will include demonstrations by the Golden Knights, a U.S. Army precision parachute team, and flyovers by aircraft ranging from a squadron of vintage World War II AT-6 Texans to a modern F-117A Stealth fighter.
Admission is free. Proceeds from concession stands will help support 20 area nonprofit and service organizations.
"Judging by the response we've had from L.A. residents so far, we're expecting a huge turnout," Geere said. Visitors are encouraged to use one of three remote parking lots for the event, which includes shuttle bus service.
The lots are located at Monroe High School at 9229 Haskell Ave., Kaiser Marquardt Industries at 16555 Saticoy St. and a Parks and Recreation Department field at 17500 Victory Blvd. Handicapped parking is available at the airport field, 8050 Balboa Blvd.
For more information, call (818) 773-3293.